Nov 30

Results (66.31% of urns counted):

  1. Porfirio Lobo (National Party) 937,006 (55.9% of valid ballots)
  2. Elvin Santos (Liberal Party) 639,481 (38.2%)
  3. Bernardo Martínez (National Innovation Party) 37,029 (2.2%)
  4. Felícito Ávila (Christian Democracy Social Party) 32,113 (1.9%)
  5. César Ham (Democratic Unification) 30,334 (1.8%)

Western Hemisphere countries recognizing the election result:

The turnout:

In the 2005 presidential elections, 46 percent of eligible Hondurans turned out to vote. Honduras’ Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) has projected that more than 60 percent voted this time. The Honduras Coup 2009 blog reports that the pollster the TSE hired to make statistical projections and perform exit polling estimates a turnout of 47.6 percent. The pro-Zelaya “Resistance Front” is estimating turnout of 35-40 percent. Meanwhile, of ballots that were cast, 6 percent were blank or invalid.

Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela:

Having said that, let me stress the most important point, and that is that, while the election is a significant step in Honduras’ return to a democratic and constitutional order after the 28th June coup, it’s just that.  It’s only a step, and it’s not the last step….

A government of national unity needs to be formed.  The congress has to take a vote on the return of President Zelaya to office.

And another element of the San Jose Accord that I think would be very, very important as Honduras moves forward to try to reestablish the democratic and constitutional order is the formation and the structuring of a truth commission, which was also contemplated in the original Tegucigalpa framework and San Jose Accord.

And the truth commission would be a body that would look into the incidents and the situation that led to the coup, but at the same time, as the accord says, … it also will provide the elementos, as it says in the accord, the elements to help the Hondurans make the necessary reforms to their constitutional process and to bring about a fuller reconciliation of the Honduran people. …

The issue is not who is going to be the next president. The Honduran people decided that. The issue is whether the legitimate president of Honduras, who was overthrown in a coup d’état, will be returned to office by the congress on December 2nd, as per the San Jose-Tegucigalpa Accord.

De facto president Roberto Micheletti:

On the way, many things have changed. Today, we are a nation whose sovereignty has been proved, with no fear of defending its sovereignty against even the largest [powers], and with the faith that if we act according to the law, we can achieve everything. Beyond paper and speeches, today our Honduras has gone out to confirm to the world that it is a dignified, free country, with no impositions and very proud of itself.

Resistance leader and independent pro-Zelaya presidential candidate Carlos Reyes:

We will keep rejecting any dialogue with the coup leaders. … We’ve had it up to here with dialogues. Why should we go on with so much dialogue if, with these dialogues, we have lost five months and we haven’t resolved absolutely anything.

The Honduran Congress is to vote Wednesday on whether to reinstate ousted President Manuel Zelaya to head a “national unity government” until January 27, when Porfirio Lobo, the winner of yesterday’s vote, would take office.

Nov 28

Honduras will hold a presidential election tomorrow, five months after a coup ejected President Manuel Zelaya and a military-backed interim government took over in Tegucigalpa. Back in September, the Obama administration’s State Department declared that the U.S. government could not recognize the elections’ result under those circumstances.

A presidential election is currently scheduled for November. That election must be undertaken in a free, fair and transparent manner. It must also be free of taint and open to all Hondurans to exercise their democratic franchise. At this moment, we would not be able to support the outcome of the scheduled elections. A positive conclusion of the Arias process would provide a sound basis for legitimate elections to proceed.

Since then, Zelaya sneaked back into the country, an accord to establish a unity government was signed but then ignored, and little else changed. But 3 weeks ago, the Obama administration’s position took an abrupt about-face: the U.S. government now intends to recognize the result of tomorrow’s vote.

Today’s Washington Post editorial page applauds this decision.

Elections have often been used to restore constitutional order in unstable countries; they brought a peaceful end to Augusto Pinochet’s right-wing dictatorship in Chile and to the leftist Sandinista regime in Nicaragua. In the case of Honduras, the election solution is particularly appropriate, since one had been scheduled before Mr. Zelaya was arrested and illegally deported from the country in June.

The temptation to “shake the Etch-a-Sketch” and just start over with post-election Honduras is understandable. But there are very strong reasons why the United States must not rush to confer recognition on the government that emerges from tomorrow’s vote, or to restore full aid and drop sanctions.

1. The people who carried out the June 28 coup will have gotten exactly what they wanted. The message will be that “crime does pay.” This is a terrible message for Latin America – and especially Central America – where democracy is colliding with economies and political systems that have traditionally concentrated wealth and power, including military power, in very few hands. While Manuel Zelaya was hardly a dynamic social movement leader, Honduras’s tiny elite viewed him as a threat and removed him, using the military, through extra-legal means. Elites throughout the region who are unhappy with elected leaders (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Paraguay come to mind, but there are several others) will view the U.S. government recognition of tomorrow’s elections as a capitulation. They will know that if they pull off a coup of their own, the United States’ opposition will be brittle and quickly reversed upon the slightest pretext.

2. The conditions for a fair vote were not in place. Determining the legitimacy of elections requires more than just observing what happens on election day. In the months before the voting, were some parties or candidates unable to assemble, organize and campaign peacefully? Did they have difficulty gaining fair access to the media? Were supporters of some candidates or political tendencies subject to official repression?

Here are links to several eyewitness reports indicating that the answer to these questions is “yes.” Honduras’s 2009 election campaign took place in a climate of fear in which media outlets were shuttered, candidates were put at unfair disadvantages, political activists were intimidated, and examples of military repression were frequent. These reports indicate that the Honduran elections do not meet the standards of Article 3 and 4 of the 2001 OAS Democratic Charter.

3. Recognizing the elections will put the United States at odds with most of the hemisphere. For the reasons above, the list of other countries planning to recognize the Honduran election result is small: it includes Costa Rica, Panama, perhaps Colombia, and few, if any, others. The Organization of American States will not be recognizing the result. If the Obama administration bucks the regional consensus, it will be viewed throughout the hemisphere as a return to the calculating unilateralism that so damaged perceptions of the United States during the Bush administration.

Seven months ago, at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago, President Obama built much goodwill with promises of greater collaboration and consultation, especially with larger states like Brazil and Mexico. That goodwill – already drained by the administration’s handling of its military agreement with Colombia – will all but disappear if the United States goes it alone on Honduras.

Recognizing the Honduran elections is shortsighted and counterproductive – in sum, a terrible idea. But indefinite non-recognition of Honduras is not an attractive option, either. What should the United States do, then? George Vickers of the Open Society Institute lays out some guidelines in a November 25 post to Foreign Policy’s website.

[D]on’t bless these elections and walk away. Instead, Washington should maintain its suspension of government-to-government assistance and not recognize the newly elected regime until there is a full restoration of civil liberties and steps are taken to prosecute human rights abuses. Next, the Obama team should work with the Organization of American States and other democracies — the vast majority of which is reluctant to endorse these elections — to find a way to bring Honduras back into the international community. For starters, if the new government is to recover any semblance of legitimacy, it will need to ensure that adequate conditions exist for a broad and pluralistic debate and dialogue, including with respect to any constitutional issues. Moreover, such a dialogue should be seen as responding to the legitimate rights and concerns of Honduran citizens, rather than being branded as treason, as is customary for the coup government today.

Whether through a rewrite of their constitution or some other process, Hondurans – of all political stripes – need to work this out, with help from the international community. If the people running Honduras instead decide to crack down further and exclude other voices, the United States cannot reward them with recognition and aid.

Nov 27

Happy Thanksgiving to our U.S. readers.

  • Colombia will not send any cabinet ministers to today’s meeting of UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, in Quito, Ecuador. The meeting sought to reduce tensions between Colombia and Venezuela, which remain very high following Colombia’s signing of a military agreement with the United States, warlike rhetoric from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, and a series of incidents on the two countries’ common border. According to the Colombian Foreign Ministry’s statement, Colombia’s government will skip the UNASUR meeting because “the attitude and recent escalation of insults that the Colombian government and people have received do not allow us to foresee that the discussions at tomorrow’s meeting will take place with the tone of respect, objectivity and balance that this forum demands.” El Tiempo contends that the decision not to attend was triggered by a recent statement from Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva calling on Uribe and Chávez “to understand that war is not constructive, that the insane dispute is not constructive.” In the Colombian government’s view, Lula failed to credit Colombia for its recent policy of refusing to respond to Chávez’s provocations.
  • The Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris, a Bogotá-based think-tank, has published its annual overview of Colombia’s conflict. They find increases in all armed groups’ activity during 2009, with the “new” paramilitary groups responsible for the largest share of violence. They conclude that President Álvaro Uribe’s security policies, which reduced many violence measures since 2002, have “reached the ceiling” of what they were capable of doing.
  • Semana magazine and El Tiempo have more bad security news: Medellín will surpass 2,000 murders this year, a 76 percent increase over 2008 and the worst level of violence since 2003. According to El Tiempo, 70 percent of those being killed are members of over 160 gangs active in the city.
  • More than 12 years after paramilitaries killed up to 49 people in the village of Mapiripán, Meta, the army general who refused to respond to the town’s pleas for help has been found guilty by a civilian court of murder, kidnapping and falsifying public documents. Gen. Jaime Uscátegui has been sentenced to 40 years in prison. The paramilitaries’ first major operation in southern Colombia, Mapiripán occurred with evident support of the local security forces. Still, Gen. Uscátegui remains defiant, telling El Espectador that he is the victim of a smear campaign by human rights NGOs “because the head of a general is profitable.”
  • Cartagena will host the Second Review Conference of the International Treaty to Ban Land Mines. Due to the guerrillas’ use of these devices, Colombia – a signatory of the treaty – has one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises caused by land mines. The United States is not a signatory of the landmine treaty; earlier this week, the Obama administration announced that it would continue the Bush administration’s policy of refusing to sign on. The sudden announcement earned a very sharp rebuke from Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy (D). On Wednesday the State Department clarified that the decision was not final, and the landmine policy remained under “comprehensive review.”
Nov 24

Today Rep. Eliot Engel (D-New York), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Western Hemisphere Subcommittee, published a pugnacious letter in The Hill, a daily newspaper targeted at the U.S. Congress. Engel defends the October 30 defense cooperation agreement (DCA) that gives U.S. military personnel access to seven bases in Colombian territory.

Colombia is an important friend and ally, and the U.S.-Colombia DCA strengthens the already excellent partnership between our countries. In spite of reports to the contrary, this bilateral agreement simply regularizes existing security cooperation between the United States and Colombia. It envisions no permanent U.S. bases or increased military deployments.

Rep. Engel criticizes Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for using the DCA as a pretext to launch a campaign of warlike rhetoric and provocations that is increasing the risk of cross-border hostilities.

But Chávez is not the only one criticizing the DCA; he is just the loudest. Just last week the presidents of Brazil and Argentina issued a joint statement expressing strong displeasure with the U.S.-Colombian base access deal.

Both Presidents expressed their concern for the presence in the region of a military base of an extra-regional power, a situation that is incompatible with the principles of respect, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the region’s states.

The U.S. government has published a very brief fact sheet (PDF) about the bases, and Ambassador William Brownfield has given interviews to Colombian media assuring other nations that they need not view the U.S. presence as a threat. This, unsurprisingly, has not been enough to reassure them.

When we look beyond the Venezuelan bluster, we see that this bilateral, vaguely worded, until recently very secretive agreement is still doing damage to U.S. relations with nearly all of Latin America. It is undermining trust with governments who should be partners, and spreading a view that the Obama administration, despite the hope of early 2009, is turning out to be “more of the same.”

Washington needs to halt this damage. A common proposal from the region is simply to abrogate the agreement, as center-left politicians like Polo Democrático candidate Gustavo Petro have proposed. However, the situation with Venezuela has made this politically inviable because of the perception that a U.S. pullout would be viewed as a capitulation to Chávez.

Instead, the United States must adopt a new posture of humility, clarity and transparency. The Obama administration should start by recognizing that the base-access deal was presented through a process that was deeply flawed. It should finish by being clearer on three issues that the CDA’s vague text, and the administration’s own actions, leave insufficiently defined.

1. The United States must be clearer with Colombia’s neighbors that its presence in Colombia will never support any operations beyond Colombian soil. The CDA says the following on this topic:

Article III, Section 4: The Parties shall comply with their obligations under this Agreement in a manner consistent with the principles of sovereign equality, territorial integrity of States, and non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States.

In his November 1 interview with El Tiempo, Amb. Brownfield repeatedly referenced this section, “like a mantra,” to assure that “this is not an agreement with extraterritorial impact.” However, in a region still jolted by the March 2008 cross-border raid into Ecuador that killed a FARC commander, this language is not clear enough. The agreement’s negotiators chose not to use language as unequivocal as “U.S. personnel in Colombia will not support operations that occur in the territory of third countries without those countries’ explicit permission.”

Amb. Brownfield’s message was severely undercut by the Colombian media’s almost simultaneous discovery of a May 2009 U.S. Air Force presentation to the U.S. Congress (PDF), which contends that the presence in Colombia would provide “a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters.” (Our emphasis.)

As a result, last week’s joint statement from the presidents of Brazil and Argentina continues to demand clearer assurances.

[Both Presidents] highlighted the importance that military cooperation agreements signed by countries in the region, especially those that imply some degree of military presence of extra-regional nations in South America, must be accompanied by formal guarantees that such accords will not be utilized against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and stability of South American countries.

It is essential that the U.S. government accede to this request by making these assurances explicitly, through diplomatic notes or similar means.

2. The United States must be clearer about the commitment that this agreement implies for Colombia’s national defense. U.S. foreign aid law restricts U.S. assistance to Colombia to “a unified campaign against narcotics trafficking and organizations designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations and successor organizations, and to take actions to protect human health and welfare in emergency circumstances.”

The CDA, however, would support a far broader, vaguer mission. Article III, Section 1 allows U.S. forces to support activities “to address common threats to peace, stability, freedom, and democracy.”

This language may not be a mutual defense guarantee, but it sounds a lot like one. It is not as explicit as the North Atlantic Treaty, in which “an armed attack against one or more … shall be considered an attack against them all.” Still, the CDA could be construed as implying that hostilities from a nation viewed as a “common threat” would be met with a U.S. military response.

Has Colombia, to the exclusion of other South American countries, just been brought under the U.S. defense umbrella, like South Korea? The answer is unclear. But while it remains unclear, it will generate distrust and tensions throughout South America, especially larger countries like Brazil.

3. The United States must be clearer about its desire to see the Colombia-Venezuela tensions resolved peacefully. An armed confrontation is in nobody’s interest. Because its handling of the CDA is a proximate cause of the current Andean blowup, the United States has a responsibility to help cool things down. An impression that the Obama administration expects to stand aside – or worse, that it is aggressively taking Colombia’s side – will only inflame the situation further.

Obviously, the United States has taken Colombia’s side. This makes it impossible for the Obama administration to play the role of a disinterested “honest broker” in resolving tensions. But just as pro-Israel U.S. governments repeatedly seek to mediate peace in the middle east, the U.S. government should be actively supporting efforts to build dialogue, and multilateral confidence-building processes led by regional moderates. These include the UNASUR talks taking place later this week. These offer at least modest hope of reducing tensions, and thus deserve Washington’s full support.

Nov 23

In a much-commented column in Sunday’s edition of El Tiempo, Colombia’s most-circulated newspaper, Enrique Santos, the paper’s editor, argues that the United States is “abandoning” Colombia amid worsening tensions with Venezuela.

If the mute behavior of a bloc [UNASUR] to which Colombia belongs is surprising in the face of President Chávez’s wild insults, warlike threats and provocative acts, the attitude of our great ally to the north is nothing less than outrageous. Washington not only seeks to distance itself, but has sought to place both governments’ conduct on a sort of equal footing.

Citing a recent column by far-right U.S. commentator Patrick Buchanan, the normally measured Santos calls the Obama administration’s attitude an example of “the American way of abandonment.”

This petulant argument reveals a remarkable degree of insecurity among Colombia’s “political class.” It also ignores the following:

  • An official U.S. government declaration taking Colombia’s side in its dispute with Venezuela would be nothing short of a major political gift to Hugo Chávez. It would become the main theme of the Venezuelan president’s speeches for the next week, and it would make the situation even more volatile. The U.S. government would do well to remain silent on the subject and work – preferably with neighbors like Brazil – to ease tensions.
  • The United States has already cast its lot with Colombia in a way that speaks louder than dozens of official statements from Washington. Only 3 1/2 weeks ago, the U.S. and Colombian governments signed a “defense cooperation agreement” that, in its vaguely worded language, can easily be interpreted as a commitment to help Colombia defend itself against “common threats.” (Santos does have a point, however, when he reminds readers that this agreement, and both governments’ poor handling of it, are what triggered the current tensions in the first place.)
  • If the U.S. government’s embrace of Álvaro Uribe’s administration has loosened since George W. Bush left office, perhaps the explanation lies more clearly with para-politics, “false positives,” DAS wiretaps, “Agro Ingreso Seguro,” Uribe’s re-election drive, and other troubling and often unaddressed scandals and trends.

Let’s hope elite Colombian opinion recalls all three of these points before jumping to wild conclusions about the nature of the bilateral friendship. This isn’t high school, it is foreign policy toward an increasingly unstable region. The United States is still sitting at Colombia’s lunch table, but it is right not to take part in this particular food fight.

Nov 20
Human rights defender Carmelo Agámez has been in jail for a year (photo source).
  • The Wall Street Journal editorial page is perhaps the most conservative of any major U.S. daily. Today’s editorial sings the praises of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe. But it also urges him not to seek a third term.
  • In a joint statement, the presidents of Brazil and Argentina “expressed their concern about the presence in the region of military forces from an extra-regional power,” a direct rebuke of the U.S.-Colombia military agreement signed last month.
  • Carmelo Agámez, a leader of the Movement of Victims of State Crimes in Sucre, Colombia, has been an outspoken critic of the paramilitary groups who dominated his home region. Agámez has now been in jail for a year awaiting trial on charges of collaborating with… paramilitary groups. “Agámez’s unjust detention is just one emblematic example of a much bigger problem: the extensive use of malicious criminal investigations and trumped-up charges to silence human rights activists in Colombia,” writes Andrew Hudson of Human Rights First.
  • The webcast of yesterday’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Cuba travel ban is worthwhile viewing for the impassioned, but often incredibly simplistic, statements from the members of Congress in attendance. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) and Rep. Howard Berman (D-California, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee) jointly published an op-ed Tuesday in the Miami Herald calling for an end to the travel ban. Human Rights Watch meanwhile released an extensive report contending that the human rights situation in Cuba is not improving.
  • Cuba is the reason why a Florida senator has put a hold on Thomas Shannon’s nomination to be ambassador to Brazil. The lack of ambassadorial representation, Bloomberg reports, may have cost U.S. aerospace company Boeing a huge arms sale to Brazil.
  • As the Obama administration moves to recognize the result of November 29 elections in coup-governed Honduras (read the incredibly tortured exchange on this subject in Wednesday’s State Department briefing), the “May I Speak Freely” website, which closely monitors Honduras, explains why this is a bad idea.
  • With elections just a few weeks away, President Evo Morales leads polls by a wide margin in Bolivia, and center-right candidate Sebastián Piñera leads by a narrow margin in Chile.
  • The Bush administration’s chief of Customs and Border Protection called publicly for a reinstatement of the U.S. assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004, in order to limit the flow of weapons to drug cartels in Mexico.
  • The Pan-American Health Organization reports that 43.4 percent of Guatemalan children under 6 suffer from chronic malnutrition. The percentage approaches 70 percent in rural areas. Child malnutrition is as severe in Guatemala as it is in Nigeria, Yemen, Ethiopia and Madagascar.
  • “A big watch and cool knife get you only so far. Once they´re convinced you’re serious about their concerns (social, environmental and political) they take you seriously.” – from a Southern Command article about U.S. riverine training in Ecuador’s Amazon basin region.
Nov 18
Luis Jorge Garay. (Photo source and article text)

The Colombian newsweekly Semana published this interview Sunday, translated below, with outspoken Colombian economist Luis Jorge Garay. Working with the Fundación Método, Garay recently co-published a study about one of Colombia’s most severe challenges: the difficulty of eliminating organized crime’s influence over the state.

Colombia’s government has been repeatedly penetrated by criminal groups. Examples include Pablo Escobar’s domination of local politics in Medellín and his 1982 election (as an alternate legislator) to Colombia’s Congress; the Cali cartel’s donations to the 1994 presidential campaign of Ernesto Samper; and the ongoing “para-politics” scandal, in which several dozen legislators, governors, mayors and other officials have made common cause with drug-funded paramilitary groups.

Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, who remains a very close parner of the U.S. government, has made gains against leftist guerrillas and cut a deal with paramilitary groups to demobilize their national structure. He has extradited several top paramilitary leaders, as well as most leaders of the North Valle cartel that dominated narcotrafficking in the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

The power of Colombian organized crime, however, remains great. Narcotraffickers are estimated to control about 10 million acres of land, including about half of the most fertile and sought-after land in the country. Recent scandals have revealed their infiltration at the highest levels of institutions like the presidential intelligence service (DAS) and the Medellín branch of the Prosecutor-General’s Office (Fiscalía). And Garay contends that, with the emergence of “new” paramilitary groups throughout the country, the mafia – and its penetration of the state – is evolving.

How is it evolving? Garay’s study performs a fascinating network analysis of narco-state ties. Though the study doesn’t discuss it in these terms, we can identify several characteristics of the “successful mafioso” in today’s Colombia.

  • Control of territory, using private militias.
  • Alliances forged with local politicians, usually cemented by support for campaigns and sharing in corruption.
  • Investments in legal enterprises, particularly productive projects like biofuels and palm oil, usually pooling resources with local economic elites.
  • Alliance with, or acquiescence of, local security forces – through ties of corruption rather than a common counter-insurgent cause.
  • A low profile, avoiding a protagonistic role in politics, and avoiding confrontation with the security forces.
  • Usually, benign treatment of the population, including financial support – with the exception of organized civil society, who are subject to threats and intimidation.

Though they are responsible for much of the illegal drugs coming from Colombia to the United States today, it has not been easy to convince policymakers, many focused on Colombia’s recent “success,” that this new generation of organized crime poses a threat, and that the United States must work more actively to limit its influence over a government that Washington continues to aid generously.

Here is the Semana interview with Luis Jorge Garay.

The economist and researcher Luis Jorge Garay coordinated for the Fundación Método a study about what, in boldly simple terms, could be labeled organized crime’s infiltration of the state. …

Gustavo Gómez, Semana: What does cooptation of the state consist of?

Luis Jorge Garay: It is the exercise through which a person or group, legal or illegal, taking advantage of its power of influence, intermediates before the state to favor its own interests. Within the law, a business association for example is coopting when, through the exercise of its power of influence, it gets the state to adopt sectoral policies that favor it, even against the collective interest. On the other hand, the case of illegality takes place with organized criminal groups, on occasion in alliance with legal sectors, who seek to reconfigure state institutions for their advantage, through the state itself.

GG: It is inevitable to think of Pablo Escobar and his election to Congress…

LJG: Since the time of [Escobar associate] Carlos Lehder the mafia understood that politics is an efficient means to infiltrate the state and society. Escobar managed to get a seat in Congress, but he ran up against the counterweight of Luis Carlos Galán [a Liberal Party leader assassinated in 1989], who got in the way of his political cooptation strategy.

GG: Did the mafia learn from that mistake when it penetrated Ernesto Samper’s campaign?

LJG: It learned much, so much that it realized that participating openly and visibly in politics implied risks of criminal and social exposure, and it decided to advance in the financing of parties and campaigns, and reached the point of trying to coopt the presidential agenda.

GG: Who was the counterweight then?

LJG: There was indignation in some sectors, but the determining reaction didn’t come from society, nor was there any definitive political leadership like in Galán’s case. The determining actor was foreign: the U.S. government.

GG: What advance did the paramilitaries make with regard to infiltration, compared to these previous experiences?

LJG: The scenario of an intensification of the fight against the guerrillas, to the point at which, with the active participation of legal sectors and with the intervention of illegal groups, illegal armies were established. They understood that a mafia without territorial dominion would not reach power, and that a mafia without a state has no reason to exist. These armies, to their very central nucleus, were penetrated by narcotrafficking in their attempt to coopt the state. This even took them to the Congress, so that it is possible to talk about the narco-para-political phenomenon.

GG: The objective as to re-found the state?

LJG: Their advance with regard to Lehder, Escobar and the Cali cartel was the consolidation of new, regionally based political movements, through alliances resulting from intimidation but, above all, of shared interests between criminals and politicians to use the legislature and advance in the coopted reconfiguration of the state.

GG: What role does the Supreme Court play in this panorama?

LJG: It is the counterweight power par excellence, first in the scenario of the conspiracy charges faced by the narco-para-politicians, and later, in proving that in participating in pacts to reconfigure the state, they abetted the use of force that cost the lives of 25,000 people. Recently the Court gave itself the power to judge them as the authors of crimes against humanity.

GG: It did so to avoid impunity?

LJG: The thing is, we are facing a paradoxical scenario in which the United States, which was the counterweight during the Samper period, now seeks to privilege its domestic interests by judging the paramilitary leaders for narcotrafficking, and subordinating to those interests much more serious crimes commmitted in Colombia. The risk of impunity for crimes against humanity has diminished with the Court’s current position which, in fact, is establishing new jurisprudence regarding extradition.

GG: Is the Court not exceeding its competence?

LJG: In the case of judging narco-para-politics, it acts absolutely within the law and there is no possibility of debating its right to make these judgments.

GG: The government insists that it strangled paramilitarism. Does this mean selling us the idea that we are living in a period of post-conflict?

LJG: We are not living that because, as I say, cooptation continues.

GG: Should we mistrust the successes of Democratic Security?

LJG: There are evident advances, like the weakening of the FARC, and effectiveness in the dismantling of the top narco-paramilitary leadership. But at the regional level, agreements with some sectors of the political class continue, and organized crime has regrouped as “emerging bands.” There are still armed groups that have created “a new social order” in some regions, to the advantage of some legal actors.

GG: Have the media been an effective counterweight?

LJG: We have analyzed the last 12 years and we find a permanent scrutiny of what has happened with respect to narco-paramilitarism. They informed, but they came up short in the task of building broad consensus in rejecting processes of this nature.

GG: What consequences might another reelection have?

LJG: If it happens, there will have to be a simultaneous, integral change to guarantee an adequate system of checks and balances under the constitution.

GG: What will the next cooptation scenario be?

LJG: If the currently germinating elements of the current stage of cooptation are not uprooted, there will be a transition to another with a similar basis but with more sophisticated processes and new actors seeking a change in the regime. THe actors are accidental, temporary and substitutable.

GG: Would you prefer to avoid optimism when you think of Colombia’s future?

LJG: I realistically view the deep problems we face in order to develop as a true democracy, but I’m optimistic that we, as a society, can react. Much is lacking, that is true, to arrive at true social justice and democracy.

Nov 16

A very good letter to Secretary of State Clinton, asking for several badly needed changes to U.S. policy toward Colombia, is currently circulating in the U.S. Congress. Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts), Jan Schakowsky (D-Illinois), Donald Payne (D-New Jersey) and Mike Honda (D-California) are asking their colleagues in the House of Representatives to sign on.

Please call your member of Congress and ask them to sign on to this letter. It is circulating at a good time, as the Obama administration develops the 2011 aid request it will issue to Congress in February. If the letter goes to the State Department with lots of signatures, it will have real influence on the future of U.S. assistance to Colombia.

Here is the alert and calling instructions from the Latin America Working Group. The text of the letter is here.

As of November 6th, this letter, written by Representatives McGovern, Schakowsky, Payne, and Honda, is circulating throughout the halls of Congress with a clear message: let’s spend our taxpayer dollars on supporting victims of violence, not funding military abuses. This is our chance to get Congress behind the changes that we want to see and have our government start standing by our brothers and sisters in Colombia.

The letter makes a strong case for why there is no time to waste in changing our policies towards Colombia. It paints a vivid picture of the Colombian government’s failure to protect human rights, raising issues like the killing of civilians by the army, the persecution of human rights defenders, and the humanitarian crisis of over four million people who have been forcibly displaced from their homes. Echoing what we have been saying for a long time, it demands a cut in military aid and an increase in support for victims and those who are working for peace and justice in Colombia. It also calls for an end to harmful and ineffective aerial fumigations, investing instead in drug treatment in the United States. To get all the details, click here to read the full letter.

But, this letter needs the support of many members of Congress to be effective. So, that’s why we need you make sure your congressional representative signs on now.

Click here to contact your representative today.

And don’t stop there: Tell your friends. Tell your family. Or just go ahead and forward this on to your whole address book! We won’t get another chance like this again for a long time, so let’s pull out all the stops and make it happen together!

From November 6th through 24th, a letter calling for change in U.S. policy towards Colombia will be circulating through the House of Representatives. This letter has our message, calling for a decrease in U.S. aid for Colombia’s military and an increase in support for human rights and humanitarian efforts.

Now, it’s up to us to use our grassroots power to get at least 70 representatives to back up the initiators of this letter—Representatives Jim McGovern, Jan Schakowsky, Donald Payne, and Mike Honda—by adding their signatures before it is sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The best way to persuade your member of congress to sign on is by calling his/her office and speaking directly with foreign policy staff, so please do it today!

Below we’ve given you simple instructions for making that call. Although it isn’t quite as effective as a phone call, if you would prefer to send an email to your representative, click here.

How to Make an Effective Call

1. Check to make sure your Representative has not signed on yet. Click here to check our updated list of co-signers. Then, call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be put through to your member of Congress. If you don’t know who your representative is, click here. Ask the receptionist if you can speak with the Foreign Policy aide. If he/she is not available, ask to leave a message. Below, we’ve provided a script that you can use in your phone call, but feel free to add any personal stories or thoughts that you’d like to share.

Call script:

“I am a constituent calling to encourage Representative ____________ to sign on to the Dear Colleague letter written by Representatives McGovern, Schakowsky, Payne, and Honda, which calls for change in U.S. policy towards Colombia. This letter to Secretary of State Clinton asks that our government be honest about the human rights conditions in Colombia and make changes in the aid package. The U.S. should stop spending taxpayer dollars on the military, which has been found to be killing innocent civilians and illegally wiretapping human rights defenders, journalists, and Supreme Court judges. Instead, we should be supporting refugees and displaced people, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, and small farmers who are trying to turn away from coca. And we also need to invest in drug treatment centers here at home. I strongly urge Representative ______ to take a stand for human rights and sign on to this letter today. To get a copy of the letter and to sign on, please contact Cindy Buhl in Rep. McGovern’s office. Thank you.”

2. After you’ve made your call, if you have time, send a quick email to Vanessa, at, so we can track how many phones we’re ringing.

Nov 13
Photos found on a computer recovered from a FARC commander include this shot of a very young girl holding a rifle. (Source)
  • In a surprise decision, Colombia’s National Electoral Commission last night declared invalid the signatures on petitions to allow President Álvaro Uribe to run for a third term. The signatures were needed for Colombia’s Congress to consider legislation to schedule a constitutional amendment referendum. That legislation was approved in September, and the referendum was expected to be held early next year. The Electoral Commission threw out the signatures, and potentially the referendum, arguing that the amount of money spent on the petition drive was illegal. The commission’s decision is appealable, and Uribe’s reelection backers are expected to do so.
  • The latest bimonthly Invamer-Gallup poll gives President Uribe a 64 percent favorability rating, “the lowest favorability level the President has had in his seven years of government.” The Agro Ingreso Seguro scandal gets much blame.
  • If you speak Spanish and have a sense of humor, don’t miss the two-part “Pequeño Tirano” cartoon about the Agro Ingreso Seguro scandal.
  • The Obama administration finally has its own assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Arturo Valenzuela was approved in a Senate vote last Friday and sworn in on Tuesday.
  • Trade agreements with Colombia and Panama “are going to have to wait,” said Commerce Secretary Gary Locke this week, citing a backlogged agenda of higher legislative priorities.
  • The FARC launched its biggest attack of the year early this week. 200 guerrillas overran a contingent of soldiers guarding communications antennas in Corinto, Cauca, killing 9. The government has responded by deploying 2,500 soldiers and police to the zone.
  • Colombia’s Semana magazine published a long and disturbing story about efforts to torpedo official investigations into illegal surveillance and wiretaps by the presidential intelligence service (DAS): “Threats against investigators, hidden microphones to follow them, prosecutors fired by [acting Prosecutor-General] Guillermo Mendoza, and great distrust of the detectives charged with gathering evidence.”
  • “As I look across our hemisphere at our security challenges, the recurring and growing challenge remains illicit trafficking,” Southern Command Commander Gen. Douglas Fraser said in a speech (PDF) in Miami this week.
  • Key congressional Democrats joined a growing chorus of dismay about the State Department’s decision to change position and recognize the Honduran elections even without a reversal of the June 28 coup. A spokesman for Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) told the Washington Post: “The State Department’s abrupt change of policy towards Honduras last week — recognizing the elections scheduled for Nov. 29 even if the coup regime does not meet its commitments under the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord — caused the collapse of an accord it helped negotiate.”
  • U.S. and Ecuadorian diplomats held a U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Dialogue to seek improved relations. However, Sen. Max Baucus (D-Montana), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, warned that Ecuador is in danger of losing trade benefits under the Andean Trade Preference and Drug Elimination Act: “Ecuador is sticky. It’s difficult. It’s not easy … Ecuador is not helping itself. It’s a word to the wise. If they want to continue, a lot of that is in their hands too.”
  • Forbes magazine’s list of “The World’s Most Powerful People,” published this week, puts Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, head of the largest branch of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, at number 41. Forbes ranks Guzmán ahead of Dmitri Medvedev, Nicolas Sarkozy, and even Oprah Winfrey.
Nov 11

“Let’s prepare for war and help the people prepare themselves for war, because it’s everyone’s responsibility.”

These words, uttered Sunday before a military audience, are the strongest yet from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez about his government’s increasingly tense relationship with Colombia. They follow a series of episodes that has everyone wondering whether the two countries are on the brink of hostilities:

  • July: Media reports revealed that the United States is negotiating to use seven Colombian military bases. An accord was signed October 30. Days later, Colombian media pointed to a U.S. Air Force justification document (PDF) sent to the U.S. Congress earlier in the year. The document bills the presence in Colombia as a means to help the United States confront threats in the region from, among other things, “anti-U.S. governments.”
  • October 2: Eleven Colombian men were kidnapped while playing soccer in Táchira state, on the Venezuelan side of the border; their bodies were later found at several sites in Venezuela. Chávez insists that the murdered men were Colombian paramilitaries.
  • October 24: Bodies of four more men were found on both sides of the border, in Arauca department and Apure state.
  • October 28: Chávez announced that, earlier in the month, Venezuela arrested two Colombian intelligence service (DAS) agents in its territory. Colombia acknowledged that one is a DAS agent but claimed he fell into a trap after being invited to a party on the Venezuelan side of the border.
  • October 30: Venezuela announced the arrest of eight alleged Colombian paramilitaries in its territory.
  • November 2: Gunmen killed two Venezuelan National Guardsmen. Colombia expelled a Venezuelan National Guardsman from its territory. Chávez closed two key border bridges, choking trade.
  • November 4: Chávez announced the deployment of 15,000 troops to the two countries’ common (1,375-mile) border.

Such tensions, and rhetoric like Chávez’s latest broadsides, are very rare in Latin America, where countries almost never fight each other. Is this the runup to all-out war between one of the United States’ closest allies in the hemisphere and one of its main sources of imported oil?

Probably not. Here’s why:

1. Both countries’ postures are defensive. Chávez has phrased even his most bellicose rhetoric in terms of defending Venezuela from presumed U.S. aggression – or perhaps combined U.S.-Colombian aggression. This has also been the pretext for Caracas’ massive arms purchases, mostly from Russia, during the past five years.

The Colombian government has taken a strong defensive step of its own: inviting the U.S. military to share facilities on Colombian soil. While neither the U.S. nor the Colombian government would portray it this way, the base agreement offers Colombia a de facto security guarantee. Like the U.S. presence in South Korea, stationing a small contingent in Colombia offers a sort of “tripwire” against presumed Venezuelan aggression, to use the cold-war analogy.

Both sides are preparing to defend themselves from an attack by the other side – but neither appears to be planning an actual attack. Terms like “pre-emption” are not being used. Though each may be daring the other to make the first move, neither side is playing offense.

2. There is no definition of “victory.” It is hard to imagine a war scenario that either side can define as successful. Would Venezuela take over a few Colombian border towns? Would Colombia drop bombs on the presidential palace in Caracas? If so, then what? The scenarios themselves hardly make sense.

3. Both populations lack “war fever.” In neither Colombia nor Venezuela do we see people taking to the streets to call for war. Neither nation’s newspapers have been publishing editorials or columns demanding blood and sacrifice. There aren’t even any significant Facebook groups calling for a Colombo-Venezuelan conflict. To the contrary: Colombia’s population is exhausted by 45 years of internal conflict that shows no sign of letting up. And among the half of Venezuelans who support Hugo Chávez, it’s hard to imagine more than a minority supporting war with Colombia. (In fact, a poll released yesterday showed 80 percent opposing.) It’s very hard to make war if the people do not want it.

4. Much of this is about domestic politics. Both countries happen to be in a make-or-break election season. Venezuela since 2005 has had an overwhelmingly pro-government, rubber-stamp legislature, a result of the opposition’s oft-regretted decision to boycott the vote. But the next legislative elections are in December 2010 – and could be moved up – and Chávez, whose poll standing is sinking amid shortages and blackouts, has reason to worry about losing this legislative ally and facing a strong legal check on his power. In Colombia, which has a presidential election next May, two-term President Álvaro Uribe, who is popular but taking damage from corruption scandals, is on a quest to change the constitution to allow him to run for a third straight term. Both leaders have a strong incentive to rally support and to distract voters from current problems. Electorally, their hostile rhetoric and actions do the other a favor.

These factors all work against war between Colombia and Venezuela. But there’s still reason to worry.

Let’s return to point 2 for a moment. While there’s no plausible “victory” scenario, there remains the dangerous scenario of a limited military confrontation. One in which a small victory humiliates the other side before the international community moves in to silence the weapons. The possibility of such a brief and limited event – a several-day border battle, for example – is definitely greater, by several degrees, than it was a few months ago. Worse, neither government now has enough diplomatic representation in the other’s capital to keep small understandings from blowing out of proportion.

This outcome is less disastrous than outright war, but still very serious. It could involve significant loss of life. Civil society in both countries is organizing to make clear its rejection of any use of violence; it is essential that it do so with even greater urgency. Other key countries, such as the United States and Brazil, must also be prepared to intercede quickly to ease tensions should they escalate further.

The United States, for its part, should begin right now by making the clearest possible guarantee to the entire region that, despite what some Defense Department documents have indicated, the new military presence in Colombia will never be used to carry out operations in other countries’ territories.

Nov 09

On Friday the U.S. government finally released its estimate of how much coca was cultivated in Colombia in 2008. The result is the first reduction in coca-growing since 2002-2003, a significant drop from 167,000 hectares measured in 2007 to 119,000 hectares in 2008. (A hectare is equal to 2.47 acres.) This brings the U.S. government’s coca cultivation estimate to its lowest level since 2004. (The U.S. government has not yet released 2008 coca data for Peru and Bolivia.)

This matches a downward 2007-2008 trend – though not the number of hectares – that the UN Office on Drugs and Crime announced (PDF) back in June.

A reduction in coca cultivation is good news. But what caused it? Here is what Friday’s press release from the U.S. embassy to Colombia says:

According to analysts, the principal reasons for the decline were steadfast aerial and manual eradication pressure delivered against the primary Colombian growing areas, increased government presence and security forces in select growing regions and successful operation against drug trafficking organizations. Violence between trafficking groups and economic disruptions that affect farmers’ planting decisions were also a factor.

Certainly, eradication was a key variable. But eradication has changed since 2006, which was the peak year for the U.S.-funded aerial herbicide fumigation program. Fumigation was a centerpiece of Plan Colombia, but groups like ours have long maintained that it was counterproductive and ineffective. And the coca-cultivation statistics appeared to agree.

The fumigation program has declined since 2006. By 2008, the United States was supporting the spraying of 38,000 fewer hectares in Colombia.

Instead, the emphasis has gone to manual eradication. Teams of eradicators, protected by the security forces, pull farmers’ coca plants out of the ground. This is dangerous to the eradicators, but appears to be more effective than sending planes to spray overhead without bothering to establish any state presence on the ground. 53,000 more hectares were manually eradicated in 2008 than in 2006.

The statistics are showing manual eradication to be more effective than fumigation at reducing coca. However, forced manual eradication is hardly a panacea. Most Colombian coca growers are small farm families in some of the poorest parts of the country. If their crops are manually eradicated and they are left with no economic options – no government presence, no farm-to-market roads, no help making the transition to a legal economy, not even basic food security assistance – they are more likely to attempt coca growing again, and to view the Colombian state as an adversary. Manual eradication must be carefully calibrated with a strategy to bring coca farmers, some of Colombia’s poorest and most marginalized citizens, out of illegality.

There are strong reasons to worry that the gains measured in 2008 aren’t permanent. We will not know for sure, however, until at least June 2010, when the UNODC will likely release its 2009 coca estimates.

  • Manual eradication in 2009 has not kept pace with 2008. While 95,731 hectares were eradicated manually in 2008, by late September of this year Colombia’s police had eradicated 40,000: less than half as much, three-quarters of the way through the year. Conversations with U.S. officials over the course of 2009 indicate that fumigation has also dropped further this year.
  • Economic conditions may be inspiring more rural farmers to turn to coca. This is particularly the case in coca-growing zones, especially Putumayo and Nariño departments, that were hit hard by the collapse of several large pyramid schemes in November of last year – too late to be registered in the 2008 coca data. Anecdotal evidence from these zones indicates that of the tens of thousands of families who saw their savings wiped out with the demise of DMG and other schemes, a portion turned back to the coca economy in 2009.
  • Armed groups – both the FARC and “new” paramilitary groups – have been much more active in several coca-growing zones, most notably the Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia (several paramilitary groups), southern Córdoba (paramilitary), Putumayo (FARC), Meta (FARC and paramilitary) and Nariño and Cauca (virtually all armed groups). This reactivation could bring an uptick in 2009 coca cultivation in some of these areas.

The progress of 2008 is fragile. It owes much to a forced manual eradication model that, though more effective than fumigation, is not a substitute for governing and creating economic opportunity in rural zones. With some signs pointing to disappointment in 2009, there is no reason to believe that a solution has been found. The strategy has to keep changing.

Nov 09

This post, compiled by CIP Intern Hannah Brodlie, offers a troubling update on the security situation in the department of Córdoba in northwestern Colombia. Córdoba is a cattle-ranching region where President Álvaro Uribe spends much of his spare time, as he owns a large ranch on the outskirts of the capital, Montería.

Córdoba was a stronghold of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary group, whose paramount leaders, Carlos Castaño and Salvatore Mancuso, had earlier founded the ACCU, or United Self-Defense Forces of Córdoba and Urabá. The southern part of the department, particularly the town of Santa Fe de Ralito, served as the site of demobilization negotiations between the AUC and the Colombian government between 2003 and 2006.

Because it was undisputed territory, ruled with an iron paramilitary fist, Córdoba had lower levels of violence than most Colombian departments during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Today, however, Córdoba is aflame.

Carlos Castaño is dead and Salvatore Mancuso has been extradited to the United States. Mid-level paramilitary leaders and other criminal figures are now fighting each other for control of territory and drug-trafficking routes. The civilian population is getting caught in the middle, and the security forces have so far proved ineffective.

Victor Negrete Barrera, a scholar from Sinú University in Montería, recently issued an update (PDF) on the human rights situation and increasing violence in Córdoba following the AUC demobilization. Negrete confirms that paramilitary groups are regrouping and operating throughout the department, resulting in a new phase of conflict in Colombia.

Here is a summary/translation of Negrete’s more thorough overview.

Emerging Groups / “New” Paramilitary Groups – After demobilization, mid-level leaders of the AUC in Córdoba quickly regrouped and formed two main groups: Los Paisas-Los Rastrojos and Aguilas Negras-Autodefensas Gaitanistas. These groups have control of areas in the department or are in dispute with other groups for control.

Negrete describes the new groups as diverse operations, whose behavior, dress, and relationships with the local population are “not uniform.” Some cover their faces, others wear camouflage, while others wear plainclothes. The majority are narcotraffickers or hitmen; some use extortion, or acquire land through “forced-sale” or “voluntary sale,” or threats.

Crime and murder – Since demobilization, the number of murders in Córdoba has risen every year. The number of murders per year reached a record high number in 2008, with 512 homicides. Crime is widespread, and since 2005 rates of mass murder, mass injuries, extortion, and burglary have increased. Crimes that have decreased include terrorism, kidnapping, motorbike-theft, and cattle-theft.

It is important to note a tendency to attempt to lower the effect of important statistics by differentiating between murders of “good” vs. “bad” people. According to this view, 70% of the murders in Córdoba were “positive” because they resulted from vendettas, pay back, purges of armed groups – basically bad guys getting rid of bad guys. Negrete denounces this “perverse and mistaken” attitude taken by many toward the rising death tolls, saying it diminishes the seriousness of the security situation. Since 2005, members of illegal armed groups, demobilized paramilitaries, taxi drivers, town council members, ex-mayors, hacienda-owners, businesspeople, teachers, displaced people, victims, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples and more have been murdered – indicating that the causes of death are multiple and a large percentage do not result from conflict between rival armed groups.

Colombia’s Early Warning System – Negrete discusses the role of the Colombian government’s U.S.-supported Early Warning System, overseen by Colombia’s Ombudsman’s Office, in mitigating or stopping human rights violations. Risk reports have been prepared for a number of areas in the south of Córdoba, such as Montelíbano, Puerto Libertador, San Pelayo and Valencia. With the exception of San Pelayo, none of these cases are closed and the risks remain, even though each report includes recommendations on how each municipal, departmental and national institution should respond.

Displacement – As of September 122,170 people have been displaced from Córdoba, and 125,848 displaced people have entered the department. The worst displacement currently appears to be occurring in Tierralta, the municipality that hosted the AUC demobilization negotiations.

Recruitment – According to Negrete, young people are particularly susceptible to the recruitment tactics of illegal armed groups. Youth from barrios of Montería have said on various occasions that the recruiters offer between 500,000 and 600,000 pesos/month (US$250-300). However, the Prosecutor-General’s Office is investigating 50 cases of “false positives,” young people lured away with promises of employment and then executed by the Colombian Army, in 26 operations.

Landmines – Since May 1, 2003 anti-personnel mines have caused 50 accidents, wounding 54 civilians and military personnel and killing 17 civilians and military personnel, including 7 minors.

CCAI / Integrated Action – This new strategy of the Colombian government is being implemented in Córdoba. It is aimed at the recuperation and control of territory, fighting narcotrafficking and organized crime, reactivating local economy and society, strengthening the judicial system, and rebuilding the “social fabric” through cultural events. However, some worry that the strategy is resulting in a militarization of social institutions. Others say the program is limited by its focus on the rural, given the increasingly urban nature of conflict.

Conclusion – In Córdoba there is major concern about the armed conflict, narcotrafficking, poverty, and civil insecurity, yet it is a known fact that local law enforcement is necessary, but insufficient. These four factors are operating in Córdoba, but there is no comprehensive social strategy. All analyses indicate that the situation will continue or worsen if rapid and effective measures are not taken.

Nov 04

“[T]he Parties agree to deepen their cooperation in areas such as interoperability, joint procedures, logistics and equipment, training and instruction, intelligence exchanges, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, combined exercises, and other mutually agreed activities, in order to address common threats to peace, stability, freedom, and democracy.”

Which seems to cover just about any threat or mission.

Nov 02
La Candelaria, Bogotá.

I’m going to Bogotá tomorrow for a series of meetings of the International Consultative Committee of Colombia’s Commission for Historical Memory. (This commission has issued two important reports in its brief existence: one on the municipality of Trujillo, Valle, and one on the 2000 El Salado massacre.) I do not return to Washington until the weekend.

To friends and colleagues in Bogotá whom I haven’t contacted, I apologize – the committee has filled my agenda rather fully during this brief visit.

This means Internet access and writing time will be limited this week. I will try to post here, but cannot promise that I’ll have either the time or the connectivity. If not, have a good week and I look forward to posting again as soon as possible.