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Colombia’s government scapegoats left opposition
W. T. Whitney Jr. / Friday 5 September 2008
 

Peace in Colombia, seen as humanitarian exchange of prisoners and negotiations with guerrilla insurgents, took a hit recently with the government revving up a smear campaign against leftists. With approval ratings allegedly approaching 91 percent, President Alvaro Uribe is preparing for a second unconstitutional reelection bid.

A judicial inquiry as to Carlos Lozano’s alleged support for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), originally set for Sept. 3, has been delayed until Sept. 15. Lozano belongs to the Communist Party’s Executive Committee and directs the party newspaper Voz. Senators Piedad Córdoba and Gloria Inés Ramírez, Representative Wilson Borja, journalist William Parra and former presidential candidate Álvaro Leyva also face official questioning on supposed ties with terrorists.

The government had enlisted Lozano and Leyva in May to communicate with the FARC, only to accuse them later of FARC sympathies. On Aug. 8, the regime jailed sociologist Liliana Patricia Obando, charging her with diverting funds to the FARC from FENSUAGRO, the rural labor organization she served as consultant. The government based all allegations on FARC computer files, widely discredited, seized during its March 1 raid on a FARC encampment in Ecuador.

On Aug. 27, a thousand Lozano supporters heard Carlos Gaviria, president of the Alternative Democratic Pole, Colombia’s left opposition coalition, contrast French bestowal of its Legion of Honor upon Lozano for contributions to humanitarian exchange with "this government [that] looks to put him in jail." Lozano serves on the Pole’s National Council. Liberal Party Senator Piedad Cordoba extolled Lozano’s bravery and the courage of his party.

On the CP web site, General Secretary Jaime Caycedo denounced "McCarthyist" charges from Vice President Francisco Santos that the Communist Party, dedicated to violence, created the FARC. The FARC, Caycedo explained, grew out of "peasant defense against attacks and expropriations of productive lands by landowners," not from "communist influence." Importantly, "state terrorism against the Communists and the Left began long before the existence of the FARC."

On Aug. 19, armed assailants trailed Caycedo, who represents the Pole on the Bogota City Council. Communist youths have been assaulted and party offices ransacked. Most of the accused have over years been subjected to injuries, failed attacks and/or death threats. Caycedo and others see horrors like the 1928 banana workers massacre, the slaughter after populist leader Jorge Gaitin’s assassination in 1948 and killings of over 4,000 Patriotic Union candidates and office holders two decades ago as backdrop for persecution today.

Caycedo asserts the government has created a "smoke screen" to "hide the intellectual authorship and the organic bond between powerful sectors of businesses and the government with the narco-paramilitary apparatus." Investigations by the Colombian Supreme Court have led to 80 government officials, over 40 members of Congress among them, being charged with paramilitary ties.

In late August, Semana magazine reported that the Uribe regime plotted against the Supreme Court. Under Colombia’s Peace and Justice Law, paramilitary leaders accepted short jail terms in return for confessing crimes. Their revelations put members of Congress in jail. Earlier this year lawyers for paramilitary head Diego Fernando Murillo sought to forestall his extradition to the United States by providing Uribe officials with information discrediting the court.

The scandal came to light during the visit to Colombia of International Criminal Court investigator Luis Moreno. Not only did the Argentinean jurist hear pleas from human rights organizations to try politicians allied to paramilitaries for crimes against humanity, but he also met with Supreme Court President Francisco Javier Ricaurte over concerns that 15 paramilitary leaders had been extradited to the U.S. on drug charges in order to cut off testimony.

Other embarrassments threaten. The House of Representatives sought the president’s explanation for bribing jailed Senator Yidis Medina. The International Caravan of Jurists just completed an investigatory tour of Colombia. In July the Permanent Peoples Tribunal issued a report covered in the European press charging corporations with human rights abuses. The International Tribunal of Opinion will convene in Brussels this month to condemn human rights violations in Colombia as a state crime.

Colombian social realities beg for distraction. Recent studies show Colombia ranks 11th in the world for inequalities, childhood malnutrition is expanding, and 20,000 children die annually from preventable diseases. Over 4,000 common graves of paramilitary victims have been uncovered over two years.