[CLM] 04-29-99 IN OTHER NEWS...

Colombian Labor Monitor xx738 at prairienet.org
Fri Apr 30 17:48:51 PDT 1999


COLOMBIAN LABOR MONITOR clm at prairienet.org www.prairienet.org/clm

"Behind the headlines, beneath the surface, between the lines"

IN OTHER NEWS... Thursday, 29 April 1999


(1) Uprisings in working class neighborhoods of Bogota

(2) Strikes continue throughout the country

(3) Disgraced generals honored by disgraceful admirers

(4) San Pablo under the gun of death-squads and security forces

(5) New exodus planned for southern Bolivar

(6) Castano to move headquarters to southern demilitarized zone


* (1) Uprisings in working class neighborhoods of Bogota

Hundreds of angry working class youth armed with sticks and other makeshift weapons barricaded entire sections of poor neighborhoods since Wednesday, in the southern part of Bogota.

Organizers asserted that the mobilizations are a result of the disaffection of the working class with the socioeconomic situation in Colombia.

At 11 am the protesters were confronted with hundreds of riot police that fired tear gas into the crowds. The protesters responded with a rain of rocks as they retreated to new positions.

Overnight, inhabitants of San Juan de Usme, Fortaleza, Marichuela, Brasilia, Barranquillita and La Aurora manned the barricades as they prepared for renewed police assaults.

Unemployment and socioeconomic polarization have reached new heights in Colombia, one of the most resource-wealthy countries in the western hemisphere. Neoliberal policies pursued by President Pastrana and his predecessors have contributed to the drastic deterioration of the conditions of the working class as multinational corporations and the fetidly corrupt Colombian elites have enriched themselves.

* (2) Strikes continue throughout the country

Minister of Labor Hernando Yepes Arcila sought to minimize the impact the strikes that have paralyzed Bogota and that have shaken the country. "The government does not intend to minimize that which is minimal," he crowed in a non-statement yesterday. For ten days, 300,000 teachers have taken to the streets in what has become the largest labor mobilizations this year against President Pastrana's neoliberal policies. They have been joined by 115,000 health care workers, as well as by petroleum and transportation workers.

* (3) Disgraced generals honored by disgraceful admirers

Two of Colombia's worst human rights offenders, brigadier generals Rito Alejo del Rio and Fernando Millan will be the guests of honor at a dinner to be held at 8 pm this evening in the Red Salon of the Hotel Tequendama, in Bogota.

The murderous duo were discharged from the armed forces this month by order of President Pastrana because of their close relationship to right-wing death-squads.

The keynote speech will be delivered by none other than their dear friend Alvaro Uribe Velez, former governor of Antioquia, the department where Del Rio --the butcher of Uraba-- rose to prominence by murdering hundreds of innocent civilians in a reign of terror against peasants, workers and human rights defenders.

It should be noted that the Uribe Velez was the author of the bright idea of the Convivir (basically, offically sanctioned paramilitary death-squads that are now supposedly disbanded).

The list of guests in this gala event features a veritable reactionary "who's who", including Mario Agudelo, president of Esperanza, Paz y Libertad (formerly... maoist guerrillas!), Guillermo Rivera, president of the Uraba banana-growers' cartel, and coffee magnate Gustavo Gaviria (the real "Juan Valdez"?).

One of the guests, the illustrious industrialist Hernan Echavarria Olozaga, defended tonight's gala as nothing else but "a recognition of the work of the armed forces who devote their lives to the defense of the civilian population against the daily ferocious violations of the guerrillas."

The Colombian Labor Monitor has not received an invitation, but we hope that the whole bunch of them choke on their Chicken Kiev!

* (4) San Pablo under the gun of death-squads and security forces

The people of San Pablo and nearby areas in southern Bolivar continue to be in the cross-hairs of paramilitaries and Colombian army and security forces.

Since 12 April 1999 the Colombian Air Force, army and their paramilitary allies have been involved in intensive operations to track down members of the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional (ELN), National Liberation Army, who hijacked a passenger aircraft that day.

These operations have reportedly involved intensive and indiscriminate aerial bombardment of rural areas around the towns of San Pablo and Simiti by the Colombian Air Force, forcing up to 1000 people to flee their homes.

Since 13 April 1999, paramilitary forces have surrounded rural communities in both municipalities, forbidding the distribution of food or medical supplies to the civilian population.

Heavily armed paramilitaries in uniform have been patrolling the streets of the municipal capital of San Pablo, reportedly with the cooperation of the security forces.

Between 18 and 19 April Ismael Rincon Sierra, Alfiodys Duran Rodriguez, Ernesto Fernandez Botero and three other inhabitants of San Pablo were tortured and killed by paramilitaries.

Several other people are believed to have 'disappeared'.

Residents of San Pablo have also been forced to attend meetings held by the paramilitaries, where they have been told that those named on a "lista negra", blacklist, reportedly believed to be "guerrilla sympathizers", will be killed. Residents have also been told that they will have to leave San Pablo unless they make payments to the paramilitaries every month.

Paramilitaries are also believed to be responsible for the killing of Americo N , Armando Mier Urueta and another resident of San Pablo whose bodies were all found in Simiti.

* (5) New exodus planned for southern Bolivar

A new wave of refugees will likely overrun Barrancabermeja in the near future as communities in the southern part of Bolivar and in Valle de Cimitarra are mobilizing to protest the lack of implementation of government promises. Community leaders argue that the new displacement is due to the fact that the government has not provided safe conditions for the peasants in these areas, nor has it fulfilled any of the economic and social guarantees it extended last year.

In the past few months, more than 200 peasants have been killed and more than 400 houses have been destroyed in Norosi, Moral, Barranco de Loba and Pueblito Mejia, among other localities.

The region has been overrun by paramilitaries who seem to work closely with the army and security forces.

It should be noted that in this area there are gold mines that are now claimed by a Canadian mining company, Conquistadora, in which majority interest is held by a cartel of U.S. investors based in California.

Much of the displacement that has taken place over the past year or so in this corner of Magdalena Medio was part of a campaign by the paramilitaries to clear the land of peasants and mine workers who belonged to a popular mining cooperative, and to secure the mines for the foreign company.

Last summer, thousands of people from the area fled to Puerto Wilches and Barrancabermeja in search of safety as the paramilitaries were carrying out their social cleansing operations as the army and security forces stood by.

* (6) Castano to move headquarters to southern demilitarized zone

Carlos Castano, the odious leader of the Colombian paramilitary groups has announced plans to move the groups' headquarters to the southern demilitarized region of Caqueta by early May owing to "pressure from the army and police" in the north (laugh here!). Castano said his aim was not to undermine the peace process but the paramilitaries had to pursue the guerrillas in the demilitarized zone because they could not accept "the government yielding to FARC demands or guerrilla groups mocking the whole country".

Ever since the paramilitary death-squads were founded, in the early 1980s, with the aid of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and financing from such multinationals as U.S.-based Texaco, they have operated with near total impunity and have had the cooperation of military and security circles in Colombia.


COLOMBIAN LABOR MONITOR clm at prairienet.org www.prairienet.org/clm

"Behind the headlines, beneath the surface, between the lines"


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