- The U.S. government has requested the extradition of about fifty leaders of the FARC – but apparently the guerrilla group’s new leader, Alfonso Cano, isn’t on the list.
- Speaking of extradition, much praise goes to Human Rights Watch for leading the drive to press officials to allow Colombian prosecutors and investigators to access the extradited paramilitary leaders in U.S. jails. Last week the group appealed to Attorney-General Michael Mukasey and congressional leaders to take steps that would allow Colombian and U.S. prosecutors to hold the warlords accountable for their human rights crimes, not just their drug offenses.
In 2005, when it appeared that the very lenient “Justice and Peace” law would do little to dismantle paramilitary groups or help victims, HRW was a vocal proponent of extradition as a tool to get the paramilitaries to cooperate. That HRW opposed extradition now creates a seeming contradiction, which inspired attacks from the Colombian presidency and the Washington Post editorial page.
But there is no contradiction: HRW and most Colombian human-rights groups decided to give Colombia’s “Justice and Peace” process a chance back in 2006, after the country’s Constitutional Court toughened the Justice and Peace law significantly. Though the process was not going well, had it failed so completely that the extraditions were the only option? Were the extraditions a premature step inspired by concerns about what the paramilitary leaders might reveal? The only acceptable answer to that last question is a resounding “no” – but it will only be true if Colombian prosecutors and investigators get the access they require.
- Speaking of the paramilitary leaders, perhaps the most remarkable story of the week is how the Colombian prison system mysteriously lost track of several of the paramilitary leaders’ laptop computers and cell phones on the day they were extradited. Now how will we ever learn about the paramilitaries’ ties to Venezuela?
- In today’s El Tiempo, one of the best and most sobering analyses of Colombia’s conflict after Manuel Marulanda’s death comes from Rudolf Hommes, the finance minister in CÃ©sar Gaviria’s government, who generally supports the Uribe government’s security policies. Even if it turns out that Alfonso Cano is interested in peace negotiations, Hommes writes, “He cannot make a peace effort until he has consolidated his leadership, and it is possible that to consolidate it he will intensify the level of terrorist activity.”
- Though Marulanda’s death lowered its media profile, many congratulations are due to Pedro Arenas, mayor of San JosÃ© del Guaviare, and the numerous organizations who successfully carried out the peaceful “White Caravan” march to El Retorno, Guaviare to press for the freedom of the FARC’s hostages.
- The U.S. group Witness for Peace is organizing an ambitious delegation to Putumayo, Colombia on August 3-13, and has space for several participants. Read their delegation flyer here [PDF].
- The House and Senate have both passed versions of the 2008 supplemental appropriations bill, which includes several hundred million dollars for Mexico and Central America. Both versions of the bill include human-rights conditions on the aid, similar to the conditions that have applied to Colombia aid for years. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) explained the rationale behind the conditions last week. But Mexican officials are now hinting that they might refuse the aid if it comes with human-rights conditions.