8 December 2008

Colombia, The Heart of Darkness: 7 Killed or Disappear Every Day of Uribe's Rule

This year was supposed to mark a decisive triumph for the Alvaro Uribe regime of Colombia , a country where about a fifth of the people have been internally or externally displaced, where hundreds of trade unionists and social activists are killed every year, where the native people are in a state of unprecedented mobilisation and where millions have been destituted by financial pyramid schemes.

• At least seven people have been killed or disappeared every day of Uribe's rule since 2002, totalling 14,000 victims in his time, a large group of NGOs have told the United Nations.
• Counting together supposedly demobilised paramilitaries who have taken up arms once again, those who never surrendered and newly-emergent groups, there are 10,200 armed people distributed in 102 groups who use 21 different names and have a presence in 246 municipalities in Colombia.
• The dreaded paramilitary group Águilas Negras (Black Eagles) is threatening students at public universities who oppose the government.
• Fifty-nine members of Congress and 29 Senators have been on trial or found guilty of links with paramilitaries
• None of the main parties,Convergencia Ciudadana, Colombia Viva, Alas-Equipo Colombia, Colombia Democrática and Apertura Liberal, most or all of the members of which are linked to the paramilitaries have been dissolved
• In the last local elections, 29,000 members of these parties were put up as candidates and, though some of them were punished by the electorate, they maintained and extended their influence.
• At the start of the Alvaro Uribe regime, the Colombian Leftist guerrilla group, FARC, had 18.200 men and women distributed in 81 fronts. Now they have about 10,800 distributed in 64 fronts.
• Though FARC has taken hard knocks, it has reorganised into smaller, more mobile groups, uses land mines, mortars and snipers, has killed many soldiers and policemen in recent months and has struck up alliances with local armed groups. In Bajo Cauca, for example, it has recouped its strength from barely 100 to 600 recently.
• The other smaller guerrilla group ELN has broken off peace talks with the government, managed to keep its military command intact and has grown in strength in parts of the country, noticeably along the Venezuela border.
• The collapse of the pyramid scheme has hit the south of the country the hardest, where FARC is also strong, and popular support for Uribe is in marked decline there.
• The Colombian ambassador to South Africa, Carlos Moreno de Caro, was a signed-up member of the AUC, the leading paramilitary group, and received money from them for his 2006 electoral campaign, according to the testimony of a former paramilitary member. A former envoy to the Dominican Republic was outed some time ago.
• Documents made public recently clarify that the system of paying soldiers for killing guerrillas, far from being a temporary aberration, was a policy decision of the Uribe government which used international aid money for this purpose.
• Alvaro Uribe’s son Jerónimo admitted to a Colombian magazine over the phone that he had links with the collapsed pyramid scheme DMG but later moved to deny it.

Sources: Cambio, Semana, El Público, Cambio, La Jornada
Related Article: Colombia: The Cost of War

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