Feb 25

Yesterday the OAS Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which has frequently been critical of the Colombian government, issued a very strong report finding fault with the human rights and democracy situation in Venezuela.

In response, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez called the report “pure garbage” and announced that Venezuela will pull out of the Commission.

The report itself is 300 pages long; here is a quick summary prepared by CIP Intern Cristina Salas.

Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela

The last visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Venezuela occurred in May 2002, following the attempted coup that occurred in April and at President Chávez’s request.

To follow up on recommendations made in the Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Venezuela, which was published as a result of that visit, the Commission has tried unsuccessfully to get the State’s consent to visit the country. The Commission does not consider that these denials prevent it from analyzing the situation of human rights in Venezuela. The report Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela reveals that human rights protected in the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights are being constrained in the following matters:

Political Rights and Participation in Public Life

Among the factors that hinder enjoyment of political rights in Venezuela is the Comptroller General of the Republic’s administrative resolutions preventing opposition candidates’ access to power. These disqualifications contravene the Inter-American Convention, since they were not the result of criminal convictions and were ordered lacking prior proceedings. The State also restricts some powers of democratically elected opposition authorities.

The Commission notes excessive use of state force and the actions of violent groups to punish, attack or intimidate people who express dissent or demonstrate against official policies. Over the past five years, criminal charges have been brought against more than 2,200 people in connection with their involvement in public demonstrations.

Independence and Separation of State Powers

The independence and impartiality of the judiciary system is one of the weakest points in Venezuelan democracy. The vagueness of the Organic Law of the Supreme Court of Justice allows judicial officials to be appointed discretionarily and without being subject to competition. Also, since most of them have provisionary status, they can be removed if they make decisions contrary to government’s interests.

Freedom of Thought and Expression

Freedom of thought and expression is hampered by violent acts of intimidation committed by private groups against journalists and media outlets, by discrediting declarations made by high-ranking public officials against the media and journalists, and by opening administrative proceedings with high levels of discretion.

Serious violations of the rights to life and humane treatment in Venezuela as a result of the victims’ exercise of free expression include the deaths of two reporters. The report points out cases of prior censorship, the proceedings to cancel television and radio stations’ broadcasting concessions, and the order to cease 32 stations’ transmissions. The Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, which governs freedom of expression, is vague and metes out harsh punishments decided by a body of the executive. Moreover, the offenses of desacato (disrespect) and vilipendio (contempt) introduced in the Penal Code in 2005 impose criminal liability for the exercise of freedom of expression.

President Chavez relies on the legal framework to broadcast his speeches simultaneously across the media, with no time constraints. The duration and frequency of these presidential blanket broadcasts could be considered abusive as the content might not always be serving the public interest.

The recent Organic Education Law, meanwhile, gives the state broad margin to implement the principles and values that should guide education. The Inter-American Commission is also concerned about the possibility that authorities could close down private educational institutions.

The Defense of Human Rights and the Freedom of Association

Human rights defenders in Venezuela suffer attacks, threats, harassment, and even killings. Authorities have opened unfounded judicial investigations or criminal proceedings against those who have criticized the government. Witnesses and victim’s relatives are also intimidated if they denounce to state authorities. The Commission has knowledge of six cases of violations of the right to life of human rights defenders between 1997 and 2007. Furthermore, high-ranking public officials undermine defenders’ and human rights NGOs’ authority and deny them access to public information.

The Right to Life, To Humane Treatment, and to Personal Liberty and Security

Public insecurity is an issue of gravest concern for the Commission. In many cases, the state’s response to public insecurity has been inadequate or incompatible with respect for human rights. The Commission considers that citizens who receive military training should not be involved in domestic defense, as is done in Venezuela through the Bolivarian National Militia.

In 2008, the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Venezuela documented these staggering figures in relation to excessive use of state force: 134 complaints involving arbitrary killings, allegedly by state security agencies; 2,197 complaints of violations of humane treatment by state security officials; 87 allegations of torture; 33 cases of alleged forced disappearances reported during 2008, and 34 during 2007.

Homicides, kidnappings, contract killings, and rural violence are the most frequently security problems that Venezuela’s citizens face. In 2008, there were a total of 13,780 homicides in the country, an average of 1,148 murders a month and 38 every day. [That murder rate, 49 per 100,000, is higher than Colombia's - 34 per 100,000 - and one of the highest in the world.]

The Commission’s report also notes with extreme concern that in Venezuela, violent groups with police and military-like training such as the Movimiento Tupamaro, Colectivo La Piedrita, Colectivo Alexis Vive, Unidad Popular Venezolana, and Grupo Carapaica are perpetrating acts of violence with the involvement or acquiescence of state agents.

The report claims the main problems in Venezuela’s violent prisons include delays at trial, overcrowding, lack of basic services, failure to separate convicts from remanded prisoners, and presence of weapons. More than 65% of Venezuela’s inmates have not yet been convicted and remain in preventive custody. Impunity reigns in most cases of serious human rights violations.

Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

On a positive note, the report highlights Venezuela’s achievements in ensuring the literacy of the majority of the population; reducing poverty, unemployment and infant mortality rate; expanding health coverage among the most vulnerable sectors; increasing people’s access to basic public services; and great progress toward attaining the Millennium Development Goals.

However, one issue relating to economic, social, and cultural rights is the constant intervention and political control of the State in the functioning of trade unions, hampering the right of free association.

Jun 28

Congratulations to the OAS Permanent Council for producing a strong statement that does not mince words about what happened in Honduras today, correctly calling it a “coup d’etat” and “an unconstitutional alteration of the democratic order,” and making clear that “no government arising from this unconstitutional interruption will be recognized.”

Jun 18

Here are excerpts from today’s press statement from Philip Alston, the United Nations’ special rapporteur for extrajudicial executions. Alston just finished a ten-day visit to Colombia, where he investigated allegations of “false positives” and other killings of civilians by the parties to Colombia’s conflict. The headings are ours, not his.

The “false positives” problem goes beyond Soacha

[T]here are two problems with the narrative focused on falsos positivos and Soacha [the headline-grabbing scandal, which broke in September, surrounding military killings of young men in Soacha, a poor Bogotá suburb]. The first is that the term provides a sort of technical aura to describe a practice which is better characterized as cold-blooded, premeditated murder of innocent civilians for profit. The second is that the focus on Soacha encourages the perception that the phenomenon was limited both geographically and temporally. But while the Soacha killings were undeniably blatant and obscene, my investigations show that they were but the tip of the iceberg. I interviewed witnesses and survivors who described very similar killings in the departments of Antioquia, Arauca, Cali, Casanare, Cesar, Cordoba, Huila, Meta, Norte de Santander, Putumayo, Santander, Sucre, and Vichada. A significant number of military units were thus involved.

Military denials or cover-ups

Some officials continue to assert that many of the cases were in fact legitimate killings of guerrillas or others. But the evidence – including ballistics and forensics reports, eyewitness testimony, and the testimony of soldiers themselves – strongly suggests that this was not the case. The “dangerous guerillas” who were killed include boys of 16 and 17, a young man with a mental age of nine, a devoted family man with two in-laws in active military service, and a young soldier home on leave. I cannot rule out the possibility that some of the falsos positivos were, in fact, guerillas, but apart from sweeping allegations, I have been provided with no sustained evidence to that effect by the Government. Evidence showing victims dressed in camouflage outfits which are neatly pressed, or wearing clean jungle boots which are four sizes too big for them, or lefthanders holding guns in their right hand, or men with a single shot through the back of their necks, further undermines the suggestion that these were guerillas killed in combat.

A further problem concerns the systematic harassment of the survivors by the military. A woman from Soacha described how, in 2008, one of her sons disappeared and was reported killed in combat two days later. When another of her sons became active in pursuing the case, he received a series of threats. He was shot and killed earlier this year. Since then, the mother has also received death threats. This is part of a common pattern.

Not just “a few bad apples”

The key question is who was responsible for these premeditated killings? On the one hand, I have found no evidence to suggest that these killings were carried out as a matter of official Government policy, or that they were directed by, or carried out with the knowledge of, the President or successive Defence Ministers. On the other hand, the explanation favoured by many in Government – that the killings were carried out on a small scale by a few bad apples – is equally unsustainable. The sheer number of cases, their geographic spread, and the diversity of military units implicated, indicate that these killings were carried out in a more or less systematic fashion by significant elements within the military.

The gap between policies and practice

Starting in 2007, the Government has taken important steps to stop and respond to these killings. They include: disciplinary sanctions, increased cooperation with the ICRC and the UN, the installation of Operational Legal Advisors to advise on specific military operations, increased oversight of payments to informers, the appointment of the Suarez Temporary Special Commission, the appointment of Delegated Inspectors to army divisions, requiring deaths in combat to be investigated first by judicial police, modifying award criteria, and creating a specialized unit in the Prosecutor’s Office (Fiscalia).

These encouraging steps demonstrate a good faith effort by the Government to address past killings and prevent future ones. But there remains a worrying gap between the policies and the practice. The number of successful prosecutions remains very low, although improved results are hoped for in the coming year. Three problems stand out. The first is that the Fiscalia, and especially its Human Rights Unit, lack the requisite staff, resources and training. A substantial increase in resources is essential. The second is that in some areas military judges ignore the rulings of the Constitutional Court and do all in their power to thwart the transfer of clear human rights cases to the ordinary justice system. The transfer of information is delayed or obstructed, wherever possible jurisdictional clashes are set up, and delaying tactics are standard. Delays, often of months or years, result and the value of testimony and evidence is jeopardized.

The good news is that there has been a significant reduction in recorded allegations of extrajudicial executions by the military over the last 6-9 months. If this trend is confirmed, it will represent a welcome reversal of course, but the problem of impunity for past killings must still be addressed. …

Officials’ unfounded accusations against human rights defenders

[H]uman rights defenders (HRDs) are frequently intimidated and threatened, and sometimes killed, often by private actors. They have been accused by high level officials of being – or being close to – guerrillas or terrorists. Such statements have also been made against prosecutors and judges. These statements stigmatise those working to promote human rights, and encourage an environment in which specific acts of threats and killings by private actors can take place. It is important for senior officials to cease the stigmatization of such groups. …

A clear position on Colombia’s “Victims Law”

It is my understanding that the current draft law on victims’ rights – approved by the commission set up to reconcile the texts approved in the Senate and the House of Representatives – contains a definition of victim that includes victims of state agents and generally puts them on equal standing with victims of paramilitaries. It is imperative that as the draft law moves forward, that victims of both state and non-state actors continue to be treated equally.

Aug 27

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, accompanied by Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón, is visiting Colombia during an especially agitated week.

The international representatives’ observation visit is taking place in the midst of a worsening conflict between President Álvaro Uribe and his country’s Supreme Court, which is investigating ties between paramilitary death squads and dozens of politicians, most of them Uribe’s supporters. The brother of the interior minister, until recently the chief prosecutor in Medellín, is facing allegations that he is linked to one of the country’s principal fugitive narcotraffickers and sponsors of “new” paramilitary groups. The country’s main newsmagazine revealed Sunday that paramilitary representatives had meetings in Colombia’s presidential palace earlier this year to discuss ways to discredit the Supreme Court’s investigations. And President Uribe has responded to the pressure by launching pointed verbal attacks on journalists and opposition politicians.

Here are translations of two columns that capture the present moment well. Both appeared in the Colombian daily El Espectador. The first, published today, is from veteran Colombian journalist Cecilia Orozco. The second, published yesterday, comes from César Rodríguez of the judicial-reform think-tank DeJuSticia.

Suicidal Desperation
By Cecilia Orozco Tascón
El Espectador, August 27, 2008

International Criminal Court Prosector Luis Moreno Ocampo and Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón found quite a spectacle upon arriving in the country:

  • The President of the Republic, live on television, shows a video reconfirming that two shady individuals tied to the narco-paramilitary “Don Berna” entered the “Casa de Nari” in their own vehicle, a privilege before reserved only for ambassadors and high-ranking personalities. ["Casa de Nari" is how the paramilitary representatives, in recorded conversations, referred to the presidential palace, the Casa de Nariño.]
  • The President of the Republic, speaking before some intimidated reporters at a press conference, says that there is “trafficking in false witnesses” at the Supreme Court; that [Supreme Court "para-politics" investigator] magistrate Iván Velásquez (whose mere existence is becoming a dangerous obsession for him) “gets drunk” with other witnesses; that Senator [Gustavo] Petro, from the Democratic Pole opposition, “manipulates” still more witnesses.
  • The President of the Republic states that the Prosecutor-General’s Office handed down a politicized finding in the case of “Tasmania,” probably because it found that case to have been an attempt to frame ["para-politics" investigator] Velásquez. ["Tasmania" was the nickname of a former paramilitary who, in a letter that Uribe read in a press conference last October, alleged that Velásquez had tried to induce him to testify against the president. "Tasmania" retracted this claim in June, explaining that his lawyer had put him up to it.]
  • The President of the Republic also criticizes Prosecutor-General [Mario] Iguarán because his entity is infiltrated by the mafia and because “it did not react” to the corrupt acts of [Guillermo] Valencia Cossio [the interior minister's scandal-tarred brother].
  • The President of the Republic accuses ex-president César Gaviria, head of the Liberal Party opposition, of having allied during his term with the “Los Pepes” gang. ["Pepes" = "People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar," a hit squad formed in the early 1990s by the Cali cartel, whose members included individuals who would become top paramilitary leaders later in the decade.]
  • The President of the Republic orders an investigation of journalist Daniel Coronell for covering up “crimes.” [Coronell had interviewed Yidis Medina, a one-term congresswoman who had confessed to him that her tie-breaking committee vote, which allowed President Uribe to run for re-election in 2006, came in exchange for bribes and favors.]

On the other side the Court, Magistrate Velásquez, Senator Petro, the Prosecutor-General, César Gaviria, Coronell and, behind him, several journalists’ organizations, respond to these aggressions, making use of their legitimate right to presumed innocence. All of these taking place on the same day.

Moreno and Garzón, the representatives of international justice, must have been stupefied by the spectacle… and convinced that the black episodes that shake the country cannot be resolved internally because, under the present circumstances, there are no guarantees that anyone here can act with autonomy and liberty: neither the magistrates, nor the prosecutors, nor the politicians, nor the independent journalists. What a great paradox the President has provided, or perhaps, has crafted for his own enjoyment! Democratic security has allowed him to place the guerrillas on the verge of defeat and to demobilize – albeit partially – the paramilitaries, the reasons why he has awakened – until now – the nation’s almost unanimous admiration. But it was not enough for him to cloak Establishment Colombians, in whose name he serves as head of state, with a climate of tranquility and respect.

In his senseless decision to avoid democratic controls, he has been firing buckshot at anything that moves, and he gives the impression of reacting with the suicidal desperation of someone who has been cornered. Unfortunately his tactic of distraction in order not to contaminate himself with the double scandal covering his government – the shady messengers’ visits to the Palace, which will keep on occurring as we have been notified, and the recently named Interior and Justice Minister’s brother’s relations with the cartel of Don Mario – will not work at all, and will only manage to floor the accelerator on the country’s institutional chaos. When was it that the hero of 90% of Colombians lost his reason?

The International Criminal Court has arrived
By César Rodríguez Garavito (professor, Universidad de los Andes, founding member of DeJuSticia)
El Espectador, August 26, 2008

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Jun 21

Using data from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime report released this week, as well as earlier reports, here is a look at the ten departments of Colombia in which the UNODC measured the most coca under cultivation in 2007.

UNODC found at least some coca in 23 of Colombia’s 32 departments last year. Nationwide, it found a huge leap in coca cultivation, from 78,000 hectares [193,000 acres] to 99,000 hectares [245,000 acres] – despite fumigation and manual eradication totaling 219,512 hectares [542,426 acres].

1. Nariño
Coca detected in 2007: 20,259 hectares
Increase / decrease over 2006: +30%
Fumigation + manual eradication in 2007: 51,087 hectares
Fumigation + manual eradication as a multiple of coca detected: 2.52 times
Total coca detected 1999-2007: 117,449 hectares
Total fumigation 1999-2007: 254,607 hectares
Total manual eradication 2005-2007: 27,529 hectares

Nariño became a center of Colombian cultivation after Plan Colombia initiated massive fumigation in Putumayo, immediately to the east. Today, Colombia’s Pacific coast region is witnessing rapid expansion of coca-growing, despite some of the country’s most intense eradication efforts. The FARC and new, “emerging” paramilitary groups are very active in Nariño’s coastal zone.

2. Putumayo
Coca detected in 2007: 14,183 hectares
Increase / decrease over 2006: +21%
Fumigation + manual eradication in 2007: 51,228 hectares
Fumigation + manual eradication as a multiple of coca detected: 3.46 times
Total coca detected 1999-2007: 233,139 hectares
Total fumigation 1999-2007: 213,771 hectares
Total manual eradication 2005-2007: 31,123 hectares

Seven years after Plan Colombia brought an intense focus on eradication, Putumayo has returned to the number-two spot among Colombia’s top coca-growing departments. This is despite one of the country’s highest proportions of hectares eradicated to hectares detected.

3. Meta
Coca detected in 2007: 10,386 hectares
Increase / decrease over 2006: -6%
Fumigation + manual eradication in 2007: 19,292 hectares
Fumigation + manual eradication as a multiple of coca detected: 1.86 times
Total coca detected 1999-2007: 113,462 hectares
Total fumigation 1999-2007: 75,144 hectares
Total manual eradication 2005-2007: 9,679 hectares

Meta has remained remarkably constant over the years, in the 10,000-hectare range, despite varying levels of eradication. The Macarena National Park in western Meta has seen a great deal of coca cultivation, encouraged by the FARC. Fumigation and manual eradication efforts in the park have been intense since 2006, but reductions in department-wide cultivation have been modest.

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Dec 05

Luis Carlos Restrepo, the Colombian government’s “high commissioner for peace”

Yesterday morning, Colombia’s media were reporting that the Colombian government’s peace commissioner, Luis Carlos Restrepo, was en route to Paris to offer French President Nicolas Sarkozy a greater role in mediating a hostage-for-prisoner exchange with the FARC. The Colombian government, likely rattled by the alarming proofs-of-life made public last Friday, was reportedly ready to offer Sarkozy a direct meeting with FARC leaders.

Restrepo did not end up boarding a plane yesterday. In fact, the French were not anxious to see him, or the FARC, right away. “Le «Monsieur Paix» d’Uribe ne vient pas en France,” reads today’s edition of the French daily Le Figaro.

“This demands a little reflection,” a French Presidency spokesperson said yesterday. “We must take some time to reflect and see what the best strategy is.” The spokesperson added that Sarkozy does not want to “rush into every door that opens up,” and that he “does not intend to find himself being instrumentalized” – that is, used. One senses a note of bitterness about the collapse of the Hugo Chávez – Piedad Córdoba facilitation effort, which France actively supported.

For his part, Restrepo announced yesterday that “he had been given permission to hold direct talks with Farc representatives.” It is not clear, though, why this is news. As the government’s high commissioner for peace, or “le Monsieur Paix,” that is simply Restrepo’s job. But the FARC don’t appear to want to talk to Restrepo either.

Five days after the world awoke to the harrowing new images of the FARC hostages, it is clearer than ever that the effort to free them is horribly stuck. Perhaps the French are right: this is a moment for “reflection.”

Any reflection should be guided by the following two readings.

The first is hostage Íngrid Betancourt’s letter to her mother, a painfully sad, beautifully written document that was included among the proofs-of-life captured last Friday. If you read Spanish, skip this and read the entire 4,200-word letter from the former senator and presidential candidate on the website of Semana magazine. It is a moving document, not just for the brutal descriptions of the conditions in which Ms. Betancourt has been living, but because of her gratitude toward those who have not forgotten the hostages, and her barely concealed anger at those who would readily sacrifice them for political objectives.

The second is a translation of another brilliant piece from Claudia López, an investigator and columnist for El Tiempo, who puts things in bleak, but maddeningly correct, perspective.

Jul 18

The OAS mission (MAPP-OEA) verifying paramilitary groups’ demobilization and reintegration issued its ninth quarterly report last Friday. (The report is available here as a Microsoft Word [.doc] file; it is also available, along with all previous MAPP-OEA reports, on the mission’s website.) It’s not clear why they call it a “quarterly” report when it’s only the second one published in the past 10 1/2 months. But never mind that.

The report is definitely worth a close read. It documents a complex picture of new armed groups forming throughout the country, most of them hybrids of former paramilitaries and current drug traffickers.

Some of these groups are led by commanders of the United Self-Defense Forces [AUC] who did not heed the government’s call to participate in the process, while others reflect an alliance between former paramilitaries and drug traffickers. Moreover, it has been noted that mid-level AUC commanders are heading new illegal armed units.

The report documents this phenomenon in many regions of the country; the problem of so-called “emerging groups” is scattered throughout Colombia’s geography. Here, using Google Maps, is a synthesis of all the regions of emerging-group activity mentioned in the report. Moving your mouse over each marker will call up relevant excerpts from the report.

The best sources on the “emerging groups” phenomenon are this and previous MAPP-OEA reports, along with recent documentation from the Colombian think-tank INDEPAZ and the Brussels-based International Crisis Group. See also the Colombian Defense Ministry’s reaction to this week’s press coverage of the OAS report.

Meanwhile, the OAS report also expresses urgent concerns about the Colombian government’s programs to re-integrate ex-combatants, which are still struggling badly despite a greater effort to unify planning under a “high commissioner for reintegration.”

[T]he status of the reintegration process is a source of serious concern on the part of OAS/MAPP. Delays in strengthening the institutions in charge of this process together with the limited operational capacity and coverage of the program at present are some of the factors that are hindering the socio-economic reintegration of demobilized combatants. A weak reintegration process in turn poses serious threats to the peace process as a whole, since it does nothing to prevent the recruitment of the demobilized fighters by new illegal units, which are being seen in different regions of the country. …

The still limited operational and coverage capacity of the Program is compounded by the difficulty in establishing clear statistics. In general, there is a problem that has to do with the discrepancy between the number of demobilized combatants reported by the Government and the number located by the Police. The information provided by some local officials is far removed from reality. There is no clarity regarding the number of beneficiaries, or their location or mobility.

The two most worrisome issues are the productive or work projects and humanitarian aid, which are key benefits for the demobilized combatants. In the first case, OAS/MAPP has verified that, as a rule, people in the communities continue to have the impression that the program does not provide for the socio-economic reintegration of the beneficiaries, and this in turn could be the reason why they tend to go back to illegal activities.

Jun 15

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime released its 2006 Andean coca survey estimates yesterday. Consider these charts, using data from the UNODC report, of the five Colombian departments that the U.S.-supported aerial herbicide fumigation program sprayed most heavily in 2006. They vividly illustrate a phenomenon known as the “balloon effect.”

Nariño became a major coca-growing department after Plan Colombia increased eradication in neighboring Putumayo. While large-scale spraying has since slowed coca-growing’s increase, it has not been able to roll it back.

  1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Spraying 0 6442 8216 17962 36910 31307 57630 59865
Coca 3959 9343 7494 15131 17628 14154 13875 15606

In Putumayo, Plan Colombia reduced coca-growing dramatically. Once the spraying let up a little bit, coca cultivation began to creep up again. Putumayo had the country’s largest increase in coca cultivation last year.

  1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Spraying 4980 13508 32506 71891 8342 17524 11763 26491
Coca 58297 66022 47120 13725 7559 4386 8963 12254

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May 22

The Colombian newsmagazine Semana has published a transcript of a December 2006 telephone conversation, illegally intercepted by Colombian police, between Bogotá’s foreign minister at the time, María Consuelo Araújo, and her brother Sergio. (The minister resigned in February because of allegations that members of her family, including Sergio, worked closely with paramilitary groups.)

After Ms. Araújo asks her brother to come to Bogotá to help her decorate her apartment, the conversation turns to a dispute brewing at the time between Colombia and Ecuador. The Quito government was blasting Colombia publicly for carrying out anti-drug herbicide fumigations along the two countries’ border, despite an early 2006 Colombian promise not to do so.

Sergio Araújo: How have things gone with those Ecuadorians?

María Consuelo Araújo: It’s that the Ecuadorians don’t understand… our territory, our coca, our glyphosate… and they don’t let us spray… the jodetería [f***ing mess] is purely pressure from the FARC… Look, in Ecuador’s banana crop they use 800,000 gallons of glyphosate each year.

Sergio: And why don’t you say that?

María Consuelo: I’ve said that everywhere.

When the Colombia-Ecuador fumigation crisis ended (if it indeed has ended), the two countries agreed to a visit to the border zone by Paul Hunt, a New Zealander who is the United Nations’ special rapporteur on the right to health. Hunt was in northern Ecuador last week; the Colombians denied him permission to investigate on their side of the border.

Hunt announced his preliminary conclusions at a press conference on Friday afternoon (MS Word .doc format). The UN special rapporteur’s words were strong, unequivocal, and contrast sharply with what Colombia’s foreign minister told her brother back in December.

They also contrast sharply with what the U.S. and Colombian governments have long insisted about glyphosate fumigation. The UN official has dealt a strong blow to the failed fumigation policy.

Here is the relevant excerpt, with emphases added.

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