But there is so much else happening right now, and so little time to write about it, that we’ve been reduced to posting a list of bullet points and hoping to revisit some of them in more detail later. For today at least, we can only apologize for the brevity.
- President Uribe is in Washington all day today. Here is his schedule. Here is a statement from several NGOs. Here is a piece in today’s Houston Chronicle in which Rep. Sam Farr (D-California), an Appropriations Committee member, warns, “you can wear out your welcome up here.” A Los Angeles Times article adds, “it’s not clear how far Uribe’s forceful personality will take him with the current Congress.” On Friday Uribe will go to New York; at an event there, he will give Bill Clinton something called the “Colombia is Passion” award.
- Monday’s Wall Street Journal reported on the Colombian government’s extensive, and expensive, hiring of high-powered lobbyists to influence top congressional Democrats. “The team includes the public-relations firm of Burson-Marsteller, headed by former Clinton pollster Mark Penn, who is also a top adviser to Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The firm has set up a campaign-style operation to respond immediately to any critical news about Colombia.”
- A bipartisan delegation of five House members is back from a weekend trip to Colombia. Their agenda was planned entirely by the U.S. and Colombian governments. They got a big dose of President Uribe, even attending one of his “town hall meetings” in Cali.
- Uribe’s unilateral release of imprisoned guerrilla leaders is continuing. Rodrigo Granda, the so-called “FARC foreign minister” who Colombian authorities went so far as to abduct from Caracas in late 2004, was released on Monday – yet his statement struck a defiant tone indicating that the FARC’s conditions for releasing hostages have not changed. We still have our fingers crossed. We still hope that the prisoner release is not, in fact, a colossal blunder revealing a basic misunderstanding of both the FARC and the basic tenets of negotiation and conflict resolution. But with every passing day, it is looking more like exactly that.
- A couple of weeks ago, paramilitary leader Salvatore Mancuso’s confession to authorities “confirmed what human rights groups and others have long alleged,” as the Washington Post put it. Since then, though, other paramilitary leaders have been clamming up, offering very little information. Central BolÃvar Bloc leader IvÃ¡n Roberto Duque (”Ernesto BÃ¡ez”) denied any involvement in serious crimes, portraying himself as little more than an AUC ideologist. Ã‰lmer CÃ¡rdenas Bloc leader Freddy RendÃ³n (”El AlemÃ¡n”) admitted nothing. Tayrona Bloc leader HernÃ¡n Giraldo, one of Colombia’s most powerful drug traffickers, told authorities that he only owns a few “finquitas” (small farms) with which to pay for reparations to victims.
- Why, asks the prominent human-rights group CODHES, were two U.S. Army officers present at a May 10 Colombian government meeting with internally displaced community leaders in the highly conflictive department of CaquetÃ¡? The officers – major and a lieutenant-colonel – “told the displaced population and local authorities that they must understand that “the FARC doesn’t have a war against the police, but against the community” and that they “know about wars because they were in Iraq, where they learned that the strategy of terrorists is to separate the population from the legitimate authorities.” What were they doing there?
- The Colombian peso has risen more against the dollar this year than any other currency in the world. It has gone from 2,500 to 1,900 pesos to the dollar, and Colombian Treasury officials have been unable to stop it. Some wonder whether this owes to a flood of narco-dollars entering the country. Opposition Senator Gustavo Petro told the Financial Times that “Colombia is in a ‘narco-bubble,’ with growth underpinned by a strong inflow of dollars from drug trafficking.”
- The Center for American Progress published a thoughtful report on U.S. policy toward Colombia, recommending a turn away from Plan Colombia’s mostly military focus and more assertive advocacy of peace. The report, written by Columbia University conflict-resolution expert Aldo CÃvico, is the first time that the CAP – a large and influential “think tank” founded by former Clinton administration officials and other prominent liberals – has issued recommendations about policy toward Colombia.
- Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights) will honor victims’ movement leader IvÃ¡n Cepeda with its prestigious Roger Baldwin Liberty Award. “This award recognized the importance of Ivan’s human rights work and that of other Colombian human rights defenders who are unfairly stigmatized by the Colombian government,” they told the Associated Press. Congratulations, IvÃ¡n!
- The BogotÃ¡ office of a U.S. peace and human rights group, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, was burglarized over the weekend. FOR says it “appears to be a politically motivated attack on its offices,” adding that “The individuals destroyed electronic equipment, including part of a satellite phone stole clothing and cash but took out and did not steal a credit card and the passport of one of the FOR team members.” This is of great concern, as FOR does important, essential work, especially with “peace communities” like San JosÃ© de ApartadÃ³. They have published an alert with suggested actions.
That was a long list, wasn’t it? If your head isn’t spinning right now from the sheer pace of events, then you’re probably not paying attention!