Friday, August 27, 2010

Protect at-risk Afro-Colombian community threatened by paras

In my capacity as Colombia Country Specialist for Amnesty International, I created the following action alert. Please take action! This community has attempted to retake its land from paramilitaries and live peacefully and neutrally in the midst of Colombia's conflict, much like the Peace community of San Jose de Apartado.
Jhon Jairo Palacios, a member of an Afro-descendant community in the Cacarica River Basin in the north-east of the country, was abducted after he left his home to take a boat to the municipal capital. On July 30th he telephoned his family to inform them that he would be returning the following morning. His family called his mobile phone the next day. A man answered who said he was a member of a paramilitary group operating in the region, and to "tell his family that he is already dead." The family asked where his body was, and the man told them only that he had been abducted in Riosucio and taken far away. On August 9th, sources close to the paramilitaries claimed that paramilitaries had killed Jhon Jairo. 

The enforced disappearance and possible killing of Jhon Jairo Palacios came days before a contract was awarded for the construction of a major road in the region. The Cacarica communities have opposed this project, and there is concern that the enforced disappearance may be an attempt to silence them.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Don’t Call it a Model: The Failures of Plan Colombia

I had been planning to post about U.S. officials' erroneous use of Plan Colombia as a model for countries like Mexico and Afghanistan. But Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin American beat me to it, and did an excellent job, so I decided to repost it. 

Don’t Call it a Model

On Plan Colombia's tenth anniversary, claims of “success” don't stand up to scrutiny

Download the printer-friendly PDF version of this report (515 KB).

(Written by Adam Isacson, Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy, Washington Office on Latin America)

On July 13, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed into law a $1.3 billion package of mostly military aid, known as “Plan Colombia,” that made Colombia by far the biggest U.S. aid recipient outside the Middle East. Now, ten years later, Colombia often gets described as a “success” in Washington. Officials and analysts point to improvements in several measures of security in the conflict-torn South American country. They give the credit to U.S. assistance and to President Álvaro Uribe, who took over in 2002 and implemented a hard-line security policy.

Looked at more closely, though, Colombia’s security gains are partial, possibly reversible, and weighed down by “collateral damage.” They have carried a great cost in lives and resources. Progress on security has been stagnating, and even reversing. Scandals show that the government carrying out these security policies has harmed human rights and democratic institutions. Progress against illegal drug supplies has been disappointing. And wealth is being concentrated in ever fewer hands.

What Colombia has done is worth learning from. But since it favors military force while neglecting both civilian governance and impunity, it is not a model to be applied in Afghanistan, Mexico, or anywhere else. Colombia's new government and U.S. policymakers face an ever more urgent need to change it.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

With Opposition to U.S. Militarism in Latin America on the Rise, Colombian and Venezuelan Govs Clash

Below is an article of mine published on Friday on AlterNet. It might look familiar, as it's a rework of some recent blog posts.  Interesting photo they chose, huh?

On July 15 the Colombian government held a press conference to announce its possession of evidence that the Venezuelan government is harboring Colombian guerrillas, including high-ranking leaders, on Venezuela’s side of the border. The following week Colombia’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Alfonso Hoyos, presented to that regional body high-resolution graphics of more than 80 camps said to be housing nearly1500 guerrillas. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez responded immediately by severing diplomatic relations and putting Venezuela’s armed forces on high alert. Over Venezuelan 20,000 troops are now stationed on the two nations’ 1250-mile border.

Before the Colombian government’s announcement it had looked as though the previously tense relations between the two countries had been warming. President-elect Juan Manual Santos invited Chavez to his inauguration, while Chavez had approved a meeting between Venezuela’s foreign minister and Santos’ minister-designate.

For Chavez, though, this crisis isn’t just about Colombia; it is also the latest example of the power of U.S. influence in Colombia. On Monday he said he considers an armed attack from Colombia “probable” and accused the U.S. government of pushing for such an attack, calling the U.S. “the great instigator.” Undeterred by the fact that the U.S. is the biggest consumer of Venezuelan oil, Chavez pledged to cut off shipments of oil to the U.S. if such an attack occurs, “even if everybody over here has to eat stones.”

Read the rest of the article here.