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Brazil’s Odebrecht Gave Argentina’s Macri US$500k For Presidential Run

teleSUR | April 30, 2017

Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri received US$500,000 from Brazil’s Odebrecht construction firm for his 2015 electoral campaign, Argentine daily La Nacion revealed on Sunday.

The donation was processed through Odebrecht’s Braksem SA branch, and appeared in Macri’s party 2015 balance record. The company defended the move as “totally legal,” saying the sum of money was for the purchase of cutlery for a fundraising dinner that Macri’s Cambiemos coalition organized in March of that year.

“Braksem belongs to Odebrecht, it’s dedicated to the petrochemical market, with a branch in Argentina,” said the paper. “The Brazilian giant’s strategy was to have this lower-profile branch’s name appear in order to avoid public exposure.”

The leak comes after Odebrecht admitted it funded the electoral campaigns of other Latin American presidents, including Colombia’s current President Juan Manuel Santos and Peru’s former President Ollanta Humala.

Macri was also one of the main figures involved in the Panama Papers scandal after a leak from a company revealed how world leaders had thousands of offshore companies in tax havens to avoid paying taxes.

For 2015, Macri declared his fortune as being worth US$110 million to Argentina’s Anti-Corruption Office, an increase of 100 percent from the US$52 million he reported for the 2014 fiscal year. Following the Panama Papers leak, Macri admitted to having over US$18 million in tax havens.

Macri’s government has proposed a tax amnesty bill, which has been approved by the country’s congress. This controversial law is aimed to shield tax evaders who have undeclared holdings and assets while offering them lower taxes in order for them to bring assets to the country.

At Macri’s request, the law excluded any relatives of officials who have engaged in money laundering or have undeclared assets abroad from legal responsibilities, a caveat that critics say is a clear wink at his own father and siblings.

Earlier this month, polls found that Macri’s approval rate dropped to 24 percent, with 54 percent of Argentines polled saying they did not trust him.

May 2, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , | 1 Comment

CIA secret program helped Colombia kill FARC leaders: Report

Press TV – December 22, 2013

US intelligence agencies have secretly helped the Colombian government kill at least two dozen leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a report says.

On Saturday, the Washington Post published the report revealing that both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA) provided the Colombian government with technology to terminate the rebel leaders.

The report was based on interviews with more than 30 former and current American and Colombian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity since the program is classified and ongoing, the newspaper said.

According to the report, Washington provided Colombia with Global Positioning System (GPS) equipment that can be used to transform regular munitions into so-called smart bombs.

These explosives can accurately pinpoint specific targets, even if the objects are located in dense jungles.

In addition, the NSA provided “substantial eavesdropping help” to the Colombian government, the report stated.

In one of its operations, Colombian forces killed top FARC commander, Raul Reyes, in March 2008, while he was in a FARC-operated jungle camp in neighboring Ecuador. The newspaper reported that a US-made smart bomb was used in the killing.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos commented on the report, telling the newspaper that the CIA has been “of help, providing Colombian forces with “better training and knowledge.” The CIA, however, did not want to give any comments regarding the revelations.

The report also revealed that the multibillion-dollar program was secretly funded on top of the nine billion dollars in aid that the US has openly provided to Colombia, mostly in military assistance. The covert program was authorized by President George W. Bush and has continued under President Barack Obama.

The Colombian government and FARC have been holding peace negotiations since November last year in Cuba.

The two sides have agreed upon the matter of land reform and rural development, while four others issues still remain unsolved, including FARC’s participation in politics.

FARC is Latin America’s oldest insurgent group and has been fighting the government since 1964.

Bogota estimates that 600,000 people have been killed and more than 4.5 million others have been displaced due to the fighting.

December 22, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

An Interview With the FARC-EP Peace Delegation

The Colombian Negotiations

By HERNANDO CALVO OSPINA | August 7, 2013

FARC_guerrillas_during_the_Caguan_peace_talks_1998-2002Havana, Cuba.

Even in Havana they get up early. “We get up at 4:30 to wake up the roosters so that they can start singing,” grins Ricardo Tellez, better known as “Rodrigo Granda.”I have an appointment at 7am to interview three members of the Secretariat, the highest authority of the FARC. They are at the forefront of the dialogues between the insurgent organization with the delegation of the Colombian government in Havana. In a great hall of a house in “El Laguito” (1), where they live, “Ivan Marquez” and “Pablo Catatumbo” arrive, too. Granda lights a cigarette and drinks his second cup of coffee. Marquez has a big Cuban cigar in his hand, which he`ll start “after breakfast”. Catatumbo is sipping coffee and says to me: “If the three of us are going to say almost the same, why would you interview me?”

It is the first time a journalist has the opportunity to talk to these three guerrilla leaders together.

Hernando Calvo Ospina: Commanders, you have been talking for seven months, negotiating with the government’s commission in this peace process. Are you still optimistic?

Ivan Marquez: The optimism of the FARC is determined by our willpower to find a political solution to this confrontation, which has lasted for almost fifty years. Because they haven´t been able to defeat us militarily, nor have we, we must seek an alternative. In addition, the circumstances, today’s realities, both in Colombia and on the continent, indicate that it is time to find a pacific solution. Wars are not eternal. And that´s why we make any necessary effort to come to an understanding with the government.

HCO: How does it feel to be so close to your enemy?

IM: In spite of sitting at the same table two groups with very different views, almost antagonistic, we have to tolerate and understand each other. At a negotiating table one should respect the other party, and I think that respect should be mutual. There are moments of algid, strong discussions, but soon things turn back to normal because we know that we must come to an understanding.

HCO: Negotiations in war move between two opponents. It seems to me that you put more emotion on it.

IM: You’re right. The government has always had a tendency to seek the subjugation of the guerrillas as a synonym for peace, not peace through structural changes. The oligarchy wants peace for free. We are making great efforts for them to understand that you need to generate an atmosphere for peace, and that it can be achieved through institutional and political transformations. We are sure that the most important thing for Colombia is to ensure real democracy, where the sovereign people can determine strategic policies, where the opinion of the people is taken into account without being stigmatized and murdered.

HCO: Maybe I’m wrong, but I think that at various times President Juan Manuel Santos has wanted to pull back.

Rodrigo Granda: I don´t think he wants to withdraw, but he does seem afraid. It’s as if he were afraid of former President Alvaro Uribe, of the cattle-breeders, of narco-paramilitary power and the obscure sector within the Armed Forces. Santos recoils despite having the support of a significant sector of industrialists, bankers and churches. For example, according to reports we have, Sarmiento Angulo (2), one of the most powerful men in Colombia, supports the dialogue process. Surveys say that 87% of Colombians also want peace. The correlation of forces in favor of peace is indisputable. Uribe aside, nobody speaks about war anymore. But it seems that Santos does not want to face those sectors led by Uribe, he wants to fight us militarily, and assumes intransigent positions that do not allow a correct development of the dialogues. We know that Uribe has prepared 13,000 paramilitaries, known unofficially as the “anti-land restitution army.” Is it that the Armed Forces and Santos don´t know about that? Of course they do! Is that what Santos is afraid of? Or is he taking it as part of a possible move against us?

HCO: Clearly Uribe tries to torpedo the negotiations. Do you think he wants to return to presidency?

RG: And he wants that to protect himself, because he’s afraid of being sent to Miami for drug trafficking, or to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for crimes against humanity. It would be favorable for him if the negotiations failed, so that he can appear before the country as the solution. Although he wasn´t able to resolve the “problem” of the guerrillas during the eight years he was in office. Pablo Catatumbo: Anyway, Santos and Uribe have the same idea about the ​​negotiations: a peace process by submission. They are blind, deaf and quite wrong, but think they’re smart. And that is where we must continue with wisdom to prove that they are wrong, and that like this, the war will continue.

HCO: In statements you´ve made and documents I’ve read, you are asking for reforms in state institutions and the modernization of the State itself, which may be contradictory for a Marxist-Leninist communist guerrilla.

IM: At the table we are not proposing radical changes to the political or economic structures of the state. Over there, we don´t mention socialism or communism. We try to create conditions to reach an understanding with the government. A place where two different views can meet. We know that some leftist organizations, not only in Colombia, say that we became a reformist guerrilla.

We have made minimum proposals, for example the hundred proposals about the agrarian system, which as you´ve already said, are nothing more than a modernization of the Colombian countryside, but fact is that we are still living in feudalism there. Imagine that even this way, the government puts obstacles.

HCO: What has ever signed between the parties?

RG: We have signed some things, but they are not final signatures because nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. There are points on which we haven´t agreed yet, and we let them out to discuss them later on. Otherwise there won´t be any progress.

HCO: Dialogues in Havana, and strong military confrontations in Colombia …

RG: The government doesn’t want a ceasefire, so both parties have to dialogue under fire. We are having heavy confrontations every day, to an average of three per day. We have done large-scale military actions, which they hide to the nation. Now, both parties have decided that what happens in Colombia is not going to affect the Table.

We have made some gestures of peace, as was the unilateral truce for Christmas, although we had to defend ourselves against the attacks of the army. And what has been hidden is also in that same time span multinationals could increase their profits, they did not have our pressure. That’s why one of the major reasons for ending the guerrillas is that the transnationals can steal whatever they want without any problem.

HCO: So far, what has been the main government’s intransigence in negotiations?

IM: Without any doubt, the determination not to touch the property of the big land-owners, most of which has been obtained through violent dispossession. They`re afraid of that. Their representatives, when they talk to us, have said that that could “unleash the demons of paramilitarism.” They are afraid of cattle-breeders and landowners, to touch one third of the 30 million acres they own, although not even the cows occupy them.

But land reform without touching the big property isn’t reform. There must be set limits for land property. The government has not even thought about putting taxes as a punishment for unproductive land tenure. When we proposed taxing these big properties, the government responded that there is no reliable census; that nobody knows where they are or what their extension is. They suggest that first there should be a census, which can take up to 7 or 10 years. What they don’t say is that during this time the landowners can lease or sell the land to multinationals, which is their strategy.

HCO: If the Colombian government decided to negotiate with the FARC, it was because Washington agreed. You know that that is not an exaggeration of mine. What is the current political attitude?

IM: Recently, 62 U.S. congressmen, including two Republicans, led by Jim McGovern, signed a letter of support for the talks. This letter was sent to Secretary of State John Kerry. We welcomed this altruistic gesture. The White House and the State Department have also expressed their support. Of course, there are always different interests because the Colombian conflict produces money. The powerful arms industry doesn´t want to let loose of that business.

HCO: You are determined to stop the armed struggle. What should the government offer you for this to be achieved? And you, what would you become?

RG: President Santos, during the initial interchanges with us, said he wanted to open the floodgates to a real democracy in the country. That struck us because we have never said that the armed struggle is the only way to change the country. We got up in arms, and we still carry them, because violence has closed the doors to political participation. If the possibility of doing politics legally becomes real, without the constant threat of assassination, in equal conditions and with political reforms that could lead the country towards participatory democracy, we are there. Because there could be created a favorable correlation of forces for the revolutionary movement, which routs the necessary radical changes. We accept that challenge.

PC: You need to build a strong mass movement to impose changes, because the establishment doesn’t give away anything for free. That is a task for us, leftists and Democrats. It is important to create a power block of people who want a new Colombia. That is the challenge, and it´s not a small one.

But you see, as we talk about it at the conversation Table, the repression continues all around the country. The government hasn’t changed anything regarding the treatment of social protest: they are stigmatized, associated with the guerrillas to criminalize them and attack them with bullets. And if there is something we have very clear is that we are not willing to repeat the experience of the Patriotic Union, during which nearly 4000 members and leaders (3) were killed.

History, if it’s not manipulated, doesn´t lie: they have been the violent ones. When we remind the governmental team of these facts, they tell us that they are not here to talk about that. Why? What do they feel ashamed or afraid about? Without knowing the history of political violence in Colombia, how are we to know why we got to the current situation and how to resolve it?

IM: There are three items on the agenda to be discussed: guarantees to exercise political activity, political participation and bilateral and definitive ceasefire. The latter discusses the surrender of weapons and under what conditions. But let it be understood: that´s not handing over weapons. We cannot talk about these points until they are discussed in the table, and they will be the last ones on the agenda.

HCO: What will happen with the paramilitaries?

IM: They must definitively be eliminated; if not, there would be no certainty for an insurgent organization to incorporate into legal politics. That’s an insurmountable condition to reach a peace agreement. And it is the government who has to give the order to his generals to stop the state’s counterinsurgency strategy.

HCO: Are you determined to apologize for the suffering you have caused in this war?

PC: We have made mistakes, some serious, indeed. But whatever official propaganda says, aggression to the population has never been a strategy of the FARC. On the contrary, we have defended them against the army and its paramilitaries, mainly on the countryside.

I have no problem in saying to a woman or a family: “I feel sorry about the pain we have caused with the death of your loved one.” But this is much more complex. Are we going to apologize? Very well. Let´s also invite the economic associations that financed the war and paramilitaries; let´s invite all State institutions, because they guarantee repression and impunity; let´s invite the mass media, too, because they reproduced the stigmatization made by security agencies, which have led to the murders and massacres; the rightist political parties should also sit down and assume their great responsibilities; the former presidents of the republic who gave the orders. Not even the Catholic Church can deny its responsibility! And the governments of the United States, Israel, some European countries and others that have supported various criminal governments of Colombia cannot be left outside of this ceremony. All together, we can decide who the terrorists and murderers of the people are.

HCO: You point out, and rightly so, that the government, its armed forces and the mass media are responsible for psychological warfare and propaganda against the insurgency. But I think an important sector of the so-called intelligentsia have savaged the armed struggle they supported before.

PC: Most intellectuals in Colombia, and probably in the world, are suffering from cowardice, accommodations or both things. Almost all were put by the system in the matrix of lies, and are used to “theorize”, create and repeat falsehoods. Many of them spend time writing discourses against media manipulation, but when the system starts a campaign against someone or somebody, they start talking like parrots.

In Colombia, the system told them that the guerrillas are guilty of everything. Although many of them believed, or believe, they are from the left, they repeated in unison that we are responsible for violence, drug trafficking, kidnapping, poverty, rising gasoline and even the high price of the bananas. I assure you that if tomorrow the birds stop singing, these “intellectuals” repeat what the government and their media say: the guerrillas are to be blamed. They have fallen into such poverty regarding research and argumentation, that their analyses and theories don’t endure any discussion, at least with us. They think that if they discuss with us, we´ll kill them afterwards. They are not even capable of realizing that if that was true, in Colombia there would be very few “intellectuals” left right now. Their brain doesn’t have the capacity to see that those who safeguard their intellectual and political independence are those who are said by the government to be friends or accomplices of the subversion.

HCO: I must admit, and I´m about to end, that I’m not very optimistic about these dialogues. I believe that Colombia and Colombians deserve peace with social justice, but I know the Colombian State, I know the United States, who support that State and who ultimately decides. Hopefully the long night, imposed by State terrorism stops and finally dawns. I wish it with all my heart.

PC: Look, political conditions in Latin America have changed. Who could have imagined what happened in Venezuela and Bolivia with the arrival of Chávez and Evo? Who would have thought that other Latin American governments one day would demand respect for their sovereignty from the U.S.? There are unpredictable things, like the end of the Soviet Union for example.

In Colombia there is an accumulation of hunger, exclusion, injustice and repression. The time will come when people simply won´t take it anymore. There is an accumulation of ongoing processes that can make a leap any time. There is a boiling that could explode tomorrow.

Besides, Colombia is not an island. The neighboring countries are pressing the government because they are tired of the conflict that affects them. Venezuela received about 4 million displaced Colombians, Ecuador almost two million. We believe there are 13 to 15 million Colombians in neighboring countries, that is, the third part of the Colombian population. And these countries must provide housing, food and health. For how long? Apart from the budget they spend to protect their borders. Just because the Colombian government insists on not negotiating a conflict they will never win! We have asked the representatives of those nations to demand for peace, so that all our compatriots can return to their country.

We are optimistic. Revolutionaries must be optimistic, even in the worst situations. And we believe that peace will come to Colombia because we deserve it. The other possibility is total war. That´s why I say the moment has come, but that doesn’t mean it´s easy. This peace process is too complex, but we believe it is possible. We insist on striving for peace, so we will not fold our arms.

I do have hope, although I think the authorities and the Colombian oligarchy lack greatness and humility to start solving this conflict.

Hernando Calvo Ospina is a Colombian journalist. He can be reached through his website.

NOTES:

1. “El Laguito” is a residential complex in Havana. Their houses are separated by trees and gardens. In the center is a small lake. Since November 2012, the delegations of the FARC and the Colombian government are located in this peaceful scenery.

2. According to the magazine Forbes (edition 2012). Luis Carlos Sarmiento Angulo listed as the first billionaire in Colombia, and would rank 64 in the world.

3. The Patriotic Union was born in 1985, as a result of the talks between the government of Belisario Betancur and the FARC. According to the Colombian justice, there was a “political genocide” against the Patriotic Union.

Translation: http://en.firatnews.com/news/news/g…

Source

August 8, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

NATO Intends to Explode Latin American Unity, Leaders Warn

Prensa Latina | June 3, 2013

Managua – The supposed initiative to incorporate Colombia in a military group like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an attack on Latin American and Caribbean unity, the governments of Nicaragua and Venezuela denounced today.

The statements by Presidents Daniel Ortega and Nicolas Maduro occurred on Sunday night during a massive event at Revolution Square in the capital, marking the visit of the South American leader.

“When the region seeks more unity through the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), it is worrying that initiatives are presented to try to divide and weaken the process”, noted Ortega.

“It is inadmissible and I want to believe that this is not actually happening, I find it hard to believe that President Juan Manuel Santos expressed his decision to join NATO,” highlighted the leader.

“Strength does not lie in filling our countries with foreign military bases, or joining organizations whose focus is bombing, murdering and destroying; that is NATO’s tradition and it has a “keep-on-doing-it” policy, noted the president.

“CELAC has commitments and if anyone breaks them, there will always be other leaders that rectify mistakes and strengthen unity of our peoples”, underlined Ortega.

Maduro warned that Colombia’s attempt contradicts the doctrine and the international law on which regional unity is based. “They want to put dynamite in the heart of the achievements of the unity of Latin America, the Caribbean and South America”, the leader pointed out.


Bolivia Calls UNASUR Summit to Discuss Colombia’s Inclusion in NATO

Prensa Latina | June 3, 2013

La Paz – The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, described Colombia”s decision to join NATO as a threat to the region and called an extraordinary meeting of the Security Council of UNASUR.

During a ceremony in the southern city of Potosi, he considered that the decision of President Juan Manuel Santos to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is a violation of the peace treaties signed by the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and involves a dangerous possibility of military intervention to the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean.

“We can not allow NATO to intervene Latin America. Having NATO is a threat to our continent, to Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.

The president asked the General Secretariat of UNASUR to complete the formalities for the Security Council to convene an emergency meeting to take a joint position of rejecting the Atlantic Pact arrival to the region through Colombia.

He believed that the presence of that organization of military powers seeks to destabilize and undermine leftist governments in Latin America, primarily Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia itself.

June 4, 2013 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Latest FARC Proposal for Peace Process in Colombia

Nazih Richani | Cuadernos Colombianos | March 19, 2013

White smoke is rising in Havana, Cuba where the negotiators of the Juan Manuel Santos and the insurgents of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been negotiating since early last year. The two sides have almost agreed on the most important issue on the agenda: the agrarian question. I said almost because of the FARC’s insistence on the expansion of Peasant Zones.

So far, the FARC has clearly demonstrated its commitment to a peaceful compromise provided that the state commits to find a solution of the enduring institutional legacies of Spanish colonialism: the encomienda, which was succeeded by the hacienda system, which in turn gave grounds to the emergence of latifundios (large land ownership)—all of which were sustained by the mita (tribute) system in which the indigenous population were forced to sell their labor of 15 or more days per year to the latifundistas and to the mine owners. The mita system was supplanted by sharecropping which remained an important form of labor exploitation well into the 20th century.

In Colombia, the outcome of these institutions was one of the most skewed land distributions in Latin America, alongside Brazil and Guatemala, where large landowners retained significant political power. The Colombian recalcitrant large landowning elite hindered two previous attempts (1936 and 1968) of land reforms that would have allowed the creation of economies of scale fomenting capitalist development based on large-scale agribusiness and industry. The process was derailed and the peasantry paid the heavy price on top of centuries of exploitation, dispossession, and brutal oppression.

The last attempt at land reform coincided with the emergence of the narcotraffickers in the 1970s through the marijuana “Golden of Santa Marta,” which created the first bonanza of narco-dollars, most of which being invested in land and real estate. This was followed by the second and more significant influx of billions of dollars in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, which was invested in land put to use through cattle ranching. This boosted the landed elite ranks, furthering the concentration of land ownership from 0.80 to 0.85 (where zero is perfect equality and the value 1 indicates that all properties are owned by one person). According to the Geographic Institute Agustín Codazzi (Igag), this translates into a mere 1.62% of landowners owning 43% of the lands.

More important, the emergence of the narcobourgeoisie faction gave a boost to the landowning elite, allowing them to reassert their political and economic power. The narcobourgeoisie invested heavily in land due to the relative ease in using property as a money-laundering scheme, which conflicted with the interests of the peasants and the rebels. This in turn created a class affinity between the narco-bourgeoisie and the traditional landed oligarchy.

The inequitable distribution of land and power cemented class interests and allowed the narcobourgeoisie the economic capacity to build private armies capable of safeguarding the class interests of the entire landed elite. This may explain their success in exercising influence and political power in an economy where the agrarian sector contributes to only (a diminishing) 7% of the GDP, while the service sector contributes 55% and manufacturing 38%.

This is the paradox that Colombia presents to insurgents, academia, and policy makers. It is an interesting case in which pre-capitalist modes of production, as the ones mentioned above, were embedded in new modes and relations of production only to become entangled with a contingency such as narcotrafficking. To this paradox add that Colombia is today the fourth largest economy in Latin America, after Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina.

The FARC, for example, acknowledging the contradictions and mutations of the country’s economic history— colonial and post-colonial—that produced it as a rebel movement, is bringing into the forefront the expansion of “Peasant Zones” to safeguard the peasant economy. The idea is not new. The creation of Peasant Zones was promulgated in Law 160 of 1994, but was never seriously pursued or implemented by the state. Since the introduction of this Law, only 830,000 hectares were redistributed and benefited only 75,000 people. This was while millions of subsistence peasants were exposed to violence, increasing dispossession, and aggressive encroachments of large landowners, narcobourgeoisie, speculators, bio-fuels industries, multinational mining corporations, and oil companies.

The FARC is calling for the expansion of the protection of “Peasant Zones” to include 9,5 million hectares and provide these peasant communities autonomy similar to the ones that the 1991 constitution granted the Afro-Colombian and indigenous groups. This sparked the ire of the reactionary faction of the landed elite, led by the cattle ranchers and political conservatives such as the Minister of Agriculture a descendant of the Antioquia dominant class and coffee elite. Statistics are showing that the peasant economy is more efficient and productive than the so-called capitalist large-scale farming.

Currently the small-scale peasant economy produces more than 60% of the country’s food needs which are cultivated in only 4.9 million hectares. If the peasant zones were to expand on the magnitude suggested by FARC, Colombia will not only secure its food supply, but it will generate enough surpluses improving the standards of livelihood of almost 35% of its population and create a multiplying effect on the overall economy. This may lay down solid foundations for a durable peace and a sustainable development. This is a proposal that merits serious attention.

Friday March 22, two thousand peasants are gathered for their third national meeting in San Vicente del Caguan to push forward the initiative to expand the Peasant Zones. This meeting represents the historical affinity and organic links between the peasantry and the FARC.

Nazih Richani is the Director of Latin American studies at Kean University.

March 24, 2013 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Colombia: President Santos Announces ‘Profound Changes’

By Kari Paul | The Argentina Independent | March 14, 2013

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced yesterday that he will initiate “an agenda of transformation” in the 16 months he has left in office.

This announcement comes as Santos continues peace negotiations with Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Congress announced last week that a resolution will be made with the armed revolutionary group by August.

“Our vision is of a just, modern, and safe Colombia,” Santos said, according to El Tiempo.

He added that disarming FARC is not enough and that the system must change in order to avoid similar situations in the future.

“Some people continue to be stuck in the past, selling us a vision of a Colombia condemned to another 50 years of violence, paralysed by fear and without the capacity to imagine anything more than what it has always been,” he said. “However we, the large majority, believe in our future.”

Officials and Santos finalised this new “comprehensive government strategy” in a meeting Monday.

Beginning today, union directors and business owners will begin meeting to design and begin this project that Santos called “an emergency plan for growth and productivity.”

Beyond lowering rates of violence in the country, the president announced goals of a more “modern Colombia,” including plans to build 317 kilometres of highways this year.

Santos added that he is “committed… to making it so that Colombia can say ‘we have peace’ before leaving the government.”

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Leave a comment

FARC has ‘always wanted peace’ in Columbia – RT exclusive

RT | December 4, 2012

Colombian rebel militants FARC seek dialogue and peace with the country’s government, FARC negotiator Tanja Nijmeijer told RT in an exclusive interview. But despite renewed peace talks, government forces killed at least 20 rebels in a recent attack.

Dutch militant Tanja Nijmeijer – who left the Netherlands 10 years ago to join the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and fight for what she calls social justice – spoke with RT, saying that the rebel organization wants to end the country’s 50-year conflict.

“We as an armed organization have always wanted a dialogue, we’ve always wanted peace, we have always asked for peace,” she said.

“We have not taken the arms because we wanted so. We have taken the arms because the Colombian State and the United States imperialism have obliged us to do so,” Nijmeijer said.

Talks between the Colombian government and FARC over fragile peace negotiations are set to resume in Havana, Cuba, on December 7.

At least 20 left-wing rebels were killed in Colombia on Sunday after airstrikes against their camp near the Ecuadorian border, the army said. The attack came after FARC announced a ceasefire until January 1, 2013, for the negotiations.

“People who are in Colombia want to fight for ideas different from neoliberal are killed,” Nijmeijer told RT. “So how is it possible to participate in politics if people who have other ideas are killed. And that’s the reason of arm struggle in Colombia. That’s the reason why we are still fighting.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has set a deadline of November 2013 for an agreement to be reached in the peace talks with FARC. “This has to be a process of months, rather than years. In other words, this should not last any longer than November next year at the latest,” Santos said.

The president’s statement followed an acknowledgement by FARC that it was holding “prisoners of war” – reportedly soldiers or police captured during combat. FARC stated that the prisoners would be freed in exchange for the release of rebels held by the government.

The Colombian government currently detains around 700 rebel prisoners, according to Sandra Ramirez, one of FARC’s representatives.

The US has been criticized for its role in helping the Colombian government kill members of FARC; Washington’s military assistance to Columbia has been directed primarily towards killing FARC militants.

In nearly a half-century of conflict in Columbia, an estimated 600,000 people have died and another 15,000 gone missing. Some 4 million people have also been internally displaced.

Find out more about FARC and the peace process from RT’s full exclusive interview with Tanja Nijmeijer, airing Wednesday at 18:45 GMT.

December 4, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Colombia and FARC ready for peace talks with support from Cuba and Norway

NNN-MERCOPRESS | August 28, 2012

BOGOTA – Colombia’s government will soon begin talks that could lead to formal negotiations for peace with the country’s biggest guerrilla group, known as the FARC, according to a Colombian intelligence source.

As part of the deal to hold talks, the government has agreed that leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia would not be extradited to another country to stand trial, he said.

One aide at President Juan Manuel Santos’ office has flatly denied that any talks are taking place, but a second aide said only that any official word on peace dealings would come from Santos himself.

Details of the accord are still being worked out, but the negotiations could take place in Cuba and in Norway, the source said.

However from Caracas the editor in chief of Telesur, the Venezuelan television news channel, Jorge Botero said that secret talks date back to May in Havana with the attendance of unofficial delegates from Colombia, plus representatives from Venezuela, Cuba and Norway.

“Formal dialogue is anticipated for next October in Oslo”, said Botero. He added that from Norway representatives from the Colombian government and FARC will then travel to Havana where “they will sit to negotiate and won’t leave the table until a peace deal is reached”.

A year ago the head of FARC Alfonso Cano announced that the guerrilla was ready for talks to end the half a century Colombian internal war.

News of the peace talks is likely to anger Santos’ predecessor Alvaro Uribe who has criticised any idea of talks with the rebels and has slammed Santos for wanting “peace at any cost.”

The originally Marxist oriented FARC but now financed by drugs and which calls itself “the people’s army” defending peasant rights, has battled about a dozen administrations since surfacing in 1964, when its founder Manuel Marulanda and 48 rebels took to jungle hide-outs triggering an internal conflict involving Colombian forces and thousands of recruited guerrillas.

The group has faced its toughest defeats in recent years as US-trained special forces use sophisticated technology and spy networks to track the leaders.

The FARC string of defeats began in 2008 with a cross-border military raid into Ecuador that killed Raul Reyes its second in command. Marulanda died of a heart attack weeks later and was replaced by Alfonso Cano, who was later killed too.

August 28, 2012 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Comments Off on Colombia and FARC ready for peace talks with support from Cuba and Norway

Colombia’s Patriotic March

By CHRIS GILBERT | CounterPunch | May 4, 2012

Colombia’s highly restricted democracy got a good slap in the face two weeks ago when 100,000 protesters entered the capital city and filled to overflowing the giant plaza that spreads out before the Congress and the Palace of Justice. In fact, just looking at the hurried reactions of president Juan Manuel Santos – new cabinet appointments, launching a populist housing project, and buying more arms from the US – one would know something serious is afoot.

But what, precisely, is it? The protesters call themselves the Patriotic March and were born with a more or less spontaneous celebration of the Colombian bicentennial two years ago. At that moment, in 2010, there was an earlier and likewise massive march to Bogotá plus the formation of cabildos (open councils) to treat questions of urgency in Colombian politics and life (such as human rights).

Today the marchers’ two principal slogans are innocuous enough: one the one hand, the effort to bring about a second and definitive independence and on the other hand peace; that is, a political and negotiated solution to the country’s 50-year conflict, a peace with of social justice. So what is all the fuss?

In fact, only in Colombia are the search for peace and sovereignty themes to which the state generally responds with massive repression, even approaching genocide. Some twenty-five years ago Colombia’s longest lasting guerrilla, the FARC-EP, opted for a peaceful rather than armed expression of its non-conformity. This led to the systematic assassination of something like 4,000 of the unfortunate cadres of the Patriotic Union who thought there might be a space for a strictly political opposition in Colombia’s much touted democracy, which seems to have durability rather than authenticity as its principal characteristic.

Though strictly speaking it may not be a world that has lived 100 years of solitude, Colombia’s politics has its very specific and even archaic qualities. For example, one of the principal struggles still seems to be that which takes place between city and country. Superficially at least, most of the patriotic marchers are people of rural origin: small or displaced farmers. Likewise there is an obvious racial or color element; the marchers tend toward brown and black while Power in Colombia tends to be white – except of course for the sepoy police and armed forces.

The marchers are clearly that group or class which Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano called “the nobodies… who don’t speak language but dialects… who don’t have culture but folklore” (and “cost less than the bullet that kills them”). But that doesn’t keep them from being very clear about what they want and need. “We’re being displaced by transnationals and the national government,” said one small-scale miner from the Bolivar department, “and participating in the march is the only way we will be heard”. Almost to a man, they are clear that their government is a puppet, militarist regimen in which the White House, if it doesn’t call all the shots, is at least consulted on most of them.

The march, patriotic and gutsy given the conditions in which it must operate, is one of those events that show that class struggle cannot be eliminated from any context, even by the most aggressive and totalitarian state tactics. There comes a point in which – as Martin Luther King said – one cannot not go on. The marchers have reached that point. They cannot be willed or dispelled away by even the most powerful mediatic wands (the mass media seems to insist contradictorily both that they don’t really exist and that they are very dangerous).

One of their repeated claims – that passes from the mouth of the inimitable ex-senator Piedad Córdoba to almost every spokesperson – is that the March, come what may, will go forward. That means that it will and has taken the form of a political movement and that it will try to take state power, as every responsible political movement tries to do. That claim, when it comes from the mouth of someone with Córdoba’s mettle, and when backed up by such conscious and committed social bases, is enough to make even the most ruthless politician of the establishment tremble. And some of us, one must say, tremble with delight.

Chris Gilbert, professor of Political Science in the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela, formed part of the international delegation that accompanied the Patriotic March, between April 21 and 23, in the formation of the National Patriotic Council.

May 4, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , | Comments Off on Colombia’s Patriotic March

Colombia: ‘Carbon credit’ scheme a cover for land grab

By James Bargent | Green Left | March 4, 2012

When the paramilitaries of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) arrived in San Onofre in northern Colombia in the late 1990s, they came after dark, dragging people from their homes and disappearing into the night.

Soon, they did not need the cover of darkness. People were executed in public plazas in broad daylight. Women and young girls were openly raped and abused.

Since the demobilisation of the local AUC bloc in 2005, 42 mass graves have been discovered in the municipality. Locals say about 3000 people disappeared and tens of thousands fled their homes and abandoned their land to escape what one survivor called a region of “concentration camps”.

Seven years on from the AUC demobilisation, San Onofre is now the site of thousands of hectares of teak trees belonging to one of Colombia’s five biggest companies, Argos S.A.

In February last year, Argos’ commercial monocrop plantation was approved for the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) carbon trading scheme. This means it can sell carbon credits to industrialised countries trying to meet Kyoto Protocol emission reduction targets.

The company says the plantation will capture 37,000 tones of CO2 a year for 25 years – worth about $12.5 million in the current carbon market. It also plans to use another teak plantation in the nearby municipalities of El Carmen and Ovejas for the CDM.

Argos claims the teak plantation is helping fight climate change and contributing to the sustainable development of a conflict scarred region, but the project has proved controversial.

Survivors from the paramilitary era and land restitution campaigners claim the plantation and its CDM status is not only an attempt to cash in on the lucrative carbon credits market, but also legitimise a mass land grab that followed paramilitary violence, and prevent land restitution to a displaced population.

The municipalities of San Onofre, El Carmen and Ovejas are in the Caribbean region Montes de Maria. A heavy guerilla presence in the area led to the creation of AUC bloc, the “Heroes of Montes de Maria” in 1997. The paramilitaries soon gained complete social and economic control of the region by murdering, torturing and displacing local farmers with the support of local state security forces.

Between 1995 and 2005, 54 massacres were reported in the three municipalities of San Onofre, Ovejas and El Carmen and, says government agency Accion Social, 117,097 people have been displaced there since the paramilitaries first arrived.

The AUC era ended with demobilisation in 2005. However, in 2008 El Espectacor reported a new invasion, of “strange personalities” in bulletproof Hummers.

A land grab ensued, in which desperate, indebted or frightened people were pressured into selling property. Abandoned land was snapped up by speculators.

Next came big business. What had previously been an area of smallholder and subsistence farming rapidly became dominated by large-scale agro-industrial enterprises ― dairy, timber, African palm and teak.

As the land became more concentrated in fewer hands, the landscape of Montes de Maria began to change. Most of Montes de Maria is now owned by just a handful of large businesses, among them Argos, which owns an estimated 12,500 hectares.

Argos claims it bought its land in San Onofre directly from the owners in 2005, after the paramilitaries had left. However, the CDM validation report indicates it first bought land in 2003 and continued to do so until 2008.

Camilo Abello, the vice-president of corporate affairs at Argos, claims the company entered “a completely peaceful zone. The Argos representative who made the purchases was able to go into the zone because there were no paramilitaries, there was no violence.”

“Juan Carlos”, a San Onofre local whose family sold their land to Argos, disagrees.

Juan Carlos’ family owned land close to the El Palmar ranch, headquarters of the infamous local AUC leader known as “Cadena” and site of a mass grave containing 72 tortured and mutilated bodies.

“We had to sell the land because we were in an unbearable situation,” he said, “Our lives were in danger.”

Juan Carlos said his family had to ask Cadena permission to sell to Argos. He said that although he knew of no formal contact between the AUC and Argos, paramilitaries visited the farm while the Argos representative was measuring the land.

Government statistics show that nearly 2000 people were forcibly displaced in San Onofre in 2005, more than in the previous two years. More than 1000 people were also displaced in 2006 and again in 2007.

Murder and displacement rates have dropped sharply since, but government risk reports on San Onofre show a renewed and growing paramilitary presence in the area.

In El Carmen de Bolivar and Ovejas, Argos bought land from the speculators who flooded the region in the wake of the paramilitaries.

One of the main sources was a group of powerful businesspeople and ranchers called the Amigos de Montes de Maria. Locals say they pressured campesinos into selling their land and evicted families from land bought for agro-industrial projects.

Testimonies collected for two NGO reports said that in at least one case Argos bought land acquired by Amigos de Montes de Maria from demobilised AUC members who had displaced its owners.

Residents also report how one alleged demobilised AUC member, Silvio Flores, went to work for the company after it bought the land he managed on behalf of a member of the group. Locals claim Flores then began pressuring other campesinos to sell; abusing and threatening them, killing their animals and burning down houses.

In the report, residents of Ovejas also describe being threatened by heavily armed camouflaged men who claimed to be the company’s security.

Argos denies any involvement in pressuring people to sell or buying from displaced people. “What we did was buy from people who wanted to sell,” said Camilo Abello, “without any coercion or pressure”.

Abello also denied any links to paramilitary groups and claimed the company does not use any type of security at the plantations. According to Abello, the company is helping the region by creating jobs.

“We don’t think that we are taking advantage, on the contrary we are supporting the reconstruction of the fabric of society, we are investing in a post-conflict zone,” he said.

The issue of land ownership in Montes de Maria has been complicated further by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ new flagship policy ― the Victims and Land Restitution Law.

The law is designed to address the desperate plight of the estimated 3-5 million Colombians forced from their lands into city slums and squatter camps by conflict and violence. Its main focus is the restitution of lands to the displaced.

Critics of Argos claim the company is using the teak plantations and their CDM status to ward off the danger of losing their lands because of the Victims Law. If Argos faces claims on its Montes de Maria land, it can retain the plantations by exploiting a loophole in the restitution process.

The Victims Law says land will not be taken from companies that are using it for agro-industrial enterprises if the company can prove it bought the land in good faith. Instead, the authorities will try to negotiate a financial agreement between company and claimant.

Colombian Congressperson Ivan Cepeda campaigns on land rights and has raised the issue of Montes de Maria land grabs to Congress.

“The operation [Argos] has done in Montes de Maria is a clear example of how the government’s proposed restitution with the Victims Laws is going to work,” he said. “All of this is a big, sophisticated operation to legalise the lands they have robbed from the campesinos.”

Cepeda is scathing of Argos’ claims to have acted in good faith when it bought the lands.

“[Paramilitary violence] did not happen in isolation,” he said. “It is a fact of public knowledge and frankly it is illogical and incomprehensible that these businesses did not know which land they were dealing with and who had lived on that land.”

He added: “[Argos’ project is] a business that it is presenting as clean when in reality it is a business drenched in blood ― the blood of campesinos that were the victims of massacres.”

The company itself says it welcomes the Victims Law and would cooperate fully with any claims on land owned by the company.

In October, Cepeda wrote to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon urging him to expel Argos from the CDM program and enforce the UN Global Compact, which commits associated companies to human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption principles.

Ban did not publicly respond, but the CDM board chair Martin Hession said responsibility for the matter lay with the Colombian government.

“Primarily, it is for (them) to resolve issues like this as they certified the sustainable development of the project,” he said in an interview with Point Carbon News.

A spokesperson for the Colombian Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development said, “Only the CDM Executive Board can take this decision [to remove Argos’ approval].”

Compared with the horrors of the turn of the century, life for the campesinos of Montes de Maria is quiet. But with growing tensions over landownership and the resurgence of paramilitarism, violence and conflict still lurk beneath the surface.

“We believe that it is not going to stay calm,” said “Andres”, a campesino from Ovejas.

“It is going to continue, we are going to see deaths here, we are going to see pressure, we are going to see evictions and displacement because they are going to try to reclaim the land like a debt and we are not going to let them.”

[The names of the campesinos interviewed for this article have been changed to protect their identities.]

April 18, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Science and Pseudo-Science, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Comments Off on Colombia: ‘Carbon credit’ scheme a cover for land grab