Category Archives: Colombia

PHOTO/ ‘Troubles of a new beginning,’ Wiener Zeitung Online

Just noticed that my photo of Colombia’s Palace of Justice was used to accompany an Austrian story about how, “after half a century of civil war, Colombia is trying to end the conflict. The year 2014 is all about two important ballots and the conclusion of a peace agreement.” More at Wiener Zeitung Online (in German) >



International Human Rights Day Roundup: Brazil, Colombia, US events

A roundup of news and events around International Human Rights Day, today, December 10:


Some positive news: yesterday,  the country initiated its first human rights trial. Rebecca J. Atencio reports over at Transitional Justice in Brazil:

In a landmark for transitional justice in Brazil, prosecutors yesterday initiated the country’s first criminal trial of an individual state security agent in a federal court in São Paulo. The accused is Carlos Alberto Brilhante Ustra, a retired colonel. … Yesterday’s hearing involved three witnesses who testified about the disappearance of Edgar de Aquino Duarte. Duarte disappeared after being detained at the DOI-CODI and DEOPS torture centers in São Paulo in 1973.

Until now, all attempts in Brazil to try accused dictatorship-era torturers have been blocked by the 1979 Amnesty Law. In 2010, the country’s Supreme Court upheld the interpretation of the law as extending to  state agents who engaged in human rights crimes. Yet there are indications that the Amnesty Law’s protection of accused human rights violators may be crumbling. Brazil’s new Attorney General recently indicated a possible change in interpretation of the controversial law.


From the Latin American Working Group (LAWG):

Today on International Human Rights Day, thousands of Colombians will take to the streets in support of the ongoing peace process. Bringing together the voices of victims of violence, women, trade unionists, artists, campesinos, students, intellectuals, indigenous and Afro-descendants, this mobilization aims to promote a peace process that includes a social and human rights agenda.

On International Human Rights Day, share this image to show your solidarity for peace in Colombia!

Colombians will express their support for peace and their continued outrage over the human costs of the war:  forced displacements, widespread massacres, threats against unionists and human rights activists, and the exclusion of indigenous and Afro-descendant communities. It’s a demonstration of hope, with Colombians coming together with the dream of creating a lasting peace.

Even with the ongoing peace process, there still is a human rights crisis in Colombia. Displacement continues, with 2,700 people forced from their homes last month just in Buenaventura. Human rights defenders, journalists and union members continue to be harassed and threatened for the work they do. Land restitution under the Victims’ Law continues at a snail’s pace and is jeopardized by the presence of paramilitary successor groups that threaten the safe return of communities.

Here at the LAWG, we believe that in order to build a just and lasting peace, the underlying human rights, economic and social aspects of the conflict must be addressed. This means addressing human rights violations by all parties to the conflict and creating space for civil society participation in the peace process and its implementation. It means there must be truth, and there must be justice.

There’s a long road ahead, but it’s time to say yes to peace.

In DC today, there was a vigil for Colombian victims of human rights violations that featured “an altar with pictures of civilian victims of the Colombian internal armed conflict, and victims of armed actors outside of ‘war zones’; candles to remember these victims; Colombian music; and a reading of victims’ names, with Presentes in response; flyers to distribute containing information about peace and human rights issues in Colombia.”

More of today’s events, via AAAS’ Scientific Responsibility, Human Rights & Law Program:


Amazon Heroes: International Day of the Indigenous

Good to see some positive news on this front. From Mark J. Plotkin, president of Amazon Conservation Team:

Today, in commemoration of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, we at ACT would like to honor some of these unsung heroes without whom our work would not be possible.


Examples of indigenous leaders with whom ACT proudly works in the Amazon:

José Narciso Jamioy Muchavisoy isa member of Colombia’s Kamtzá indigenous community who has served as governor of his people on two occasions.  Having earned a Masters in Linguistics and an MBA, Narciso currently is working on a Ph.D. in Education in order to further improve his ability to promote ethno-education and the enforcement of indigenous rights in Colombia. He now is focused on raising awareness of the impact of the IIRSA San Francisco-Mocoa road construction, which divides Kamtzá ancestral territory as well as numerous mining concessions which pose serious threats to the well-being of the indigenous people of the Colombian Amazon.

Wuta Wajimuu is a Trio Indian cartographer and conservation leader. Wuta spearheaded ACT’s first ethnographic mapping initiative and served as the lead cartographer on indigenous mapping projects covering over 20 million acres of ancestral rainforests. Additionally, he played a key role in stopping an illegal diamond mining project on his tribal lands. Wuta focuses his current efforts on ensuring the transmission of tribal knowledge to new generations of Trio youth.

Wairanina Jacanamijoy Mutumbajoy is a leader of Colombia’s Ingano tribe. As Governor, Wairanina works tirelessly to implement the Ingano Life Plan, which seeks the strengthening of their cultural identity, their health, their education, and their lands. Through such robust leadership and vision, the Ingano have developed the first government-certified ethno-education center, where their youth receive instruction in both the standard curriculum and traditional subject matter, including language and agriculture. The Inganos’ steadfast and forceful quest to recover their sacred sites brought about the creation of Caqueta’s Alto Fragua Indi Wasi National Park and the subsequent establishment of connectivity between the Park and their indigenous reserves.

[Original message at ACT]

Warhol in Coffee Country

Sixteen-year-old Andres, who until recently was addicted to crack and living on the streets of Medellín, Colombia, cuts an intricately decorated cross out of red construction paper with an X-ACTO knife, creating a stencil he’ll use later to silkscreen a t-shirt, an art technique made wildly popular by Andy Warhol.

“These kids have held knives, but not to make art,” says Juan Carlos Moreno Osorio, an educator from FARO Family Foundation, a rehabilitation center in Medellín that works with teens like Andres who are addicted to drugs or are in trouble with the law.

This past June, Andres and about 20 of his peers were in Jericó, a tiny rural town in the Andes about three hours from Medellín, to participate in an art workshop designed by The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and delivered in partnership with Jericó’s Archeological Museum of the Southwest (MASUR). Oddly enough, this tucked-away town of 12,000—with its meticulously painted houses and amiable hospitality—has blossomed into a destination for, of all things, Warhol enthusiasts. Or perhaps more accurately described: the Warhol curious. More >

Colombia’s beauty pageant obsession from all angles

Via Livebooks’ “Resolve” blog:

Colombia’s beauty pageant obsession from all angles.

Carl Bower’s Chica Barbie series won a Blue Earth Alliance prize for Best Project Photography and was a finalist for Photolucida’s 2009 Critical Mass Book Award. The project on Colombia’s obsession with beauty pageants is astute and multi-faceted, and Carl’s explanation of how he captured such a complicated phenomenon is powerful and eloquent.

Hostage rescue, bombs, and presidential race

Colombia news roundup, via Plan Colombia and Beyond:

  • If all goes according to plan, Brazilian helicopters will pick up two soldiers who have been held by the FARC for years. The guerrillas are releasing Josué Daniel Calvo Marín on Sunday and Pablo Emilio Moncayo. Moncayo, whose father has become famous in Colombia for his campaign to free him, has been a FARC hostage since late 1997. He was 18 when the guerrillas took him after a battle in Patascoy, Putumayo; he is 30 now.
  • The head of Colombia’s armed forces, Gen. Freddy Padilla, told reporters that according to “high-quality intelligence,” the FARC are planning a campaign of high-profile attacks between now and the May 30 presidential election. This week saw several FARC attacks in southwestern Colombia: Cauca, Huila, a car bombing in downtown Buenaventura believed to be the work of the FARC, and a package bomb unwittingly delivered by a 12-year-old boy in Nariño.
  • Meanwhile violence attributed to “emerging” paramilitary groups escalated in the northwestern department of Córdoba. Seven people, among them three teenagers, were massacred in a bar in Puerto Libertador. Radio journalist Clodomiro Castillo, a critic of politicians tied to paramilitary groups, was gunned down on the front porch of his house in Montería.
  • The two pro-Uribe candidates lead the polling for the May 30 elections.
    • Gallup March 20-22: Juan Manuel Santos 34.2%; Noemí Sanín 23.3%; Antanas Mockus 10.4%; Gustavo Petro 6.4%; Germán Vargas Lleras 6.2%; Sergio Fajardo 6.1%; Rafael Pardo 5.1%
    • Datexco March 20-23: Juan Manuel Santos 34.1%; Noemí Sanín 21.7%; Antanas Mockus 8.9%; Gustavo Petro 7.1%; Germán Vargas Lleras 6.6%; Rafael Pardo 5.5%; Sergio Fajardo 4.4%
    • Both polls were taken before the first televised presidential debate, which took place the evening of March 23.

No more “Ole!”: Anti-bullfighting protests in Bogota, Colombia

Young people march, chant, and agitate against bullfighting in the Colombian capital of Bogota. February was the national month for bullfighting, and the protest ended at the Santamaria bull ring, with protesters yelling across a line of impassive police: “Assassins! Assassins!” More >