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|Columbian Governor who resisted both US and Death Squads Speaks About Drug War|
|Date||Tuesday April 13|
|Time||7:00 PM - 9:00 PM|
|Import this event into your personal calendar.|
American Friends Service Committee
65 9th St. 2nd floor
Floro Tunubala is the first indigenous leader ever to hold a post of Governor in Colombia. He worked to develop proposals for manual eradication of coca and plans for alternative social and economic development with 6 governors in southern Colombiawhose departments were targeted for aerial fumigation inthe US government-funded Plan Colombia. He will speak on economic development issues and about communities organizing to resist involvement in armed conflict.
Floro Tunubala, the first indigenous leader ever to hold a post of Governor in Colombia, completed his term as governor of the department of Cauca in December 2003. Floro worked in developing proposals for manual eradication of coca andplans for alternative social and economic development with 6governors in southern Colombiawhose departments were targeted for aerial fumigation inthe US government-funded Plan Colombia.A member of the Guambiano nation, he is a representative of one of the strongest social movements in the country, thejoint indigenous and campesino movement of Cauca. Floro will speak on economic development issues and about communities organizing to successfully resist involvement in t! he armed conflict.
3. Colombian Governors Come to Washington to Denounce Plan Colombia, DRCNet Interviews Tolima Governor Jaramillo
As Plan Colombia rumbles into its third month, the US-backed campaign to wipe out that country's vast coca and cocaine industry has already had a disastrous impact on farmers of all sorts as glyphosate herbicide wafts down from low-flying planes over the fields of southern Colombia. This week, the governors of four Colombian states came to Washington to urge Presidents Pastrana and Bush to replace Plan Colombia's militaristic approach with a plan emphasizing alternative crop development based on social pacts.
The group traveled under the auspices of the Latin America Working Group (http://www.lawg.org), a consortium of 60 human rights, development, and religious groups organizations which opposes Plan Colombia. Governors Floro Alberto Tunubala Paja of Cauca, the first Colombian Indian elected to state office; Parmenio Cuellar of Narino; Ivan Gerardo Guerrero, of the southernmost state of Putumayo, and Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo of Tolima met with legislators and government officials, gave interviews, and held a Tuesday press conference to say that aerial spraying of illicit crops is jeopardizing the health and food supply of small-scale farmers.
In response to the governors' offensive, US officials at a damage-control press briefing this week reluctantly conceded that food crops had been destroyed, but blamed peasants for growing food crops near coca crops.
The Week Online spoke with Tolima Governor Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo on Thursday. Jaramillo, a member of the Social Democratic Party took office in January, the first time a Social Democrat has gained such an office in a party system dominated by the interchangeable Liberal and Conservatives. Excerpts from that conversation follow.
The Week Online: What is the purpose of your delegation's visit to Washington?
Governor Jaramillo: We are here to tell the US government and the North American public that Plan Colombia needs to be changed. We want the public to know that there are alternatives to Plan Colombia. It was supposed to be a $7 billion dollar development program funded by the United States, Europe, and Asia as well as with our own funds. But because the others don't support the US stance, what we are getting is the military part of Plan Colombia instead of what we need, the social development part. What we get now in help from the US is $1.3 billion, 85% to reinforce the army and police and to buy 60 helicopters for $600,000,000. And they have trained three anti-drug brigades. And they started to fumigate the fields at the end of December, especially in Putumayo. We are quite worried because the social investment hasn't come. Without that, eradication will not succeed. That has been the case for the last 15 years; instead of being able to eradicate the illegal crops, the coca fields have increased from 40,000 hectares to 120,000 hectares. (1 hectare is approximately 2.5 acres.) We think the eradication project has failed in Colombia. We are willing to help in the manual eradication of illegal crops, but there must be a replacement. We need the development help, especially alternative crops.
WOL: The civil war has only worsened in recent years, with the rise of the paramilitaries and the continuing vitality of the guerrillas, both fueled in some degree by the coca/cocaine trade. How does US policy affect the prospects for peace?
Jaramillo: We need the US to be clear with the message it sends, especially now that the peace process [talks between guerrillas and the Colombian government] is going on. If instead of support for alternative development, for the small farmers, for fighting poverty; if instead of all that, they send us more military aid, it will be difficult to convince the guerrilla movement that the US and the Colombian government want peace. A majority of Colombians would be willing to work with the US for manual eradication of illicit crops, but in a way that will reinforce democracy, human rights and social development.
WOL: Tolima is well north of where the big anti-coca offensive is underway. What is the situation in your area? Are there active guerrilla fronts?
Jaramillo: We have both guerrillas and paramilitaries. The guerrillas, the FARC, control 20 of our 47 municipalities, and others are patrolled by paramilitaries. The mountains are for the guerrillas and the paramilitaries have the plains. And we have illicit drugs -- not coca but poppies, opium poppies. We have 3,000 hectares of poppies, so they sprayed in Tolima last year. We know they are preparing fumigation for us again because first they do the satellite photography, and then they send in the spotter planes, and then we know the fumigation may come at any time.
WOL: How do you govern in this sort of situation?
Jaramillo: That's a good question. The peace process cannot only go at the highest levels. One of my proposals was to ask the government to let us have talks in the region, in the department. The central government is not willing to do that. All we want is to have the chance to be able to sit down and talk with the guerrillas and try to give peace a chance to break out. In the last year, 13 of our towns and cities were taken by the FARC; people were killed in the fighting, the police stations and agrarian banks were destroyed.
WOL: The State Department denies both that glyphosate is dangerous and that food crops are being damaged in the ongoing fumigation campaign in Putumayo. How do you respond to that? And how do local people react to the spraying?
Jaramillo: The reality is that they have destroyed quite a lot of legal crops, they have admitted it. They have said there could have been mistakes, and they know there were big mistakes. Usually it's because there are more farmers who cultivate legal crops near the coca bushes. They fumigate without discriminating; it's impossible to for them not to make mistakes. There are other incidents where they inexplicably fumigated Indian communities that were working with the government on alternative crop development. The results are clear; there are pictures, testimonies, evidence, different organizations have been to Putumayo and seen the damage for themselves. How do people react? The government comes to the region where it has had little presence, and it comes with 20 helicopters and a thousand soldiers, and the people see that it is preparing itself for combat. What the farmers see is an army that invades their area and destroys everything.
WOL: Is regulating or legalizing the trade a solution?
Jaramillo: That is not up to us to decide, that will be decided in the US. Remember, we have been fighting the narco-traffic for many years, and we don't want the North Americans to get the wrong message. We don't want coca, we don't poppy, we don't want any illegal crop. Colombia has paid a high price; we have lost our best men -- politicians, soldiers, policemen -- killed or corrupted, and it has changed much of our culture for the worse. We are a proud, hardworking people, and when people used to hear the word "Colombia," they thought of fine coffee. Now the whole world knows us as drug producers. We must stop this. We don't want to send the message that we agree with a free market for drugs, but the US needs to send a strong message to all of us by reducing demand. If the US reduced demand drastically, drug production in Colombia would come to an end. If the US is not able to reduce demand, the supply will exist. Legalized drugs could be one solution if it somehow reduced demand. To reduce the supply, you must decrease demand.
Second Faction Disarms in Columbia
EDEN, Colombia - Tired of war and wanting to return to their farms, a group of 160 Colombian paramilitary fighters handed over their weapons on Sunday, becoming the second faction of outlawed right-wing militias to do so in less than two weeks.
"We don't want to continue the war, nor do we want our children to do have to do so. We want to live in peace," said Ruvinder Becoche, the commander of the Self-Defense Forces of Cauca.
The militia fighters laid down their shotguns, machetes and explosives on a table as government officials and journalists looked on.
President Uribe has been pursuing a twin strategy of waging war on the two leftist rebel groups while negotiating the demobilization of Colombia's 12,000-strong paramilitary forces. The paramilitaries emerged in the 1980s to combat leftist rebels.
On Nov. 25, some 855 paramilitary combatants disarmed in Colombia's second largest city, Medellin. They were urban fighters who allegedly trafficked in drugs and committed extortion and murder.
Most of the factions are part of a paramilitary umbrella group, called the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, that has pledged to disarm within two years if its leaders do not face lengthy prison terms.
The AUC, as the umbrella group is known, have massacred suspected rebel supporters and financed itself by trafficking tons of cocaine to the United States and beyond.
Sunday's disarmed fighters, however, were mostly farmers and were not tied to the AUC.
The Self-Defense Forces of Cauca operated on its own, and Becoche claimed it did not participate in illicit activities.
The local militia was founded in 1983 after Colombia's largest leftist rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, attacked civilians in this Andean mountain region, some 225 miles southwest of the capital.
Gov. Floro Tunubala of Cauca state, which encompasses this isolated region, assured the fighters that they could safely return to their farms.
Institute of Peace
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"From this moment onward, the security of the farmers is in the hands of the state, which must also watch out for their economic well-being, because this is a very poor and abandoned zone, which needs roads, financing for crops and primary needs addressed," the governor said at the ceremony in Eden.
Villagers hung a white flag, symbolizing peace, alongside the Colombian flag next to a table where the demobilizing fighters heaped their weapons.
The paramilitary troops normally did not wear uniforms, but government officials gave them camouflage outfits, which they symbolically returned along with their weapons.
Becoche said the paramilitary faction has not seen combat for three years because the FARC had abandoned the area.
Colombia's paramilitary factions have sprung up in areas where government troops and police had little or no presence.
The government Sunday pledged to permanently maintain security forces in the region, construct a road and support the sales of the farmers' agricultural products.
The FARC and a smaller leftist rebel group, which have been fighting a succession of elected governments in this South American country for four decades, have shunned the government's appeals to agree to a cease-fire and enter peace talks.
The delegation spent one day in Popayan, the colonial capital of the department of
Cauca, with Governor Floro Tunubala and his cabinet, all of whom have been declared
targets of the paramilitaries and guerrillas alike. Governor Tunubala was elected in Octo-
ber 2000 as the first indigenous governor of the department of Cauca and inherited a
debt of approximately $20 million accumulated by previous governors. This is a zone that
is 65 percent rural and 35 percent “urban” (mainly villages of farmers). Some 80 percent
of the economic activity in some municipalities of the department of Cauca is related to
the production of illicit crops.
The governor's plan, informed by local initiatives such as the “plan for life” of the
Indigenous Regional Council of Cauca (CRIC), appears to have widespread local support
from a population weary of the tremendous insecurity, corruption, and violence that
have accompanied the spraying of illicit crops as well as the displacements generated
by both the violence and aerial fumigation. The central government has not embraced
this regional initiative, however. At least three of the governors who rejected the central
government’s fumigation strategies in favor of developing alternatives have come under
investigation by the inspector general for their dissent.
Historic tensions between Colombia’s regional governments and the central gov-
ernment in Bogota have often made it difficult for regions to get funding for their
development needs. When the delegation visited one of the Zones of Rehabilitation and
Consolidation in February, it met with Adalgisa Lopez, the mayor of Corozal (Morra) in
the department of Sucre. At the time, she was the only one of the eight mayors in her
department who continued to live in her district, albeit under armed guard. Mayor Lopez
told the delegation that a study she had commissioned of the region she governs—dur-
ing which many of her researchers were kidnapped—concluded that 83 percent of the
inhabitants of the department of Bolivar and 87 percent of those living in the depart-
ment of Sucre lack basic human needs. Her study documented rates of unemployment
in these urban zones that ranged between 58 and 90 percent. Although her district of
Morroa lies in one of the government’s two priority Rehabilitation and Consolidation Zones
for “democratic security,” President Uribe told the mayor that there was simply no money
available for the development plan she had submitted to Bogota.
Unarmed Communities Offer Fragile Hope
In every region the delegation visited, unarmed communities are engaging in dialogues
with local paramilitary and guerrilla forces in an effort to decrease the levels of violence
that threaten their communities. They are seeking to establish and protect what are
known as peace communities, peace laboratories, zones of peace, no-conflict zones, or
territories of non-violence or peace, and they are demanding some level of accountabil-
ity from the armed actors and the official armed forces that occupy their regions. Such
courageous acts may, over time, become the basis of confidence-building measures that
could lead to region-wide or even country-wide cease-fires or negotiations.
In every region the delegation
visited, unarmed communities
are engaging in dialogues with
local paramilitary and guerrilla
forces in an effort to decrease
the levels of violence that
threaten their communities.