Paramilitary presence lurks behind Gustavo Petro´s political assassination

Connecting Colombias

The still shocking removal of Gustavo Petro as Bogotá mayor yesterday added to the recent electoral evidence that Colombian paramilitary-political alliances are flourishing, certainly more than their left-wing critics.

Petro, it seemed, had won. He and his supporters were ready to celebrate. Then, everything changed. Changed completely.

The courts turned a final thumbs down Tuesday to a legal challenge of the mayor´s firing. Then in the middle of the night an international human rights court seemed to ride to the mayor´s rescue when it recommended protective measures which many assumed would prevent Petro´s firing.

President Juan Manuel Santos had indicated earlier he would respect the human rights court´s recommendations. Many thought he would.

Then, while thousands gathered in Colombia´s political centre, La Plaza de Bolivár, to celebrate the supposed victory, Santos struck a rapid, hard blow against Petro and his supporters.

He ignored the Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos´s recommendation…

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Why did Canada help overthrow Haiti’s government?

Yves Engler

This is the last in a four part series leading up to the 10th anniversary of the February 29 2004 overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s government in Haiti.

Why did Canada help overthrow Haiti’s elected government? That’s a question I heard over and over when speaking about Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority, a book I co-authored with Anthony Fenton. Most people had difficulty understanding why their country — and the U.S. to some extent — would intervene in a country so poor, so seemingly marginal to world affairs. Why would they bother?

I would answer that Canada participated in the coup as a way to make good with Washington, especially after (officially) declining the Bush administration’s invitation (order) to join the “coalition of the willing” that invaded Iraq in 2003. Former Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham explained: “Foreign Affairs view was there is a limit to…

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Who is and is not a ‘paramilitary’? Erasing the changing nature of Colombia’s conflicts over land

A few weeks ago, Al Jazeera English’s “Fault Lines” program recently ran an interesting 20-minute investigative piece on the struggles of community leaders with respect to the Land Restitution process, which raises some questions about whether or not paramilitarism continues, or has changed in Colombia.

colombia-ley-de-tierras “Land & Life”, photo credit: InfoLatAm

Some context The Paramilitary Demobilization & Contested Narratives.

Since the 1920s (and arguably, since the 16th century), disputes over who owns land, whether land can be ‘owned’, who gets to benefit off of the land, have been deeply influencing Colombia’s armed and social conflict.

Although the FARC, the ELN, drug cartels, and the army/all armed actors in Colombia have displaced people off of their land and terrorized communities in order to exert social and territorial control over them, right-wing paramilitary groups working often on behalf of narcotraffickers and large land owners have been particularly tied to the question of displacement. Colombia is said to have the highest number of internally displaced people in the world (the Norwegian Refugee Council puts it at 5.5 million, and this documentary puts it at around 6 million). This is not  even counting those who were displaced outside of Colombia. Many in Colombia say that throughout the war, as much as 10 million hectares have changed hands.

What’s interesting here is that many analyses concerning Colombia’s Land Restitution Law follow a common, and relatively accurate, narrative – Colombia’s land restitution process is at serious threat because of the continued threats by armed groups to community organizers leading land claims. However, the Al-Jazeera documentary probes deeper into the ideological and semantic questions of these threats, which arguably, are of tremendous significance to the political moment in which the land restitution process occurs.

Firstly, the confederation of right-wing paramilitary groups known as las Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC, or the United Self-Defense forces of Colombia) demobilized in 2003-6 in a highly-criticized process which some victim’s groups saw as a granting of impunity    Many of the middle-rung paramilitary leaders who demobilized under the law (and were not extradited to the United States on drug trafficking charges) will start to be released this year.

Thousands of the former paramilitaries granted legal benefits under the demobilization process with the previous government of Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010), re-armed into groups that have been characterized by the government and some analysts as “criminal bands” or BACRIM, or armed groups that are primarily focused on narcotrafficking, and not actors in the armed conflict.

In the documentary, a functionary of the national government says that the BACRIM are not paramilitaries, for example, because they do not engage in combat with the FARC or the ELN.

Others, such as opposition Congressman Ivan Cepeda have argued that the BACRIM are neo-paramilitaries, or a continuation of powerful interests defending themselves with private armies. What is undoubted is that the human costs of paramilitarism, and the tactics of repression, threats, and cruelty imposed by these groups on the civilian population are very similar to the ‘old’ paramilitaries and are devastating. It is important to note however that the ‘old’ paramilitaries in the 1990s committed many large, atrocious massacres, and these are much less common now, although the selective murders of activists continue at an alarming rate in Colombia. It’s also worth nothing that violence perpetrated by the neoparas/BACRIM accounts for the majority of forced displacement currently.

At the heart of the question is what is the ideological motivation (if any) behind these paramilitary successor groups – if they have, like the Castaños – a clear anti-subversive, right-wing and seemingly fascist ideological motivation, or if they are “merely” criminal groups or drug traffickers and pistols-for-hire for powerful landed interests. This raises some questions about history – one of Uribe’s main challenges in beginning negotiations with the AUC in the early 2000s was that to do so they needed to have legally recognized political status (which they did not). Moreover, some have argued that even the AUC did not necessarily have a coherent guiding ideology as many groups were the private armies of (seemingly apolitical) narcotraffickers. However, in relation to land, it is clear that the AUC did have a clear pro-business, pro-land owner and anti-dissident agenda.

“Neoparamilitarism” in the Current Political Moment – Moving toward “peace”?

SantosRestitucion President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon giving land titles in Mampujan, Cesar at a land restitution ceremony. Photo credit: Caracol.com.co

The important point here is the political interests behind this seemingly abstract distinction – if the they do have an ideological motivation, then perhaps the “neoparas” are a continuation of paramilitarism in Colombia, but if they are not, this validates the official discourse that paramilitarism in Colombia ended in 2006 with the demoblization of the AUC. Under this logic, which is the government narrative and is often reproduced in Colombian media, the only groups left to negotiate with for “peace” in Colombia are the guerrillas.

Within this narrative is the conjecture of the “historic” 2011 Victim’s and Land Restitution’s Law and the current peace talks with the FARC guerrillas in Havana. Both initiatives by the Santos government are aimed at ending Colombia’s conflict (although, a conflict defined in certain ways) and providing ‘reparations’ for “moving forward” or establishing a so-called “peace”.

Although the Victim’s Law is a useful tool and has some interesting mechanisms for Victim’s (such as a reverse-onus for land-owners accused of having ‘dirty’ land to prove that they obtained it legally), the law, as explained by the Al-Jazeera documentary, is actually quite tepid in how much land can be redistributed, and in how much time (the law stops after a decade, and the backlog on land claims is enormous). Furthermore, according to one interviewee, the law won’t touch the land of large companies or land-owners who have their paper work in order. In other words, the Victim’s Law is not an agrarian reform to respond to not only the violent, largely paramilitary and narco-trafficker-driven, counter-agrarian reform/displacement crisis of the last 30 years, but it also leaves out the historic question of land inequality in Colombia (rooted in colonialism). Finally, there are questions about whether those displaced by the BACRIM/neo-paras (as these aren’t deemed as political actors in the armed conflict) will be eligible for restitution.

Therefore, the political categorization of Colombia’s armed groups in institutional and political terms shapes conceptualizations of the conflict, and subsequently, divergences between how the state wants to frame the war (or ignore it) and how people experience it in human and material terms (killings of leaders continue, land isn’t given back).

Ideologically, the Colombian state, the international community, and particularly academia, seems to prioritize political violence (as this threatens the state, and is more “sexy”/associated with mass and sensationalized violence). Prioritizing this violence also prioritizes its victims. However, that begs the question – what is an armed conflict, what is political violence, and what does it matter? Arguably, Mexico is currently experiencing a brutal civil war.  Politics also currently colours the mass wave of violence in Venezuela, which in recent years has had some of the highest murder rates in the world.

It makes little senses to create a hierarchy of violences, and of  its’ victims, according to rigid and problematic intellectual definitions of an ‘armed conflict’ needing to have a certain relationship to discourses (groups needing explicit political goals) and to the state (protecting or challenging its monopoly on violence).

Kyle Johnson in a guest piece over at Colombia Reports on the “neo-paras” offers a much more useful conceptualization:

The political at its root is the capacity to make and implement decisions that define, normally limiting, the rules of the game in society by imposing restrictions and permissions on certain actions; it is looking to establish a social hierarchy and decide who resides where in that hierarchy; usually the rules and hierarchy are reinforced through coercion and selected benefits for certain sectors of the population. This definition is far from most arguments about what constitutes political positions, political interests, etc. It is derived from classical political theory and some sociological concepts on political power, and it should be noted that one does not need a clear, well-developed ideological project to have a political side.

…..

Given the incredible historical importance that land has played in establishing the position of people in the regional social hierarchy, and thus the economic, social and political power large landowners have, the threats and violence against those who are reclaiming their stolen land back are effectively defining the place of certain actors in that hierarchy. …

Additionally, these coercive actions indicate that looking to gain stolen land back is not permitted in the areas under Urabeños’ control.

So in the Colombian context (and many others) the contention that is politics is largely rooted in land, and therefore the BACRIM/neoparamilitaries are definitely political actors as they are trying to close political space for actors wanting to claim it, using a language of ‘cleansing’ that harks back to the days of the AUC.   They also  seem to be in favour of business interests and against activists/community leaders and progressive sectors.

By re-defining the nature of politics to be something broader than explicit ideology or threats to the state, and armed political conflict, or by not creating a hierarchy of victims, hopefully this would open more institutional spaces for victim’s to have access to memory, reparations, justice, and restitution on their terms. However, as things currently stand, questions of whether paramilitarism continues in Colombia are seemingly being ignored by the state and some sectors of the media in their language and characterization of paramilitary successor groups as ‘criminal bands’ disconnected from the past paramilitaries. What the thesis of ‘neoparamilitarism’ does is throw a wrench in the the assumptions behind the Land Restitution process, the peace process, and notions of transitional justice in Colombia : the Justice & Peace Law was not just an abject failure in providing justice, but it also provided no peace and no transition. At a local level, conflicts over land continue in the same nature as during the height of the war and paramilitarism/paramilitarism was not stopped by the demobilization.

Validating the official discourse – that paramilitaries are over, land is being given back, and soon, the guerrillas and the war in general will be history, erases not only the current lived experiences of people in regions like Jiguamiando and Curvarado and the Urabá region, but also more structural, historical, and political underpinnings of Colombia’s conflict (land inequality and the brutal repression of peaceful dissidence). It also erases how Colombian democracy was shockingly co-opted by paramilitary groups, and that the alliances between certain businesspeople, politicians, and armed groups who displace and threaten peasants, Afro-Colombians, popular sectors, and indigenous people are something that has been overcome.

In other words, at this course, violence against Colombia’s peasantry will long continue after the FARC give up their arms, but the victim’s of Colombia’s war will be even more invisible; the war will be further denied.
PS – The International Criminal Court is looking at one paramilitary group, the ‘Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia’, popularly referred to as “Los Urabeños“.

Further reading: York University Professor Jasmin Hristov’s “Legalizing the Illegal: Paramilitarism in Colombia’s ‘Post-Paramilitary’ Era” is strongly recommended.

For another perspective, InsightAnalysis has a wealth of information on Colombia’s BACRIM.

At a local level, according to Ariel Avila,  it also seems that ‘parapolitics’, or alliances between neoparas/BACRIM are still occurring, reminiscent of the ‘parapolitica’ scandal that touched over a third of Congress, intelligence agencies, the military, and civil cervants.

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Chief predicts Oka Crisis if feds impose Enbridge pipeline

Warrior Publications

Canadian soldier and warrior face off during 1990 Oka Crisis. Canadian soldier and warrior face off during 1990 Oka Crisis.

Leader says conflict will continue to escalate until the government decides to negotiate in good faith and honour First Nations rights

Erin Flegg, Vancouver Observer, Feb 26th, 2014

If Canada fails to respond to live up to its obligations to consult First Nations, British Columbia’s Grand Chief Stewart Phillip believes it will almost certainly see another Oka Crisis, referencing a 78-day standoff in 1990 between the Mohawk people, the Quebec police and the Canadian military that broke out when the province tried to build a golf course on a traditional burial site. 

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Paramilitaries threaten to play football with Gustavo Petro´s head, assassinate Colombia´s top left-wing politicians

Connecting Colombias

Colombian drug traffickers have threatened to decapitate Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro and play football with his head if he doesn´t abandon his battle to stay on as mayor.

“Petro´s head will roll and we will play football with it,” the gangsters charged in a crude letter that threatened the elite of Colombia´s left-wing politicians, many of whom currently are candidates in congressional and presidential elections.

Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro – a former M-19 guerrilla leader turned politician – is threatened with assassination if he “continues attacking” Ordóñez. Petro is fighting for his political life as he attempts to overturn the order by Ordóñez that he be fired as mayor and banned from office for 15 years.

Petro has succeeded in obtaining court orders to delay his firing while he appeals to the Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (Interamerican Commission of Human Rights) to block his firing.

Colombia’s elections are threatening…

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Upside Down World- “Beyond Reform: It’s Time to Shut Down the World Bank”

Originally published on January 23, 2014 at Upside Down World.  Written by Cyril Mychalejko

Recent conflicts surrounding World Bank-supported projects in Honduras demonstrate that the World Bank is beyond reform, and needs to be shut down.

Source: Toward Freedom

The World Bank came under fire again last week when its ombudsman revealed that the bank’s investment in a palm oil project in Honduras worsened human rights abuses and violent conflicts.

The World Bank’s Compliance Advisor Ombudsman (CAO), the independent auditor for the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the bank’s private sector arm in charge of providing investments in developing countries in order to spur private sector growth, investigated a $30 million loan (half of which has been released thus far) to Corporación Dinant, a Honduran palm oil and snack food giant. The loan to Dinant was made just five months after a 2009 military coup in the country removed President Manuel Zelaya, a democratically-elected president seeking moderate labor and land reforms. Zelaya was replaced by a de-facto dictator who used the country’s military and security apparatuses to violently oppress social movements and political opposition.

Such investment on the part of the World Bank has further undermined democracy in the country and empowered Honduran elites profiting from recent political turmoil.

The CAO report suggests that there is an institutional culture of indifference at the World Bank that incentivizes staff  “to overlook, fail to articulate, or even conceal potential environmental, social and conflict risk” in order to streamline the approval of loans, while failing to follow its own policies and procedures to prevent such things.

 

 

 

“The IFC loaned millions of dollars to a project, even though it was known that its operations were already enmeshed in killings and other violence… the Dinant case should serve as a warning about the pitfalls of investing without proper oversight,” said Jessica Evans, senior international financial institutions researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch.

The CAO cited reports by human rights groups which documented the murder of 102 people associated with peasant movements in the Bajo Aguán Valley of Honduras, where Dinant’s operations escalated decades-long land disputes. Most of the deaths are blamed on death squads composed of Dinant’s private security working in concert with US-backed Honduran military forces. The company refuses to accept any responsibility.

The IFC has denied many of the CAO’s findings. However, it stated that it would work with Dinant to reform its security operations, along with environmental and social management procedures, even though a company spokesperson told Al Jazeera that its security forces were not responsible for any violence surrounding land disputes—and in fact were victims, while suggesting a number of the CAO’s other allegations were “unfounded.”

Kris Genovese, senior researcher at the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, called the IFC’s response “totally inadequate” and that any future funding should be suspended.

“The CAO notes that Dinant was not in compliance with the IFC’s policies on the day the loan was made, and over five years later, continues to be out of compliance. An Action Plan that makes the same commitments that have gone unfulfilled this whole time holds little promise,” Genovese explained.

The CAO is also investigating the IFC’s investment in Ficohsa, a Honduran bank with a long relationship with Dinant. Peter Chowla, coordinator of the UK-based Bretton Woods Project, told the Financial Times, “The IFC was wildly irresponsible in investing in a private commercial bank, Ficohsa, in 2011 despite knowing that the bank’s third-largest client was Dinant and the IFC being well aware of the allegations of human rights abuses surrounding Dinant’s palm oil plantations. It highlights yet again IFC staff’s recklessness towards the impacts of its investments on poor people, while ensuring their corporate partners profit.”

The IFC’s investments with third party lenders such as Fichosa have been a long-standing problem; the relationship was audited by the CAO in February 2013. The Inter Press Service noted that a majority of the IFC’s third party lenders “failed to improve their environment and social practices following IFC investment” and that the IFC’s “oversight mechanisms include no capability to assess whether that lending…is helping or harming local communities and overall development indicators.”

The World Bank’s history of investing in projects resulting in murder and human rights abuses suggests that efforts to reform the bank is a fool’s errand. During the early 1980s, in neighboring Guatemala the World Bank lent hundreds of millions of dollars for the Chixoy Hydroelectric Dam project during the bloody military dictatorships of Fernando Romeo Lucas García and Efraín Ríos Montt. One of the results of the World Bank’s project was a series of planned massacres that left 440 Mayan Achi men, women, and children murdered.

A little over 20 years later the World Bank lent Canadian mining giant Goldcorp (then Glamis Gold) $45 million for an unpopular gold mine in Guatemala which not only spilled more indigenous blood, but was also an investment marred by violating indigenous rights and the improper evaluation of the project’s environmental impacts.

Around the world, from Ethiopia to Indonesia and Peru, the World Bank finds itself embroiled in controversies surrounding human rights violations, environmental destruction, and social discord. NGO’s for years have been calling for sweeping reforms at the World Bank, but to no avail.

It’s time to recognize that the World Bank is an institution incapable of reform, and is indeed unworthy of reform efforts. The only humane option is to focus efforts to close the bank immediately and to start building alternative financial institutions that promote local, community-led development projects guided by the principals of sustainability and solidarity rather than free market doctrine.

Otherwise, the pile of corpses will continue to grow in the name of progress and development—and reform.

Cyril Mychalejko is an editor at www.UpsideDownWorld.org, an online magazine covering politics and activism in Latin America.”

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El Pais: Land Restitution in Colombia – Little land, much death.

Originally published in the Blog of El País, written by guest author Gerardo Vega Medina, director of the Forging Futures Foundation (Fundacion Forjando Futuros) on January 10, 2014. This is part of a thematic series on the concentration of land tenure in Colombia, and was originally posted in Spanish.

An interesting analysis but the Ley 1488/the Land Restitution & Victim’s Law of 2011, is by no means potentially the “best law in decades”; it is historic but the law is rife with problems, particularly to the limitations on who gets to be considered a “victim”, and the cap on the amount of land to be returned, and how the restitution process can go for no more than 10 years.

Nevertheless, the fact that so many land community leaders continue to be murdered show not only the difficulties of trying to provide reparations during a conflict, but that land concentration and paramilitarism/armed groups working in the interests of large landowners are still alive and well in Colombia/despite the official discourse, Law 1488 by no means happening in a post-conflict or post-paramilitary context.


800px-Carretera_hacia_Urabá

Road to Uraba

Last November 17, a peasant named Gildardo Padilla was murdered. Eleven members of his family, among them his parents, have been murdered in recent years . All because of their claims to La Gardenia and five more hectares of land in the town of Macondo, both farms in Urabá region bordering Panama . In this same region and in the same period Juan Jimenez Vertel , Benigno Gil, Jaime Gaviria , Albeiro Valdés, Hernando Perez, David Goez , Ana Isabel Gómez , Alejandro Pino, Manuel Ruiz and Samir Ruiz have been murdered for trying to reclaim their land . Only one paramilitary commander has been convicted of these crimes and those responsible for sponsoring and financing paramilitary groups remain unpunished .

This family, along with others, were forced to abandon their farms .  A climate of generalized violence, with 15,000 people murdered in Urabá , caused the displacement of 216,346 more. Between 1995 and 2007  it was common to hear many people being dispossessed with the phrase “either you sell [your land], or your widow will”.  Those behind the displacements also falsified public documents. The displacement can be summarized as such: while the paramilitaries threatened and murdered, front men and entrepreneurs bought, and public officials legalized the dispossessions.

The forcible dispossession and abandonment of land paved the way for its concentration into the hands of a few front men passing as entrepreneurs, some in the businesses of bananas, African Palm Oil, and cattle-ranching. The Attorney General of Colombia has a list of over 400 businessmen who financed right-wing paramilitary groups and to date there have been zero judicial decisions. An example is the banana multinational Chiquita Brands which funded paramilitary groups to the tune of $20 million. Consequently, Chiquita has been sanctioned by the U.S. to pay a $25 million fine. However the multinational has not taken on the responsibility of compensating victims , much less recognizing any criminal responsibility.

Since 2008, at a national level, 64 people have been murdered for demanding the restitution of their land. The dispossession and forced abandonment of land amounts to about 8.3 million hectares, which is equivalent to twice the total area of ​​Switzerland. The number of persons subject to this phenomenon of displacement would amount to the populations of the urban centres of both Madrid and Barcelona. However to date, the judges and the government have just returned less than 20,000 hectares.

The Land Restitution and Victim’s Law of 2011, , which regulates the current restitution process , represents a historic breakthrough and could be the best law enacted in decades given its recognition of victims and their right to compensation. However, if its implementation is not achieved, it could be the worst law as it could turn into more frustration and despair for a country that has suffered 50 years of conflict . The first and most important step is that the Colombian government and the judicial authorities ensure the protection and safety of land claimants so they do not continue being killed, displaced or threatened. Undoubtedly, a greater effort is needed from the government and from  judicial authorities to dismantle the criminal structures that today are attacking victims. Achieving the restitution of land would be a significant step towards peace and reconciliation in Colombia”.

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International Union of Food workers (IUF): Labour union murders continue in Colombia

Originally posted on January 14, 2014 by the IUF

The violent suppression of organized labour continues in Colombia. If your country has strong trade relations with Colombia, or a Free Trade Agreement (as does Canada and the United States), please consider writing to your elected officials….

Ever Luis Marín Rolong, a regional leader of the SINALTRACEBA brewery workers union was murdered on January 4 by unknown gunmen who fired six times at him, as he was waiting for a bus in the town of Soledad. The next day the President of SINALTRACEBA, Gamboa Rafael Maldonado, received death threats from paramilitaries while the union was holding its General Assembly. The person on the phone, stated to the union President that they had already taken the life of Ever Luis and he would be next.

CLICK HEREto send a message to the government of Colombia.

Ever Luis Marín Rolong had worked at the Aguila brewery as an electrician for 26 years and recently had participated in the union activities to sign a collective bargaining agreement.

The IUF sends its deepest condolences to Ever Luis’s family, the union, his friends and co-workers and joins with the national center CUT and unions around the world in condemning this assassination of yet another Colombian trade unionist and calls on the authorities to take the necessary actions to find those responsible for the murder and bring them to justice.

and this was also posted at “Justice for Colombia” on January 8 2014

Trade Unionist Killed in Barranquilla

News from Colombia | on: Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Ever Luis Marin. Killed January 4, 2014

Ever Luis Marin. Killed January 4, 2014

On 4th January Ever Luis Marin Rolong, a 46 year-old electrician at the Aguila beer brewery, was waiting for the bus that took him to work. He was due to begin his shift at 4pm. He never made it. Moments later someone fired six shots into him at point blank range, leaving him mortally injured. Mr Marin died in a police clinic shortly afterwards.

Mr Marin was a member of the SINALTRACEBA trade union, and a man with 26 years of experience in the brewery.

The following evening the president of SINALTRACEBA, Rafael Maldonado Gamboa, received a death threat over the phone from a man who identified himself as ‘Joaquin’. The caller said ‘we’ve killed the first of you, you’re the second.’

The union had just renegotiated terms of employment with the company.

The CUT has demanded that the government investigate the two incidents, and has called on international solidarity to protect the lives and activity of Colombian trade unionists.”

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VerdadAbierta.com: “Justicia y Paz, en la recta final para llegar con macro-sentencias de ‘paras’ en junio”

Justicia apurada, justicia negada? Una importante noticia sobre el proceso de justicia y paz/justicia ‘transicional’

Publicado originalmente el el Lunes 13 de Enero en VerdadAbierta.com

“La meta de cerrar los procesos contra 16 ex jefes paramilitares y guerrilleros postulados a Justicia y Paz con una sentencia que englobe a todos sus subalternos antes de junio de este año ya va a mitad de camino. VerdadAbierta.com muestra el estado de esos procesos y los pronósticos que hacen fiscales y abogados de víctimas y postulados.

audiencia

Desde inicios del año pasado, la Fiscalía decidió cambiar la estrategia de Justicia y Paz, y darle prioridad a los casos contra 16 de los principales ex jefes paramilitares y guerrilleros postulados al proceso para poder conseguir sentencias definitivas en un menor plazo. Con la estrategia original, que pretendía juzgar a más de tres mil postulados a Justicia y Paz caso por caso, según ordenaba la Ley 975 antes de que fuera reformada, el cálculo daba que tomaría casi un siglo terminarlos, una contradicción en sí misma pues se trata de una justicia transicional. (Ver nota: El año decisivo para Justicia y Paz).

De ahí que se haya reorganizado el trabajo de la Fiscalía para sacar adelante inicialmente 16 macro-procesos – reducidos ahora a 13 para la etapa de juicio – encabezados cada uno por un ex jefe de los grupos armados que está postulado a Justicia y Paz, con el objetivo de que éstos terminen en 16 sentencias colectivas para ellos y quienes fueron sus subalternos, y en reconocimientos, colectivos también, a quienes fueron sus víctimas.

La meta de junio de este año no es gratuita; en ese mismo mes muchos postulados, incluidos jefes paramilitares, podrían comenzar a solicitar su libertad porque cumplen los ocho años de prisión, la pena más alta a la que pueden ser condenados en Justicia y Paz. (Ver nota: Así será la priorización de Farc y Auc en Justicia y Paz).

El nuevo método consiste en que primero la Fiscalía hace las imputaciones contra los postulados (las acusaciones por sus delitos) en audiencias preliminares frente a los Tribunales de Justicia y Paz, y luego, comienzan las audiencias concentradas, en las que se expone de una manera más detallada los hechos o crímenes por los que son juzgados los postulados; después, el incidente de identificación de afectaciones causadas a las víctimas, y termina con la sentencia y las posteriores audiencias de cumplimiento.

Hasta el momento, tres de esos procesos están por entrar a la última etapa de “audiencias concentradas”. Otros nueve macro- procesos se encuentran un paso atrás, en las “audiencias preliminares”, y los demás están en etapas anteriores.

El 9 de diciembre del año pasado, Juan Pablo Hinestrosa, director de la Unidad de Justicia y Paz de la Fiscalía, defendió en una rueda de prensa el trabajo de la institución: “en junio de 2014, postulados como Fredy Rendón Herrera, alias ‘El Alemán’, y otros postulados de mayor y menor rango van a quedar libres por el vencimiento de sus penas cumplidas. La apuesta que hace la Fiscalía desde que empezó esta administración es lograr que cuando empiecen a quedar libres estos postulados se tengan sentencias condenatorias para así cumplir con lo que se llama Justicia Transicional”, explicó.

La justicia transicional colombiana, que se ha aplicado en varios países como una manera de dejar atrás la guerra, buscó suspenderles las condenas por sus múltiples delitos atroces a aquellos paramilitares y guerrilleros que se comprometieron a dejar las armas en forma colectiva o individual, e imponerles penas de máximo ocho años de cárcel, a cambio de que colaboraran con la justicia, la verdad y la reparación de sus víctimas. Y este año se cumple esa pena máxima de ocho años para muchos de ellos.

VerdadAbierta.com consultó a fiscales, abogados de postulados y de víctimas que participan en el proceso y coincidieron en que no es muy probable que se consigan fallos condenatorios de los postulados y sus subalternos en los cinco meses que faltan. Además, algunos de ellos advirtieron que no sólo importa la celeridad con que se adelanten los procesos, si no que se cumplan los principios generales de la Ley de Justicia y Paz de responderle a las víctimas y a la sociedad con verdad y justicia y una reparación debida.

Las cuentas
Hasta diciembre del año pasado se habían realizado las imputaciones contra nueve de los postulados. Cada una de estas imputaciones incluye la descripción de la larga lista de crímenes que confesaron los ex paramilitares o ex guerrilleros y su grupo o que el fiscal del caso documentó, según los tipos de delitos que Fiscalía fijó como prioritarios. Estos son: violencia sexual, desplazamiento forzado, desaparición forzada, reclutamiento de menores y casos de connotación, que son delitos seleccionados por el fiscal de cada grupo como masacres, secuestros, extorsiones a gremios regionales u homicidios de minorías o líderes de la comunidad.

Los procesos que van más avanzados son los de las Autodefensas Campesinas del Magdalena Medio, el del comandante del Frente 43 de las Farc, ‘Martín Sombra’, y el del Ejército Revolucionario Guevarista. Las audiencias concentradas están fijadas para el próximo 20 de enero en los tribunales de Justicia y Paz de Bogotá y Medellín.

La diligencia que hasta el momento más retrasos presenta es la de Diego Fernando Murillo Bejarano, alias ‘Don Berna’, que iniciará el 27 de enero con la imputación de cargos por su participación como comandante de los Bloques Héroes de Granada, Héroes de Tolová y Cacique Nutibara. (Ver nota: Magistrados ordenan indagar sobre espinosas verdades)

Al hacer los cálculos hay que considerar que la Ley 1592 de 2012 que reformó la Ley 975 de 2005 o de Justicia y Paz, no establece ningún tiempo límite de duración de las audiencias preliminares y la concentrada. Los únicos plazos establecidos son los de los intervalos entre la finalización y el inicio de una nueva etapa.

A mediados del año pasado, cuando se anunciaron los primeros avances de la estrategia de priorización, la Fiscalía había anunciado que el 31 de julio de 2013 tendría radicados los escritos de imputación de cargos para que los magistrados establecieran la fecha de inicio de las audiencias. Sin embargo, los cálculos eran optimistas para el volumen de trabajo que esto implicaba y los fiscales sólo pudieron terminar estas imputaciones entre octubre y diciembre o apenas están por terminar. Un fiscal le explicó a VerdadAbierta.com que las audiencias concentradas podrían tardar un poco más que las imputaciones, pues la formulación de cargos es más detallada. “Se abordan todos los casos con más profundidad –explicó –, ahí debe quedar muy claro quiénes fueron los autores y si fueron materiales o no, y presentar todas las circunstancias de tiempo, modo y lugar”.

En el siguiente gráfico puede visualizar mejor cómo es el proceso de priorización y el estado en el que se encuentran:

Se recomienda ver la presentación en pantalla completa.
Dé clic en Start Prezi y luego en el cuadro de la parte inferior

 

Infraestructura
Uno de los problemas que más llama la atención de los defensores de los postulados y las víctimas es la escasa infraestructura y personal con la que cuenta la justicia para hacer esta inmensa tarea. La mayor parte de la responsabilidad para dictar esas 16 macro-sentencias recae sobre los seis magistrados de conocimiento de Justicia y Paz con los que cuenta el país (cuatro en Bogotá, uno en Medellín y uno en Barranquilla). Los fallos hasta el momento se refieren a 11 mil hechos que comprometen a 34 mil víctimas. A esto habría que agregar las demás diligencias que se derivan de los casos de otros postulados y estructuras guerrilleras y paramilitares que no han sido definidos como prioritarios, pero que aun así deben continuar.

Sobre esto, el director de la Unidad de Justicia y Paz, citó al Fiscal General de la Nación, Eduardo Montealegre, en una intervención que había hecho meses atrás diciendo: “señores Magistrados, el balón está en su campo, de ustedes depende que podamos sacar esta sentencias condenatorias antes de junio de 2014. De ustedes depende que este esfuerzo macro de la Fiscalía, Unidad de Justicia y Paz, no sea inocuo, que no estemos arando en el mar. Que realmente podamos mostrar que en Colombia no nos quedó grande la Justicia Transicional y que estamos en la Fiscalía General de la Nación, preparados para recibir un eventual proceso de Justicia Transicional que llegare de La Habana. Estamos demostrando que la política de priorización es un hecho, es un éxito. Que hemos cumplido, nos falta mucho por hacer, pero que lo que primero hicimos fue fijar una estrategia para poder evacuar en mayor medida toda esa cantidad de hechos y de víctimas que están reclamando justicia”.

No obstante, el trabajo de investigación de varias decenas de equipos de fiscales debe ser evaluado y sopesado por pocos magistrados con equipos de trabajo pequeños, para poder conducir adecuadamente la etapa de juzgamiento y dictar sentencia. Como dijo un abogado de uno de los postulados, “los magistrados no tienen el don de la ubicuidad”.

Explicó que “el deseo de todos es tener las sentencias, pero si uno ve el proceso desde la infraestructura es complejo, hay mucha distancia de lo que se quiere a lo que ocurre”. Además dijo que se requiere que colaboren también otras entidades como el Inpec, y las otras partes que participan del proceso. No obstante las dificultades, aseguró que “desde la metodología que se implementó con la priorización, en el último año por lo menos se logró algo que no se había obtenido desde el 2005: en un día se imputaron 300 hechos”.

Los aplazamientos han sido una de las causas en los retrasos de las audiencias. En los meses anteriores, entre julio y diciembre del año pasado, en los que la Fiscalía había programado la etapa de las audiencias preliminares, se han presentado retrasos por diferentes motivos que van desde problemas en el transporte de los postulados desde las cárceles, excusas médicas por parte de los postulados hasta simples trámites jurídicos o administrativos.

Otro jurista que defiende a un ex jefe paramilitar extraditado a Estados Unidos expresa que para este año también hay que corregir los problemas logísticos que se presentaron en etapas anteriores. Relata que hubo retrasos de días o semanas porque los dispositivos para hacer las videoconferencias se dañaban o el Inpec fallaba en el traslado de algunos postulados.

Una defensora de víctimas de varios procesos de Justicia y Paz, entre ellos el del Bloque Central Bolívar, coincidió con las contrapartes en que los magistrados son muy pocos para tantas sentencias.

La meta
Esta misma abogada advierte, sin embargo, que “no se trata de afanarse para mostrar resultados. La eficiencia y la eficacia no pueden ir por vías distintas. La celeridad no puede recortar la esencia de Justicia y Paz, es decir, debe quedar claro que para reparación debe haber verdad, y no hay verdad si no hay justicia”.

La defensora también señala que “las víctimas están esperando que desde hace 10 o 20 años se les cuente la verdad. Lo que puede salir en junio son sentencias parciales, es decir una verdad parcializada. Porque los delitos priorizados excluyeron en algunos casos torturas, secuestros o robos. Y antes de que una víctima fuera asesinada, años antes había pasado por todo eso. Hay que tener en cuenta la reparación”.

El abogado del ex jefe paramilitar manifiesta que “estoy de acuerdo con la Corte cuando dice que es imposible llegar a una verdad absoluta del conflicto. Pero estas macro-sentencias deben contar la verdad para garantizar la no repetición. Hay víctimas que a pesar de contar ya con las sentencias, no han sido indemnizadas después de un año, y también hay temor entre los postulados que después de tanto tiempo queden libres y no quede muy clara su situación. Hay que pensar desde ahora en las seguridades jurídicas”.

Hasta este punto del proceso es claro que lo que falta para terminar es bastante: de cuatro partes del proceso de juzgamiento se ha avanzado parcialmente en la primera y faltarían otras tres, que en la práctica serán más extensas. El reto de alcanzar las 16 macro-sentencias anunciadas por la Fiscalía en el tiempo en que se lo propuso y, al mismo tiempo cumplir con los requisitos de la Ley de Justicia y Paz, recae casi completamente sobre los hombros de magistrados y fiscales.

No obstante, la responsabilidad de que esta se logre se extiende a diversas entidades que intervienen en el proceso. Por ejemplo, tan solo que un postulado no vaya a una audiencia programada porque el Inpec no hizo el traslado, o que no se haga una transmisión de una audiencia ente víctimas en un lugar remoto por razones técnicas, puede retrasar un caso varias semanas.”

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Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez “trashes” Democracy in Bogotá, ousts Mayor

plaza-de-bolivar The Bolivar Plaza during one of the mobilizations in support of Petro. Photo credit: http://thellamadiaries.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/petro-and-the-challenges-of-colombian-democracy/

Today the Inspector General of Colombia, Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado, ignored appeals by Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro Urrego to stay his suspension from public office for 15 years.

This is a significant development in Colombian politics – in a politically conservative nation, the progressive former-guerrilla Mayor occupied what is commonly referred to as the most important job in the country after the Presidency. Ordóñez’s destitution now has given a major political blow to Colombia’s divided Left.

Petro must now leave the office of Mayor.

The Inspector General (IG) accused Petro of violating the right to free enterprise and threatening the health of bogotanos by trying to deprivatize the Bogota’s garbage collection services. In December 2012, the reluctance of the elites who own the extremely profitable garbage collection business to help with the Mayor’s project (and some argue, mistakes made by Petro on the procurement of new garbage trucks) effectively left the 8 million people of Bogota without garbage collection services for a few days.

The IG has become a very symbolic figure in Colombian politics; he is a fierce defender of former President Alvaro Uribe Velez, a staunch social conservative known for his anti-gay views, a devout Catholic, and a vocal opponent to the government’s peace talks with the FARC in Havana. Ordóñez has been criticized in his role as Inspector General for being soft on politicians close to Uribe or implicated in the ‘parapolitics’ scandal/being accused of having ties to paramilitary groups.

Others have pointed out how Ordóñez’s destitutions are perhaps an example of a flaw by design within Colombia’s institutions, or an overreach of the IG’s mandate. In the last few years, Ordóñez has destituted several mayors and dozens of other politicians, most notable Sammy Moreno (former Mayor of Bogota) for corruption scandals, Alonso Salazar, the former Mayor of Medellin for denouncing his electoral opponents as having ties with paramilitaries, and Piedad Cordoba Ruiz for allegedly having ties to the FARC. Some see these destitutions as cleaning up corruption in Colombian politics. However, in the cases of Salazar, Cordoba, and now Petro many more are arguing that Ordóñez is using his authority of being able to dismiss politicians from their offices for misconduct as a form of Inquisition against progressive and left-leaning leaders.

Petro was a divisive Mayor – during his time, reactionary elements within the city were organizing a petition campaign to re-call him from office. Petro is also a former member of the M-19 guerrilla movement.

However, others see him as a progressive force in the capital city. He helped support LGBT rights, set up an office for attention/service to displaced people and victims of the armed conflict, introduced a gun ban leading to Bogota having one of the lowest murder rates in Latin America (comparable to that of Chicago in the states), and made the deprivatization of the garbage services his flagship battle against the city’s economic elite. Petro, originally a member of the Left-wing Polo Democratico, distanced himself from the party after a corruption scandal with Mayor Sammy Moreno Rojas (who is a member of the Polo).

In the debate around Petro’s destitution, the idea (with some reason) has come up that Ordóñez’s destitution of Petro is a plot to oust the left from the Mayor’s office, and to open the job up for Francisco (Pacho) Santos, former Vice-President of Alvaro Uribe.

Petro’s destiution has been received by many Colombians as yet another sign that either by legal means or violence, some reactionary elements within Colombia’s traditional political classes (or within Uribismo/followers of Uribe) will continue to repress any attempts by the Left or seemingly progressive elements to take power in Colombia. This old story of Colombia’s exclusionary, repressive, generally undemocratic and conservative political system sends a very dangerous signal to the FARC: One of the premises of the peace negotiations is a political opening in which the Left (or at least, whatever the FARC thinks they represent) will be given a “fair” shot in the ballot box/the peace talks are predicated on a supposed political transformation (in theory) which would end what the guerrillas see as a need for ‘armed political struggle’. Petro’s destitution throws all of that in the air.

At best, since his destitution in mid-December, and all throughout the holidays, social movements and everyday bogotanos have been filling the Bolivar Plaza (Bogota’s equivalent to Hyde Park where the Supreme Court and Congress are), and he is again calling for a peaceful and popular revolution/uprising/movement against the IG’s decision (although it’s coming to light today that there is no legal recourse for the destituted Mayor). For only tepid supporters, what seems like an attack by the IG Ordóñez on the popular vote of Bogotanos/Bogotan democracy has martyred Petro as a symbol of the reactionary attempts to block democracy in Colombia.

Below is Petro’s op-ed in the New York Times appealing to democracy.

Here is also an instructive (Spanish-language) piece by Daniel Coronell on Diego Bravo, a civil servant in the middle of the controversy (according to Coronell, Petro voted Ordonez’s re-election to do a political favour for Bravo).

Gerson Martínez, a rapper, graffiti artist, social activist and Petro supporter was murdered last week in what some are calling a politically-motivated killing (Martínez’s body was found with a flag of “Bogota Humana”, Petro’s city slogan/branding material).

‘Don’t Trash Colombia’s Democracy

By GUSTAVO PETRO URREGO
Published: December 26, 2013

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — On Dec. 9, I was giving a talk at City Hall on the need to fight corruption when, suddenly, my cellphone alerted me to this message: Colombia’s inspector general had decided to remove me from my job as mayor of the nation’s capital and to bar me from holding office for 15 years.

My alleged sin: bungling a project to bring trash collection — run by an oligopoly of private contractors — under direct city management.

Startled, I told the audience what I had just learned. They were irate; the country’s minister of justice and a United Nations representative in Colombia, seated at the head table with me, both hugged me in a show of solidarity. Tens of thousands of Colombians have rallied in the Plaza de Bolívar, in the heart of the capital, in my support. More protests are planned.

For now, I am the mayor. I am challenging the inspector general’s decision, which I consider arbitrary and politically motivated. (In an interview on Sunday, the nation’s chief prosecutor urged President Juan Manuel Santos to postpone the decision.)

I was elected mayor of this city of eight million in 2011, after two terms in the Chamber of Representatives and one in the Senate. My administration has focused on helping the poor, readying the city for the effects of climate change and strengthening the public sphere.

My political career is not one I could have predicted. In the 1970s, I joined a leftist guerrilla organization, the April 19th Movement, or M-19, and was imprisoned and tortured from 1985 to 1987 for my participation. But by 1990, our movement had laid down its arms and made peace with the government — even though our party’s presidential candidate was assassinated that year. Indeed, in 1991, we helped revise the Constitution to make it more democratic.

The M-19 was never part of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, with whom the Colombian government is engaged in peace talks, in Cuba, to end nearly a half-century of armed conflict. But the effort to remove me has become inextricably tied up with the issue of whether and how to end the longstanding struggle with the FARC.

Those who support the talks with the FARC have said that removing me would demonstrate that former guerrillas could not safely lay down their arms and be assured a role in a fair and democratic government — a concern shared by Kevin Whitaker, President Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to Colombia.

At a Senate confirmation hearing on Dec. 11, Mr. Whitaker said of the decision to remove me, “There’s a fundamental question that’s raised by this, it seems to me, and that is one of political pluralism,” which he described as the challenge of “how to integrate into the legal, unarmed, democratic process individuals of the left.” He added, “If individuals in Colombia were to conclude, based on this action or any other action, that that space doesn’t exist, then the basic conditions for peace are going to be, in some ways, eroded.”

As a Colombian senator, I supported the appointment of the inspector general, Alejandro Ordóñez, because of my belief in the importance of political pluralism, even though he is a close ally of the right-wing former president Álvaro Uribe (who has criticized his successor, Mr. Santos, for talking with the FARC).

While the inspector general has power, under the Constitution, to remove certain officials, in my case Mr. Ordóñez has overstepped and abused this authority. In attempting to disqualify me from participation in politics on the flimsiest of pretexts, Mr. Ordóñez is trying to end my political career and weaken the political left. He is also trying to deal a blow to the peace process with the FARC.

It is precisely because of this overreach that many in Colombia are calling for a reform of the inspector general’s powers, so as to require judicial review before an elected official can be removed. This would bring our Constitution into line with the American Convention on Human Rights, a treaty that Colombia has ratified. It provides that elected officials may be removed only after being convicted by a competent judge in criminal proceedings.

The grounds for my removal are preposterous. Last December, I tried to break the oligopoly of private companies that held the contracts for garbage removal. My administration estimated that these companies had overcharged the city some $300 million in the decade before I took office. Those companies, previously concession holders, are now contractors with the city.

I acknowledge that my government made mistakes that are not uncommon when changing the model for provision of a public service as complex as trash collection in a city with millions of residents. But Mr. Ordóñez has accused me of no crime. He says, among other things, that my administration mishandled our effort to bring trash collection under public control, and in so doing attacked the system of “free enterprise.” He also says that the accumulation of several thousand tons of garbage on Dec. 18-20, 2012, threatened public health. He does not demonstrate how this justified the removal of the democratically elected mayor of the nation’s capital.

Mr. Ordóñez’s background shows a pattern of intolerance. As a student in the northern city of Bucaramanga more than 30 years ago, he participated in the mass burning of books considered “impious” from a public library. These included Protestant translations of the Bible (Mr. Ordóñez is an ultraconservative Catholic) and works by Gabriel García Márquez. As inspector general, Mr. Ordóñez interfered with the construction of a women’s clinic in Medellín, on the theory that abortions might be performed there. He also threatened to remove judges and notaries who performed same-sex marriages, even though the country’s Constitutional Court ruled in 2011 that same-sex couples could join in “solemn union.”

President Santos now faces a choice: He can back Mr. Ordóñez, which I believe would violate democratic principles and international law and defy the will of the voters of Bogotá, while also setting back the peace process, or he can pursue a democratic resolution to this situation, one that respects our nation’s longing for peace, democracy and human rights.

Respect for the popular vote must be the basis of democracy.

Gustavo Petro Urrego is the mayor of Bogotá. This article was translated by Charles H. Roberts from the Spanish.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on December 28, 2013, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Don’t Trash Colombia’s Democracy.

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