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Three Social Leaders Murdered in Colombia in Only 72 Hours

teleSUR | August 12, 2017

The Colombian activist and social leader Fernando Asprilla was murdered on Friday in the Cauca department, and was the third death of a social leader recorded in a 72 hour period.

The Ombudsman of Colombia, Carlos Alfonso Negret Mosquera, showed in a recent report that during the period between the first of January, 2016, and March 1st of 2017, at least 156 homicides, five disappearances, and 33 violent attacks against community and social leaders occurred.

According to the report given by Negret, one of the primary causes of the deadly trend is the continued operations of illegal armed right-wing paramilitary organizations that have occupied territory left behind by the disarming Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC – EP).

Human rights defenders and activists in the districts of Antioquia, Arauca, Atlantico, Bolivar, Caldas, Caqueta, Casanare, Cauca, Cesar, Cordoba, Cundinamarca, Choco, Huila, La Guajira, Magdalena, Meta, Nariño, Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Risaralda, Santander, Tolima and Cauca Valley have been assassinated since the FARC’s demobilization process began.

As they have handed over their weapons and negotiated terms of peace with the Colombian government, FARC-EP has consistently demanded that the state works to dismantle paramilitarism in the country, saying its ongoing violence represents the greatest threat to the peace process.

The government however, has largely ignored the existence of paramilitaries, claiming that they were demobilized during Alvaro Uribe’s presidential term between 2006 and 2008. FARC-EP leaders have pointed out that many of the groups have been reclassified as criminal gangs, but continue to represent the same threat as always by assassinating leaders who fight for human and land rights.

August 13, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , , | Leave a comment

Colombia: Bogota Mall Explosion Leaves 3 Dead, 11 Injured

ELN: “There are those who try to tear apart the peace process”

teleSUR | June 18, 2017

Colombian authorities searched Sunday for the perpetrators of a bombing at a major upscale shopping center in Bogota that killed three and left nine others injured in an attack Saturday some have suggested could be an attempt to benefit from fear in the country [which is] implementing peace after more than half a century of civil war.

Authorities reported that an explosion hit a second-floor women’s bathroom at the Andino Commercial Center in Bogota on Saturday night. The shopping center, one of the busiest in the country, was evacuated, while President Juan Manuel Santos returned to the capital from the northern coastal city of Barranquilla to respond to the blast.

“This is a vile, cruel, cowardly act and we are not going to rest until those responsible are captured,” Santos said, adding that there were no indications that another attack was planned in Bogota. The president also expressed solidarity with the victims, while Bogota Mayor Enrique Peñalosa described the incident as a “cowardly terrorist attack.”

Both the FARC and the ELN, the country’s two largest guerrilla groups, condemned the attack and voiced support for the victims.

“Solidarity with the victims in Bogota today,” FARC leader Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timoleon Jimenez or Timochenko, wrote on his Twitter account Saturday to 95,400 followers. “This act can only come from those who want to close the paths to peace and reconciliation.”

The bombing comes just days before the FARC is set to hand over the last of its weapons to a U.N. monitoring mission as part of a historic peace agreement reached with the government last year paving the way for the guerrilla’s disarmament and transition into a legal political party.

The ELN, currently in peace talks with the government, also responded to the attack.

“ELN Peace repudiates the attack against civilians in the Andino Commercial Center. We share the pain and express solidarity with the victims,” the group’s peace delegation wrote on its Twitter account Saturday to 27,600 followers.

The active rebel army — which has yet to reach a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the government and who claimed responsibility for a bombing outside a bull ring in Bogota in February — was quick to be signaled as a possible suspect in the attack, an assumption the group rejected in its response to the bombing.

“ELN Peace calls for seriousness from those who make unfounded and reckless accusations; there are those who try to tear apart the peace process,” the ELN peace delegation continued, calling for a thorough investigation.

“The ELN will never again carry actions whose objective is to affect the civilian population,” the statement concluded.

The three victims of the attack included a 23-year-old French national, identified as Julie Hunh, who had reportedly been in Colombia for the past six months doing volunteer work.

The U.S. Embassy in Bogota offered condolences in a series of tweets, saying that it is standing by to “provide any support requested by the Colombian authorities.”

June 18, 2017 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism | , , , | 1 Comment

Colombia’s FARC Delivers 60% of Weapons to UN Peace Mission

teleSUR | June 14, 2107

 

The Colombian FARC guerrilla delivered another 30 percent of their weapons Tuesday to the United Nation as part of the landmark peace agreement with the government ending over half a century of civil war.

“With this act, the FARC wants to show Colombia and the world that we leave behind the page of war and starting to write the page of peace … that our commitment is total and that we are going to give everything for the peace of the country,” Pablo Catatumbo, member of the FARC’s leadership, said during the event.

On June 7, the FARC delivered the first 30 percent of the weapons, kicking off its historic disarmament. On Tuesday, another 30 percent will be handed over, and the more than 7,000 members of the groups will deliver the total amount by June 20.

The event that took place in La Elvira, in the western department of Cauca, and had been expected to be attended by President Juan Manuel Santos, the former prime minister of Spain Felipe Gonzalez and former President of Uruguay Jose Mujica.

But the political figures could not participate at the last minute due to heavy rain and had to follow the event through a video conference. Santos from an air base in the city of Cali said: “Today, without a doubt, is a historic day. What we witnessed on television — we could not be there physically because weather did not allow us — is something that the country only a few years ago would never have believed was possible.”

The next step for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia will be the transition to civilian life and the creation of a political party to participate in the next elections.

The head of the Colombian FARC guerrilla Rodrigo Londoño, also known as Timoleon Jimenez or Timochenko, who is in Norway, said he urged the Colombian government to fight against paramilitary violence in the country.

“We are leaving our weapons behind to continue with politics that we have always maintained and our efforts to build a fairer and just Colombia, where people who think differently are not murdered for their ideas,” Timochenko said during a press conference in Oslo during a forum on conflict resolution.

The leader has said that the government has been slow in implementing the agreement and that there have been problems including security issues and infrastructure shortages for the 26 transition zones where the rebels have assembled before returning to civil life.

He stressed that the most critical issue, though, was that Santos administration has not admitted the ongoing problem of paramilitarism in the country or set out a course of action to tackle it. Timochenko called on the international community to pressure the government to eradicate it, as he says it has become “an obstacle for peace.”

Norway, together with Cuba, was a guarantor country in the four-year peace negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government. Talks wrapped up in Havana last year once the historic peace accord was finalized. The peace deal brings an end to over 50 years of internal armed conflict that killed some 260,000 people and victimized millions more.

June 14, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , | Leave a comment

Peace Accords or Political Surrender? Latin America, the Middle East and Ukraine

By James Petras :: 03.18.2017

Introduction

Over thirty year ago a savvy Colombian peasant leader told me, “Whenever I read the word ‘peace accords’ I hear the government sharpening its knives”.

In recent times, ‘peace accords’ (PAs) have become a common refrain across the world. In almost every region or country, which are in the midst of war or invasion, the prospects of negotiating ‘peace accords’ have been raised. In many cases, PA’s were signed and yet did not succeed in ending murder and mayhem at the hands of their US-backed interlocutors.

We will briefly review several past and present peace negotiations and ‘peace accords’ to understand the dynamics of the ‘peace process’ and the subsequent results.

The Peace Process

There are several ongoing negotiations today, purportedly designed to secure peace accords. These include discussions between (1) the Kiev-based US-NATO-backed junta in the west and the eastern ‘Donbas’ leadership opposed to the coup and NATO; (2) the Saudi US-NATO-armed terrorists in Syria and the Syrian government and its Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah allies; (3) the US-backed Israeli colonial regime and the Palestinian independence forces in the West Bank and Gaza; and (4) the US-backed Colombian regime of President Santos and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC).

There are also several other peace negotiations taking place, many of which have not received public attention.

Past and Present Outcomes of Peace Accords

Over the past quarter century several PAs were signed – all of which led to the virtual surrender of armed anti-imperialist protagonists and popular mass movements.

The Central-American PA’s, involving Salvador and Guatemala, led to the unilateral disarmament of the resistance movement, the consolidation of oligarchical control over the economy, the growth and proliferation of narco-gangs and unfettered government-sponsored death squads. As a consequence, internal terror escalated. Resistance leaders secured the vote, entered Congress as politicians, and, in the case of El Salvador, were elected to high office. Inequalities remained the same or worsened, and murders matched or exceeded the numbers recorded during the pre-Peace Accord period. Massive numbers of immigrants, often of internal refugees fleeing gang violence, entered the US illegally. The US consolidated its military bases and operations in Central America while the population continued to suffer.

The Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations did not lead to any accord. Instead ‘negotiations’ became a thin cover for increasing annexation of Palestinian land to construct racist ‘Jews-Only’ enclaves, resulting in the illegal settlement of over half a million Jewish settlers. The US-backed the entire farcical peace process, financing the corrupt Palestinian vassal-leaders and providing unconditional diplomatic, military and political support to Israel.

US-Soviet Union: Peace Accord

The Reagan/Bush-Gorbachev ‘peace accords’ were supposed to end the Cold War and secure global peace. Instead the US and the EU established military bases and client regimes/allies throughout Eastern Europe, the Baltic and Balkans, pillaged the national assets and took over their denationalized economies. US-based elites dominated the vassal Yeltsin regime and virtually stripped Russia of its resources and wealth. In alliance with gangster-oligarchs, they plundered the economy.

The post-Soviet Yeltsin regime ran elections, promoted multiple parties and presided over a desolate, isolated and increasingly surrounded nation – at least until Vladimir Putin was elected to ‘decolonize’ the State apparatus and partially reconstruct the economy and society.

Ukraine Peace Negotiations

In 2014 a US-sponsored violent coup brought together fascists, oligarchs, generals and pro-EU supporters seizing control of Kiev and the western part of Ukraine. The pro-democracy Eastern regions of the Donbas and Crimean Peninsula organized resistance to the putsch regime. Crimea voted overwhelmingly to re-unite Russia. The industrial centers in Eastern Ukraine (Donbas) formed popular militias to resist the armed forces and neo-Nazi paramilitaries of the US backed-junta. After a few years of mayhem and stalemate, a ‘negotiation process’ unfolded despite which the Kiev regime continued to attack the east. The tentative ‘peace settlement’ became the basis for the ‘Minsk agreement’, brokered by France, Russia and Germany, where the Kiev junta envisioned a disarming of the resistance movement, re-occupation of the Donbas and Crimea and eventual destruction of the cultural, political, economic and military autonomy of the ethnic Russian East Ukraine. As a result, the ‘Minsk Agreement’ has been little more than a failed ploy to secure surrender. Meanwhile, the Kiev junta’s massive pillage of the nation’s economy has turned Ukraine into a failed state with 2.5 million fleeing to Russia and many thousands emigrating to the West to dig potatoes in Poland, or enter the brothels of London and Tel Aviv. The remaining unemployed youth are left to sell their services to Kiev’s paramilitary fascist shock troops.

Colombia: Peace Accord or Graveyard?

Any celebration of the Colombian FARC – President Santos’ ‘Peace Accord’ would be premature if we examine its past incarnations and present experience.

Over the past four decades, Colombian oligarchical regimes, backed by the military, death squads and Washington have invoked innumerable ‘peace commissions’, inaugurated negotiations with the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) and proceeded to both break off negotiations and relaunch full-scale wars using ‘peace accords’ as a pretext to decimate and demoralize political activists.

In 1984, then-President Belisario Betancur signed a peace accord with the FARC, known as the ‘Uribe Agreement’. Under this agreement, thousands of FARC activists and supporters demobilized, formed the Patriotic Union (UP), a legal electoral party, and participated in elections. In the 1986 Colombian elections, the UP candidates were elected as Senators, Congress people, mayors and city council members, and their Presidential candidate gained over 20% of the national vote. Over the next 4 years, from 1986-1989, over 5,000 UP leaders, elected officials and Presidential candidates were assassinated in a campaign of nationwide terror. Scores of thousands of peasants, oil workers, miners and plantation laborers were murdered, tortured and driven into exile. Paramilitary death squads and landlord-backed private armies, allied with the Colombian Armed Forces, assassinated thousands of union leaders, workers and their families members. The Colombian military’s ‘paramilitary strategy’ against non-combatants and villagers was developed in the 1960’s by US Army General William Yarborough, Commandant, US Army Special Warfare Center and ‘Father of the Green Beret’ Special Forces.

Within five years of its formation, the Patriotic Union no longer existed: Its surviving members had fled or gone into hiding.

In 1990, newly-elected President Cesar Gaviria proclaimed new peace negotiations with the FARC. Within months of his proclamation, the president ordered the bombing of the ‘Green House’, where the FARC leaders and negotiating team were being lodged. Fortunately, they had fled before the treacherous attack.

President Andrés Pastrana (1998-2001) called for new peace negotiations with the FARC to be held ‘in a demilitarized zone’. Peace talks began in the jungle region of El Caguan in November 1998. President Pastrana had made numerous pledges, concessions and reforms with the FARC and social activists, but, at the same time he had signed a ten-year multi-billion dollar military aid agreement with US President Clinton, known as ‘Plan Colombia’. This practice of ‘double-dealing’ culminated with the Colombian Armed Forces launching a ’scorched earth policy’ against the ‘demilitarized zones’ under the newly elected (and death-squad linked) President Alvaro Uribe Velez. Over the next eight years, President Uribe drove nearly four million Colombian peasants into internal exile. With the multi-billion dollar funding from Washington, Uribe was able to double the size of the Colombian Armed Forces to over 350,000 troops, incorporating members of the death squads into the military. He also oversaw the formation of new paramilitary armies. By 2010 the FARC had declined from eighteen thousand to under ten thousand fighters – with hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties and millions rendered homeless.

In 2010 Uribe’s former Minister of Defense, Juan Manual Santos was elected President. By 2012 Santos initiated another “peace process” with the FARC, which was signed by the end of 2016. Under the new ‘Peace Accord’, signed in Cuba, hundreds of officers implicated in torture, assassinations and forced relocation of peasants were given immunity from prosecution while FARC guerillas were to face trial. The government promised land reform and the right to return for displaced farmers and their families. However, when peasants returned to claim their land they were driven away or even killed.

FARC leaders agreed to demobilize and disarm unilaterally by June 2017. The military and their paramilitary allies would retain their arms and gain total control over previous FARC- liberated zones.

President Santos ensured that the ‘Peace Accord’ would include a series of Presidential Decrees – privatizing the country’s mineral and oil resources and converting small family farms to commercial plantations. Demobilized peasant-rebels were offered plots of infertile marginal lands, without government support or funding for roads, tools, seed and fertilizer or even schools and housing, necessary for the transition. While some FARC leaders secured seats in Congress and the freedom to run in elections unmolested, the young rank and file FARC fighters and peasants were left without many alternatives but to join paramilitary or ‘narco’ gangs.

In summary, the historical record demonstrates that a series of Colombian presidents and regimes have systematically violated all peace agreements and accords, assassinated the rebel signees and retained elite control over the economy and labor force. Before his election, the current President Santos presided over the most deadly decade when he was Uribe’s Defense Minister.

For brokering the peace of the graveyard for scores of thousands of Colombian peasants and activists, President Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In Havana, FARC leaders and negotiators were praised by Cuban President Raul Castro, President Obama, Venezuelan President Maduro and the vast majority of ‘progressives’ and rightists in North and South America and Europe.

Colombia’s bloody history, including the widespread murder of Colombian civil rights activists and peasant leaders, has continued even as the documents finalizing the Peace Accords were being signed. During the first month of 2017, five human right activists were murdered by death squads – linked to the oligarchy and military. In 2015, while the FARC was negotiating over several clauses in the agreement, over 122 peasant and human rights activists were murdered by paramilitary groups who continued to operate freely in areas controlled by Santos’ army. The mass media propaganda mills continue to repeat the lie that ‘200,000 people were killed by the guerillas (FARC) and the government’ when the vast majority of the killings were committed by the government and its allied death squads; a calumny, which guerilla leaders fail to challenge. Prominent Jesuit researcher Javier Giraldo has provided a detailed factual account documenting that over three quarters of the killings were committed by the Army and paramilitary.

We are asked to believe presidential regimes that have murdered and continue to murder over 150,000 Colombian workers, peasants, indigenous leaders and professionals are suddenly transformed into justice-loving partners in peace. During the first three months of this year, activists, sympathetic to the peace agreement with the FARC, continue to be targeted and killed by supposedly demobilized paramilitary murderers.

Social movement leaders report rising political violence by military forces and their allies. Even peace monitors and the UN Human Rights Office admit that state and paramilitary violence are destroying any structure that President Santos could hope to implement the reforms. As the FARC withdraws from regions under popular control, peasants seeking land reform are targeted by private armies. The Santos regime is more concerned with protecting the massive land grabs by big mining consortiums.

As the killing of FARC supporters and human rights activists multiply, as President Santos and Washington look to take advantage of a disarmed and demobilized guerilla army, the ‘historic peace accord’ becomes a great deceit designed to expand imperial power.

Conclusion: Epitaph for Peace Accords

Time and again throughout the world, imperial-brokered peace negotiations and accords have served only one goal: to disarm, demobilize, defeat and demoralize resistance fighters and their allies.

‘Peace Accords’, as we know them, have served to rearm and regroup US-backed forces following tactical setbacks of the guerrilla struggle. ‘PA’s are encouraged to divide the opposition (’salami tactics’) and facilitate conquest. The rhetoric of ‘peace’ as in ‘peace negotiations’ are terms which actually mean ‘unilateral disarmament’ of the resistance fighters, the surrender of territory and the abandonment of civilian sympathizers. The so-called ‘war zones’, which contain fertile lands and valuable mineral reserves are ‘pacified’ by being absorbed by the ‘peace loving’ regime. This serves their privatization programs and promote the pillage of the ‘developmental state’. Negotiated peace settlements are overseen by US officials, who praise and laud the rebel leaders while they sign agreements to be implemented by US vassal regimes . . . The latter will ensure the rejection of any realignment of foreign policy and any structural socio-economic changes.

Some peace accords may allow former guerilla leaders to compete and in some cases win elections as marginal representatives, while their mass base is decimated.

In most cases, during the peace process, and especially after signing ‘peace accords’, social organizations and movements and their supporters among the peasantry and working class, as well as human rights activists, end up being targeted by the military and para-military death-squads operating around government military bases.

Often, the international allies of resistance movements have encouraged them to negotiate PAs, in order to demonstrate to the US that ‘they are responsible’— hoping to secure improved diplomatic and trade relations. Needless to say, ‘responsible negotiations’ will merely strengthen imperial resolve to press for further concessions, and encourage military aggression and new conquests.

Just ‘peace accords’ are based on mutual disarmament, recognition of territorial autonomy and the authority of local insurgent administration over agreed upon land reforms, retaining mineral rights and military-public security.

PA’s should be the first step in the political agendas, implemented under the control of independent rebel military and civil monitors.

The disastrous outcome of unilateral disarmament is due to the non-implementation of progressive, independent foreign policy and structural changes.

Past and present peace negotiations, based on the recognition of the sovereignty of an independent state linked to mass movements, have always ended in the US breaking the agreements. True ‘peace accords’ contradict the imperial goal of conquering via the negotiating table what could not be won through war.

March 19, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Another Indigenous Human Rights Activist Killed in Colombia

Colombian Indigenous activist Alicia Lopez Guisao

Colombian Indigenous activist Alicia Lopez Guisao | Photo: Congreso de los Pueblos
teleSUR | March 3, 2017

Colombian Indigenous and campesino leader Alicia Lopez Guisao was killed in Medellin on Thursday, adding to the growing list of recently murdered human rights activists in the South American country.

The number of social and human rights defenders killed in the last 14 months now stands at at least 120, according to a Friday press release from the Defense of the People.

“The retreat of the FARC from the zones where they previously exercised control has allowed for the entrance of new armed actors who fight for territorial and economic dominance,” states the report. This marks a concerning trend requiring immediate action since the attacks are “pertaining to groups with similar characteristics, and which occurred in the same period and geographic area,” it adds.

Guisao, who was shopping at a grocery store at 8:45 am local time, was shot repeatedly by two unknown gunmen who entered the store, El Tiempo reports.

The People’s Congress, the left-wing organization that Guisao worked for organizing Indigenous peasants, believes the gunmen may have been connected to right-wing paramilitary groups.

“With great sadness and indignation we received and transmitted the news of the murder of comrade Alicia Lopez Guisao,” The People’s Congress said in a statement.

“Her murder is an example of the fact that the right-wing organizations that operate today in the city of Medellin are the same paramilitaries who have murdered others in recent years.”

Guisao, a leader of Colombia’s Indigenous Asokinchas community, organized the Agrarian Summit Project, which distributed land and food for 12 Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities in the department of Choco.

Originally from the rural Uraba Antioquia, Guisao and her family were displaced from the region by U.S.-backed paramilitaries in the late 1990s, forcing them to move to Medellin.

In 2002, after opening a family-led community health and education center, she and her relatives were once again forced out by police and right-wing paramilitaries in a “counter-terrorism operation.”

Operation Orion, the campaign which displaced Guisao and her family, was a joint paramilitary and police offensive that targeted left-wing rebels accused of supporting Colombia’s guerilla movement. Prior to her death, Guisao lived in Choco where she performed community service work.

Her death in the same area from where she was displaced “shows that it’s (paramilitary activity) a structure that persists in the city and that it’s not only general delinquency or criminal gangs like state institutions say,” wrote an open letter signed by dozens of Colombian social justice organizations denouncing her murder.

The letter says that Guisao’s sisters were warned that they and their parents would be next if they show up to her burial. The groups call on the government to ensure the protection of her family and the prosecution of those responsible.

Marcha Patriotica, the leftist political party that worked closely with Guisao and The People’s Congress, says that during the first two months of 2017, more than 20 Colombian social leaders, including six women, were killed. Most of those killed, they say, were Indigenous campesino activists fighting for human rights.

Last January, Indigenous human rights activist Yoryanis Isabel Bernal Varela was murdered in Valledupar by suspected paramilitaries. Eyewitnesses said that she was threatened with a gun by several people on a motorcycle, who then shot her in the head. Varela, a member of Colombia’s Wiwa tribe, fought to protect Indigenous and women’s rights in her community.

“Indigenous people are being threatened and intimidated,” said secretary of the Wiwa Golkuche organization Jose Gregorio Rodríguez shortly after her murder on January 26. “Today they murdered our comrade and violated our rights. Our other leaders must be protected.”

The retreat of the FARC and other left-wing guerrilla groups that have historically defended Indigenous campesino groups has created a power vacuum in areas across the country that right-wing paramilitaries are exploiting.

March 4, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | Leave a comment

Eyewitnesses Say Fallen FARC Rebels Were Ambushed by Sniper

Two FARC rebels, identified as Joaco (L) and Monica, were allegedly killed Wednesday by a government sniper.

Two FARC rebels, identified as Joaco (L) and Monica, were allegedly killed Wednesday by a government sniper. | Photo: Prensa Rural
teleSUR | November 18, 2016

Eyewitnesses told a verification team that the two rebel fighters with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia killed earlier this week in the northern department of Bolivar died as a result of an ambush by government forces, Prensa Rural reported Friday.

The Ministry of Defense claimed that the armed guerrilla rebels were killed in combat after carrying out criminal activities.

Meanwhile the leaders from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, said they were merely making their way to “pre-concentration” areas where members of the rebel army are gathering ahead of the final process of demobilization as part of the ongoing peace process.

Members of the Association of Agroecological and Mining Brotherhoods of Guamoco, a local organization, spoke to witnesses in the municipality of Santa Rosa del Sur, where the incident took place to collect testimonies.

According to these witnesses, the two victims, FARC rebels who went by the names Joaco and Monica, were standing near two houses near a section of town known as the “Y” when suddenly Joaca, who was on the phone, was struck by a bullet and fell to the ground. Monica then bent down to check on him when she too was struck by a bullet.

The testimonies were collected from people who were inside one of the houses and witnessed the entire series of events. Prensa Rural reported that the house contained four men, two women, a child, and an infant.

Government troops, who were positioned approximately 40 meters away, then fired two bursts of rounds into the air. Troops then ordered a third rebel fighter to the ground and subsequently detained him.

The government troops then harassed the locals, storming into their homes, reportedly insulting those present and demanding they produce identification. They further accused the civilians of being FARC collaborators. Locals reported that they fear reprisals from state security forces after being labeled collaborators.

Witnesses reported that two of the government soldiers wore masks to hide their identities. Others said they recalled seeing some of the government troops, in civilian clothing, visiting the house near where the killings took place.

The testimony from witnesses matched early statements from the FARC. Spanish lawyer Enrique Santiago, who has served as a legal advisor to the FARC during the peace negotiations in Havana, wrote Wednesday on his Twitter account that the two rebels were killed “by a sniper.”

The Tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, which forms part of the bilateral cease-fire agreement, was activated in order to conduct formal investigation of the events.

However, this early report raises serious questions about the conduct of the government soldiers. It is widely known within Colombia that there are high-ranking officials in the armed forces who oppose the peace process and may try to sabotage efforts to end the five-decade-long conflict.

Witness testimony belied the government’s version of events in an incident in April 2015 that left 13 dead. There the government claimed troops were ambushed but witnesses said the deaths were the product of a lengthy gun battle and that locals had warned the government soldiers not to make camp in the area. That incident took place before a bilateral cease-fire had been established and threatened to derail peace talks.

The details surrounding this latest incident, such as the presence of government troops in civilian clothing days earlier, suggests the killings were not the product of a chance encounter but rather a pre-planned operation.

The killing of the two FARC rebels marked the first documented break in some 80 days of the official bilateral cease-fire and, according to the Center for Resources for Analysis of the Conflict.

The Tripartite Mechanism is expected to issue a series of recommendations to avoid any future incidents.

FARC and government negotiators signed a new peace deal in Havana Saturday, just six weeks after a previous peace plan was narrowly rejected in a nationwide plebiscite. The new agreement includes modifications made after consultations with the “No” side as well as other sectors of Colombian civil society.

RELATED:
Exclusive: 2nd Colombia Deal ‘More Inclusive’ Says FARC Lawyer

November 19, 2016 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Colombia ex-rebels apologize for 2002 massacre

Press TV – September 30, 2016

A commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has officially asked for forgiveness days after signing a peace treaty that has brought a new spirit of reconciliation to the nation.

“We ask for you to forgive us and that you give us the hope of a spiritual path, allowing us to move forward together with you,” FARC commander Ivan Marquez said Thursday in the town of Bojaya, the site of a deadly 2002 attack by the rebels.

FARC had already offered an apology for the Bojaya attack in 2014 in the Cuban capital, Havana, where peace talks had been underway for almost four years, but this time the commanders did so at the site of the attack itself.

“Once again, we offer an infinite apology, Bojaya,” Marquez said on Thursday.

On May 2, 2002, FARC guerrillas seized Bojaya in an attempt to take control of the Atrato River region from the paramilitary forces stationed there. The operation failed, and approximately 119 civilians were killed, 48 of them children, in the apparently indiscriminate firing of improvised mortars by the FARC rebels.

During a visit to a church that was destroyed in the Bojaya attack, Marquez asked the local community for reconciliation.

“Reconciled, we will move toward an era of fairness, for which humble people from every corner of Colombia have yearned for so much,” he said.

FARC’s highest commander Rodrigo Londono Echeverri, aka Timoleon Jimenez or Timochenko, asked the nation for forgiveness at the peace signing ceremony on Monday.

Timochenko and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed the peace deal in the Caribbean city of Cartagena, formally ending 52 years of a conflict.

However, the deal remains to be implemented until after it is approved in a referendum, which is to be held on Sunday.

Analysts believe that the majority of Colombians will easily vote in favor of the peace deal, which will see the rebel group laying down arms and the government facilitating their incorporation into the political scene.

The Marxist group, which took up weapons in 1964 to fight social inequalities, exerts notable influence across some poverty-stricken areas of the country.

The decades-long conflict with the central government has left as many as 260,000 people dead, more than six million others displaced, and 45,000 other still missing.

The FARC peace deal has prompted Colombia’s second-largest rebel group, the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN), to also express readiness to engage in their own peace talks with the central government, but Bogota has yet to begin formal peace talks with the group.

September 30, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

THE FARC DID NOT COME ABOUT BY ACCIDENT

By Clara Nieto de Ponce de Leon | Colombia Support Network | August 14, 2016

Bogota – The renowned sociologist Gonzalo Sánchez Gómez, one of the best known researchers of Colombian history, now Director of the National Center for Historical Memory created by the Juan Manuel Santos administration, discusses a fundamental issue for peace in Colombia. In the latest edition of the magazine Arcadia (July-August 2016) he deals with the armed conflict and the peace process. The Santos government has been negotiating with the FARC in Havana, Cuba to end that conflict and achieve peace. As the government has stated, we are at the point of signing an agreement.

Gonzalo mentions in his article, titled “A Path without More Dead”, the difficulty in reaching an agreement between analysts and militants over what has been the origin of the conflict. They mention the agrarian conflict of the 1930’s; the liquidation of the popular movement embodied by the followers of Jorge Eliecer Gaitan; the closing of political and social spaces by the bipartisan accord known as the National Front. But they do not mention – I note – that the origin of this was the Conservative violence of the 1940’s.

The conflict did not begin in the 1960’s, as claimed by those who discuss the negotiations that are going forward in Havana. They suppose that it started in 1965, when the armed bands of communists created the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the FARC. These armed bands are charged with originating the conflict. The communications media and those who oppose Santos, with ex-President Alvaro Uribe at the head, are busy spreading the word of the atrocities committed by the FARC. Their goal is to try to impede the parties from reaching a peace agreement, from achieving forgiveness, and from applying “transitional justice”. They don’t want any return to civilian life, or participation in politics, or membership in Congress for the demobilized FARC guerrillas. They want prison for them.

The FARC have indeed been guilty of innumerable acts of violence and crimes against the civilian population. Tirofijo, their maximum commander, created them in 1965 to combat the violence of the Government. He died in his bed in March 2008. But the origin of the FARC is the campesino communist guerrilla, supported by his party, which emerges, like the Liberal guerrillas, in the 1940’s against the violence and persecution which the government of Conservative President Mariano Ospina Perez (1946 -1950) commenced against the Liberal people and against the followers of Gaitan.

Jorge Eliecer Gaitan, a Liberal, had created a dissident political movement of enormous popular force. In 1947, in the elections for Congress, Departmental Assemblies, and Municipal Councils throughout the entire country, Gaitan won an indisputable majority and he achieved the sole leadership of the Liberal Party. The possibility of his being elected President was obvious. The Conservatives, and the historical Liberal leadership, which supported the candidacy of Gabriel Turbay, feared that Gaitan would arrive at the presidency with massive support of the people.

Ospina restricted political safeguards for Liberals and followers of Gaitan and in the countryside the political police, POPOL, and the chulavitas en Boyaca, created by Ospina—some called them home- grown Gestapo— and the armed gangs of Conservative campesinos, “pájaros” in the Valle del Cauca, members of Ospina’s party, pursued and massacred members of the Liberal Party. Their acts were atrocious, extreme in their barbarity. In this period of political violence between 200,000 and 300,000 people were killed, the immense majority campesinos, defenseless civilians. The forced migration exceeded 2 million people. Gaitan denounced this persecution and organized the March of Silence to protest. On the night of February 7, 1948, more than 100,000 people, in absolute silence and with lit candles, marched in the capital. It was an imposing popular manifestation of support for Gaitan and a protest against the violence of the government. Two months later, on April 9, Gaitan was assassinated and the so-called “Bogotazo” exploded in an eruption of public rage, looting, setting of fires and destruction of the city. Gaitan’s murder was a crime of immense proportions. It halted a democratic political change which was in process, and it destroyed the hopes and dreams of a whole people.

Some historians place the period of “The Violence” between 1946 and 1957, coinciding with the Conservative governments of Ospina Perez, Laureano Gomez, Roberto Urdaneta and General Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, categorized as dictators. In 1958, with the bi-partisan agreement called the National Front, between Laureano Gomez and Alberto Lleras, the confrontation between Liberals and Conservatives officially ended. Lleras was elected president for the term 1958-1962.

What I mean to say here is that the armed conflict that the immense majority of this country hopes to end, commenced in the 1940’s and not in the 1960’s as they are saying; that the Liberal guerrillas in self-defense came into being in the Eastern Plains (Llanos Orientales), Tolima, Santander and in other regions of the country. The Communist guerrillas, supported by their Party, were armed bands in self-defense against the brutal official persecution which sought nothing less than their extermination. Ospina Perez, Laureano Gomez and his son Alvaro, Urdaneta and Rojas, all of them were involved in the partisan violence and they are all dead. They were responsible for this tragedy plagued by horrendous crimes. The historical reality of the responsibility of the State and of the Presidents for the conflict which is being debated now, is not mentioned. No one has been punished for these crimes of Lesa Humanity. They remain and will remain in impunity.

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator, Edited by Jack Laun)

Clara Nieto de Ponce de Leon is a scholar and diplomat who has been a keen observer of political events in Colombia for many years. A former Ambassador of Colombia to Cuba, she is the author of the celebrated book, Masters of War: Latin America and U.S. Aggression, in English translation with a forward by Howard Zinn, and the book Obama and the New Left in Latin America.

September 2, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Uruguay Prepares Mission to Monitor Colombia-FARC Ceasefire

Sputnik – 23.06.2016

Military observers from Uruguay are ready to go to Colombia to monitor the newly-achieved ceasefire between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group, Uruguay’s Deputy Defense Ministry Jorge Menendez told Sputnik.

The government of Colombia announced on Wednesday that a deal had been reached on a ceasefire with FARC.

“This is a political mission, there is a display of quotas, unarmed personnel who will carry out tasks of observation and verification of the ceasefire,” Menendez said.

The Colombian government and FARC have been engaged in peace talks since November 2012 and have reached a number of important agreements including on landmine removal, land reform, transitional justice and an end to illegal drug trafficking.

FARC was formed in 1964 as the military wing of Colombia’s Communist Party.

June 23, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment

End of 50 Year Colombia War at Hand, as Govt, FARC to Sign Peace Deal on July 20

teleSUR | June 21, 2016

Any accord reached by the negotiators in Cuba will need to be confirmed by a popular consultation.

The Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are set to sign a final peace agreement on July 20th, which could put an end to more than 50 years of conflict that has affected more than six million people.

“I think that by July 20 we will have been able to close negotiations in Havana and from there a new era for the country will come,” Colombian President Jose Manuel Santos stated after a Cabinet meeting Monday.

The government has been in talks in Cuba with the FARC since late 2012. They were preceded by two years of secret talks.

Thus far, the two sides have reached accords on more than half a dozen topics including agrarian reform, political participation of former rebels, curbing production and trafficking of illicit substances, and the rights of victims and transitional justice.

Despite failing to reach a self-imposed deadline for signing a deal in March, Colombia’s president met on Monday with lawmakers and public officials to discuss the creation of regional and local peace councils that would oversee the post-conflict era.

“This peace is for all Colombians, and all Colombians should participate in its consolidation and construction,” Santos told the media on Monday

The Santos administration has said that an end to the conflict could add two percentage points to annual GDP growth and triple the amount of foreign direct investment into Colombia’s economy.

The final peace accord, which must be confirmed by a popular vote is waiting approval from the country’s constitutional court. On Monday, Santos called on the country’s highest court to approve the public vote.

“Hopefully the Constitutional Court will approve the plebiscite soon and from there we will have another very important challenge,” the president said.

June 22, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Derailing Peace Deal in Colombia

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | March 31, 2016

Cuban and U.S. leaders overcame immense obstacles to end more than a half century of confrontation between their countries with President Barack Obama’s visit to Havana. But they were unable to end more than a half century of political violence in Colombia by brokering a peace pact that was scheduled to be signed in Havana on March 23, one day after Obama departed.

That target date was set by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, during negotiations hosted by Cuban President Raúl Castro last September. Now the parties are aiming for a new deadline at the end of this year.

After 52 years of conflict, they are used to setbacks and delays. But the armed struggle has already killed more than 220,000 and claimed 7.9 million registered victims — including 77,000 who disappeared — so Colombia desperately needs peace and reconciliation as soon as possible.

The key sticking point concerns parties who are not at the negotiating table. They include a smaller but still potent rebel group, the National Liberation Army, or ELN. More important are right-wing and criminal paramilitary groups who have the motive and means to massacre FARC soldiers and their civilian sympathizers if they get the opportunity.

Until Bogota — and Washington — find a convincing way to restrain these paramilitary terrorists after FARC lays down its arms, Colombia will never find peace.

The peace process has made great strides over the past year. Overall violence is down. The government pardoned some FARC prisoners and helped them return to civilian life. FARC promised to end child recruitment and release children under the age of 15 from its ranks; it also conducted an historic ceremony of public apology for its part in killing civilians during a 2002 firefight with paramilitary forces. The two sides engaged in clearing mines for the first time this spring. They have jointly asked the United Nations Security Council to monitor an eventual ceasefire.

But the Colombian government demands that FARC guerrillas demobilize and hand over their weapons in remote rural “concentration zones.” They would be spared arrest as long as they remain in isolation. FARC insists that it be permitted to store weapons in the zones and be granted their freedom anywhere in the country.

Explaining the organization’s reluctance to totally disarm, a FARC negotiator pointedly questioned whether the government could guarantee their security in the face of paramilitary threats.

“In the last month, more than 28 community organizers, human rights defenders and peasant farmers have been murdered and their killers continue to enjoy impunity,” he said. “Solving the paramilitary problem the main challenge we are facing today, to help this process move ahead.”

Opposing the Peace Process

The U.N. Human Rights Council for Colombia reported in March that “diverse local interests and groups opposed to change resulting from the peace process” — including armed political and criminal groups engaged in land seizures, drug trafficking, illegal mining and extortion — “are already employing violence and intimidation to protect their interests, and the State has not had a sufficiently effective response.”

It added, with a strong affirmation of FARC’s concerns, that “demobilizing guerrillas . . . could also be vulnerable.”

Referring to right-wing death squads that annihilated supporters of a prominent leftist political party affiliated with FARC, the report declared, “The hundreds of assassinations of Unión Patriótica political party leaders and members in the 1980s and 1990s illustrate the elevated risk for new political movements. Security guarantees and transformation of the political reality are essential to avoid repetition of this situation.”

Many experts estimate that more than 2,000 Unión Patriótica members were murdered by right-wing death squads serving powerful drug lords and allied government security forces. The victims included two of the party’s presidential candidates, one elected senator, eight congressmen, 70 councilmen, and dozens of deputies and mayors. The assassination campaign ended a ceasefire reached by FARC and the government in 1987 and destroyed hopes for peace.

Much of this terrorist violence was perpetrated by the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a paramilitary organization that eventually took over the cocaine trade from its original patron, the Medellín Cartel. The AUC enjoyed support from government and military officials who appreciated its help in the war against FARC (which also had dirty hands in the drug trade).

The AUC’s 30,000 members officially demobilized in 2006. Subsequent testimony by some of them helped convict 60 former congressmen and seven former governors for collaborating with the criminal organization. Former President Alvaro Uribe accepted money from the AUC for his 2002 presidential campaign; his brother Santiago was arrested in February on charges of helping to create a paramilitary group of his own.

The Colombian human rights group MOVICE reported in March that a new generation of criminal bands have launched a campaign of murder and intimidation to disrupt the current peace talks. Their victims include community leaders and peasants who claim their lands were illegally seized.

“I think part of the message [of the killings] is to intimidate the FARC, and let them know what awaits them if they enter politics,” said a MOVICE spokesman.

Rightist Drug Lords

Chief among the threats to FARC and its community supporters is Colombia’s most powerful drug trafficking organization, “Los Urabeños,” which has muscled its way into many former guerrilla territories and today controls much of the country’s Caribbean coast. It is a direct successor to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.

“We feel obligated to continue our anti-subversive fight,” a spokesman for Los Urabeños declared soon after the group announced it formation.

The Santos government has made genuine moves to seek justice against the instigators of political violence. It recently arrested a senior general on charges of overseeing the grisly killing of thousands of civilians whom the Army falsely claimed were guerrillas in order to inflate body counts and win bonuses.

State prosecutors also said they will arrest a former head of the army — and ally of former President Uribe — for the same crime, known as the “false positives” scandal.

According to Human Rights Watch, at least 16 active and retired army generals are currently under investigation by the Attorney General’s office for “false positive” killings, and about 800 lower-ranking soldiers have been convicted. But human rights groups warn that rules tentatively worked out by the government and FARC to promote reconciliation by granting immunity for war crimes could prevent further prosecution of false positive cases.

The United States, which bears a heavy responsibility for promoting state violence and the growth of paramilitary organizations to combat communism in Colombia in the 1950s and 1960s, can make partial amends by supporting President Santos’s efforts at reconciliation while pressing to see that justice is served by holding war criminals accountable.

In the interests of peace and justice, Washington should also offer all reasonable aid to help Colombia suppress organizations like Los Urabeños that continue the terrible legacy of previous terrorist and criminal paramilitary groups.

As Adam Isacson, a Colombia security analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, noted recent murders by the new generation of paramilitary forces “make it a lot harder for the FARC leadership to convince their rank and file to demobilize. The U.S. has to make it clear that the paramilitaries…are right up there with the Zetas, Sinaloa [cartels] and the MS-13 as security threats, because of their ability to threaten a peaceful outcome in Colombia.”



Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012).

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Colombia and ELN Rebels to Begin Formal Peace Talks

teleSUR – March 30, 2016

The Colombian government announced the launch of formal peace talks on Wednesday with the country’s second-largest rebel group the National Liberation Army or ELN. The announcement takes place after the guerrilla group freed two hostages to meet a government condition for the start of formal peace talks.

During a joint press conference Wednesday, the Colombian government’s top delegate for the ongoing FARC peace talks, Frank Pearl, outlined the key aspects of negotiation between the ELN and the Colombian government, which will include six major points: participation of society, peace through democracy, transformations necessary for peace, victims rights, the end of the armed conflict, and the implementation and signature of the agreement.

Pearl also confirmed that Cuba, Norway, Venezuela, Chile, Brazil and Ecuador will act as guarantor countries.

Meanwhile, moving forward, the ELN commander Antonio Garcia promised to communicate on all future progress made during the talks and vowed “to create a favorable environment for peace.”

Shortly after the press conference, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos delievered a statmenent in which he emphasized the importance of the peace talks with the ELN, stating, “We have to finish this conflict in order to construct peace in our country.”

During his speech, the Colombian President likened the talks to the ongoing negations between the government and the FARC, saying that, “the objective is the same, which is to eliminate violence.”

The announcement marks a new stage in peace negotiations as the government also closes in on a deal with the country’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC.

Leading up to the joint press conference, ELN officials thanked the Venezuelan government via Twitter for their role in the Colombian peace process.

“We would like to thank the Venezuelan people for their unconditional support in helping us get to this point.”

Meanwhile, the regional integration bloc, UNASUR, also issued its support in a statement saying, “The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR ) welcomes this agreement, which was made possible in part due to the participation of several regional governments.”

The Foreign Ministry of Ecuador also praised the news, expressing its “profound satisfaction” regarding the recent announcement.

The government and the ELN had been in preliminary talks for more than two years, but had failed to begin formal negotiations until today.

Colombia has seen armed conflict between the state, paramilitaries, crime syndicates and revolutionary left-wing groups such as the FARC and the Marxist-Leninist ELN since the 1960s.

March 30, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | Leave a comment