Forwarded from Anthony (new from Colombia)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Mar 28 08:25:39 MST 2001

Hi Lou: Sorry I didn't get around to this sooner, but daily life got in the

Colombian News Update

Monday March 25

1. The process of establishing a "despeje" (demilitarized zone in which
negotiations will take place) for the ELN in the south of the department of
Bolivar is accelerating. Asociopaz - one of the "mass" organizations
associated with local growers and with the paramilitaries which has led the
public opposition to the despeje - has accepted the despeje in principal.
Now they are arguing about the exact size and location of the zone. The
government has said it is ready to go, and has a Spanish general surveying
the proposed site.

2. According to El Tiempo the FARC is changing its financial strategy to
rely less on drug related income - which has been badly impacted by Plan
Colombia crop destruction and by police operations in Colombia, the USA and
Mexico - to greater reliance on taxation. The FARC reportedly plans to
collect the equivalent of 10% of the profits of the country's larger
businesses.  According to the report this change was adopted at the 8th
Conference of the FARC held March 21-25.

Colombian police so far this year have received an average of five
complaints a day of extorsion, much of which the police attribute to FARC
taxation. They estimate that in the year since the FARC announced Law 002 -
its tax code - it has collected 250,000,000,000 Colombian pesos, about
$120,000,000 (US).

Under Law 002, the FARC formally notifies those to be taxed that they must
pay or they individually, their company's property and employees, and their
family will become military targets.

3. Presidents Hugo Chaves of Venezuela and Andres Pastrana of Colombia have
been meeting in Bogotá to strengthen the two countries' bilateral
relations. The meetings have covered commercial relations, the peace
process, and the war 'the war against drugs', as well as issues of tension
such as Colombia's efforts to extradite the alleged ELN pilot who hijacked
a Colombian plane last year. The meetings have been highly publicized with
daily front page pictures of the two presidents white water rafting, giving
speeches, partying, etc.   4. According to reports quoted from "El Nuevo
Herald" of Miami, Carlos Castanos is closely related to the head of the DEA
office in Colombia, and supplies the DEA with many - or most - or their
informants in Colombia. The newspaper also apparently alleges that Castanos
is in personal communication with politicians and officials in the USA. (I
have not seen the article, and will search for it when I have time. If
anyone in the USA follows Nueva Herald, please send me a url.)

5. As part of the US embassy's public relations campaign for Plan Colombia,
US Ambassador to Colombia Anne Patterson and US Senator Paul Wellstone
spoke before the Organizacion Femenina Popular in Barancabermja to tell the
audience that the US does not support the paramilitaries, and that the
paramilitaries - as well as the guerrilla militias- should be expelled from
Barancabermeja. The city is the oil refining center of Colombia. The oil
workers union, USO has been a long time target of the paramilitaries. In
recent months street fighting has occurred between paramilitaries trucked
into he city, and local militias of the FARC and ELN.

7. The humanitarian exchange of prisoners between the FARC and the
government, long discussed and which the FARC is ready to implemented, is
being blocked by objections from the military about which FARC militants it
is willing to release.

8. The Colombian army colonel in charge of its satellite network was
assassinated in front of his apartment on Saturday.

9. In the past year official unemployment figures in Colombia rose from
16.4% to 16.8%, but unemployment in the 13 most important cities fell from
20.5% to 19.6%. The numbers reflect the economic recovery in the cities
coupled with the continued large scale internal migration from war zones in
the he country side to the cities.

10. The brother of Nicholas Rodriguez "Gabino" - military leader of the
ELN, was assassinated. Gonzalo Bautista had no political relations with
Gabino. He was the fourth member of the family to be murdered. A member of
a street gang with ties tot he paramilitaries has been arrested for the

11. The military leader of the Southern Block of the AUC (paramilitaries)
was captured last week by police in Pasto along with four other
paramilitaries one of whom was an former army officer.

12. A gang war between drug mafias has begun in Cali with at least four
killed and a half dozen wounded in attacks that have included one in broad
daylight in a hospital.

13. The president and vice president of the union representing workers at
Drummond (a major internaitonal mining companies that is one of the biggest
companies exporting from Colombia) were assassinated by the AUC. AUC leader
Carlos Castano claims they were ELN sympathizers, union leaders deny any
connection. Drummond officials say they did not contract the killings, do
not support the AUC and are for peace.

14. Unions representing school employees in Bogotá have won an important
victory against attempts to "restructure" public schools and lay off as
many as 6,000 workers. The District has rescinded - for the moment - layoff
notices to about 800 workers.

15. George Bush formally nominated Otto Reich to become Subsecretary of
State for the Western Hemisphere. Reich was part of the Alexander
Haig/Oliver North faction within the Reagan administration.

16. In the last year more than one million Colombians left the country, and
almost 25% have not returned. 172 countries have tightened visa
requirements for Colombians.

Louis Proyect
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