A top advisor to President Uribe apparently thinks victims’ advocate IvÃ¡n Cepeda is a FARC guerrilla.
With Colombia’s human-rights community reeling from a sudden increase in killings and threats, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield deserves praise for paying a visit to a threatened human rights organization.
On Tuesday, Brownfield was at the offices of MINGA, one of Colombia’s most effective and energetic human rights groups, some of whose staff were mentioned by name in threats sent last week by a group calling itself “Black Eagles – the Rearmament.”
MINGA’s press release about the ambassadorial visit is translated below.
But first, we must condemn – in the strongest terms possible on a G-rated blog – the latest disgusting comments by JosÃ© Obdulio Gaviria, one of Colombian President Ãlvaro Uribe’s most senior advisors.
Gaviria had said in February that protests in support of victims of paramilitary and government violence, which were scheduled for March 6, were “convened by the FARC.” IvÃ¡n Cepeda, a leader of the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes and one of the March 6 events’ organizers, accuses the presidential advisor of creating a climate that has left organizers vulnerable to violent retribution after being falsely tied to guerrillas.
In a column in one of Colombia’s main newspapers and in a “citizens’ petition” sent to the presidential palace, Cepeda called on President Uribe to dismiss Gaviria.
This, incredibly, is how the presidential advisor responded yesterday, in the Colombian newspaper El PeriÃ³dico.
“Every kind of request issued by the FARC is always studied by the government, and that is exactly what is being done with this citizens’ petition.”
What an embarrassment for the Colombian government: a high official repeatedly emits slander that puts a citizen’s life in danger, and the president himself does nothing about it.
If JosÃ© Obdulio Gaviria is unable to distinguish between a prominent non-violent human-rights activist and a guerrilla, he has no business being in a position of responsibility for how his country is governed.
Here is MINGA’s release.
UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR VISITS MINGA
With the purpose of learning about the human rights situation in several regions of Colombia, the United States’ Ambassador, Mr. William R. Brownfield, visited the offices of the MINGA Association, a human-rights defenders’ organization that accompanies vulnerable communities in several regions of the country.
During the ambassador’s visit, different facts affecting human rights and the constitutionality of the state were presented, among them: the critical human rights situation affecting indigenous and campesino communities in Putumayo department, where the armed conflict has increased; forced displacement; extrajudicial executions; arbitrary detentions; the food-security crisis provoked by the aerial spraying of glyphosate; the indigenous communities of northern Cauca who find themselves in the crossfire between the security forces and the guerrillas; the increase in extrajudicial executions in the Catatumbo region; the degradation of the conflict, the blockades of foodstuffs, abuses and aggression that indigenous and afro-Colombian communities confront in NariÃ±o and the southern Pacific coast (Buenaventura and Tumaco).
Also under discussion was the issue of political guarantees that the national government must offer the human rights and social movements for the free exercise of their labors, which are recognized in the national and international contexts, and the negative impact that Plan Colombia has had, and has, on the social fabric of the rural communities where it has been implemented.
MINGA Association for Alternative Social Promotion
BogotÃ¡, March 18, 2008