Colombia’s oil strike

The Union Sindical Obrera, the union of workers in Colombia’s state oil company ECOPETROL, is on strike, trying to prevent further privatizations of the oil company. They are risking a lot. USO’s strength has been in the oil regions around Barrancabermeja, and several years ago that city was taken over by paramilitaries by block-by-block, house-to-house slaughter. Some very terrible massacres took place, and much of the social movement in that city was destroyed. The USO remained, as did the Popular Women’s Organization, the OFP, but both have suffered severe repression.

They went out on strike again on April 22 (the same day the family of the Coca-Cola bottler’s unionist was gunned down in their home) and the strike was immediately declared illegal by the government. In some ways the future of the Colombian oil sector depends on this strike.

About a year ago, Hector Mondragon discussed USO’s problems when they were planning a strike, and compared the situation with that of the Venezuelan oil sector. Both groups of oil workers had the problem of management and engineers controlling the high-tech aspects of the business and being able to run the business (or stop it from running) without the worker’s participation. In Colombia, however, the military and the repression will be against the workers, on behalf of the privatizers, unlike in Venezuela, where the national guard intervened to stop the management-led ‘strike’. This makes things far more difficult for the workers of USO.

Israel keeps on killing

As I’ve been reporting in this blog, Israel has been killing a lot of Palestinian civilians in addition to its assassinations of Rantisi and Yassin in Gaza. The reports come in fast and furious, and they sometimes keep running totals, and can thus get confusing. Yesterday (April 23) there was a report of three shootings in Qalqilya bringing the total killed to 20 in the previous 48 hours. I will include the text of that report below.

Another killing in Biddu, of a protestor against the wall, was reported on April 21 (see below).

And another child, shot dead in Jenin by Israeli special forces (see below).

I’d apologize for being repetitive, but it’s not me — it’s just the same brutal policy being played out over and over…

Take a look at a nice photojournal by an International Solidarity Movement activist.

The original reports.


Army Kills 20 Palestinians in Two Days
IMEMC & Agencies, April 23, 2004

Israeli Special army unit killed Thursday overnight 3 Palestinians and wounded one in the West Bank city of Qalqilyah, raising the number of Palestinians killed in army operations in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the past 48 hours to 20.

According to army source, soldiers, who arrived to the city center, spotted the four men near a car. Soldiers opened fire after the four refused orders to stop and attempted to flee the place.

As a result Abdul-Rahman Nazal, an operative of Fatah’s military wing, Mohamed Nazal and Mahmoud Odeh, Fatah political activists, were killed and Atef Shaban, the leader of Al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades in the city, was seriously wounded and moved to the hospital in a critical condition. In a similar incident early on Thursday, soldiers killed three, claimed to be armed, Fatah activists in the West Bank city of Tul Karm.

Also on Thursday, troops pulled out of northern parts of the Gaza Strip after a three days invasion in which 17 Palestinians were killed, including 3 children, and more than 40 were wounded to various degrees.

Two of the children killed Thursday in Beit Lahia, North of Gaza city were identified to be, Muna Abu Tabak, 9, and Asma’ Jalaik, 4. Army source claimed that the operation in Beit Lahia aimed at preventing resistance operatives from firing Qassam rockets at nearby Israeli settlements.

As of the return of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from his Washington visit, army escalated its operation inside Palestinian areas considerably.Palestinians believe that Sharon was encouraged to escalate military actions as a result of the support he received from the American Administration.


Wed April 21, 2004

Another Palestinian shot in Biddu
Eyewitness report
ISM Biddu
21 Apr 04

[Biddu, NW Jerusalem] Five citizens of the West Bank village of Biddu have been killed by the Israeli military over the last month and a half during protests against the Apartheid Wall that the government of Israel is building on their farmland. Despite the use of excessive and lethal force against protesters, the people of Biddu remain committed to resisting the Wall through non-violent protests.

Today 30 residents of Biddu, 10 internationals and 10 Israelis marched to the land for the first time since 23 year old Diya’ Abu Eid was killed as he stood in an olive grove three days ago by an Israeli sniper. Carrying signs saying, “5 Dead: Stop the Killing Now” “Stop Killing Innocents”, and “The World is Watching”, the protesters stopped on a hill overlooking the the construction site, about 400 meters from the bulldozers and Israeli Soldiers and Border Police.

The Israeli military responded by posting snipers, and readying mounted police and jeeps, but they remained 400 meters from the protesters for two hours. Eventually, ten Palestinian youths left the protesters and moved to with 100 meters of the Israeli military. They began throwing rocks that didn’t reach the soldiers. Though the rockthrowing posed no threat to the soldiers, two Palestinian protest organizers went down to talk with the youths and move them back to the larger group. As the organizers were talking with the youths, suddenly, four Israeli soldiers sprinted down the hill towards the young men. As the remaining protesters watched events unfold from the hill 300 meters away, the youths ran from the soldiers. One of the four soldiers then fired a single shot at the youths, striking 23 year old Rabia’ Al Khudour in the back. The bullet travelled through his back and exited his stomach.

The Doctor who treated Rabia’ at the scene confirmed from the entry and exit wounds that he was shot with a live bullet. Before using live ammunition, the Israeli Soldiers and Border Police used none of the standard crowd control techniques – teargas, rubber bullets or even warning shots.

Rabia’ was transported to Mokassed Hospital in Jerusalem where he underwent surgery and fortunately is now in stable condition. His ambulance was followed to the hospital by an Israeli military jeep. His family fears that in addition to being shot, Rabia’ will now be arrested.

The Israeli soldiers and Border Police were never endangered by rock throwing. They gave no warning before opening fire with live ammunition on Rabia and the other youths. The people of Biddu continue to wonder why the Israeli military remains so intent on killing unarmed protesters, and the foreigners and Israelis present were shocked that the soldiers moved immediately to potentially lethal force on an otherwise quiet day.

For more information, please contact:
Shora: +972.67.254.910
ISM Media Office: +972.66.505.237


Sat April 24, 2004
For Immediate Release


[Jenin] In the Southwest neighborhood of Jenin, near the Municipality, Israeli special forces assassinated Kamal Toubasi and Said Hardan as they were driving their car. A third casualty, 13 year-old Mohamed Azzouka was killed during the invasion as he was near the scene. ISM contact Ali Sammoudi eye witnessed the Israeli special forces open fire on the Palestinian boy. Ali was also wounded in the face with a live bullet that entered his left nostril and exited through his right cheek.

The special forces were reinforced by 2 Apache helicopters overhead 6 tanks and approximately 20 jeeps. The operation started at noon and the Israeli military pulled out after two hours.

The four Palestinians were transferred to Jenin Governmental Hospital where three of them died. The injury sustained by Ali Sammoudi does not endanger his life.

Reuters and Ramattan Studios have video footages and AFP have photos from the military invasion.

This assassination operation takes place in a context of escalating violence from the Israeli military. Only 2 days ago, in a similar operation in Qalqilia, Israeli troops killed 3 Palestinians. A man was shot near Ramallah, three were killed in Tulkarem and another Palestinian was shot near Hebron in recent days. Also 2 Palestinians where killed during non-violent anti-wall demos in the Jerusalem/Ramallah area.

For more information, please contact:

Ali Sammoudi: +972.59.305.241
Jenin Governmental Hospital: +972.4.250.1057
Huwaida: +972.67.473.308
ISM Media Office: +972.66.505.237

It’s official: law and order is restored in Haiti

And we can thank the US, France, Canada and especially the Haitian Armed Forces for making it happen.

Alan Pogue, a documentary photographer, has returned from a delegation to Haiti and his impressions are circulating on some Haiti listservs. Here are some snippets:

“I met with one hundred armed rebels in Cap Haitien who were running
a kidnapping and extortion racket. I met the French forces that denied that the rebels existed. I gave the French the street address of the rebels but they were not interested in doing anything about the problem. Not that I was surprised but it was fun catching them in a lie and showing their complicity with the armed murderers. The U.S. forces in Port-au-Prince have taken over the prison and are holding Haitians there but they won’t give out the names because they officially aren’t supposed to be arresting Haitians without the Haitian police being involved in the arrest. One Haitian police officer, who objected to the arrest of five men who hadn’t done anything, was killed by the Marines. Lavalas officials and supporters are in hiding. Haitian military officers who were in the Cedras government are back in the interim government. The “human rights ” groups CARLI and NCHR are acting as McCarthy-style black listing agencies. They are not interesting in anything other than smearing Lavalas. The idea that they might call for the arrest of Chamblain, Guy Philippe or Jean-Pierre Baptiste brought only laughter. Most Haitians would vote Aristide back in tomorrow if they could.”

“The main thing is that the Cedras and Duvalier people are back and that if they block the Lavalas party from participation in the political process then 90% of the Haitian people, those not part of “civil society” (as they self proclaim themselves), will be shut out of the electoral process. The interim government has two years to hold an election which means two years of harassment for the Lavalas party members. There will be a large meeting of Haitian progressive organizations in Port-au-Price from April 28th through May 1st and it will be important to see if they are allowed to meet and present there program to the interim government. “

“The NLG will continue to send delegations so that they can monitor the ability of true civil society to function, not just the rich and their organizations. The interim government cannot have any legitimacy if it appoints Cedras/junta people.”

Israel — a factual error and more

I made a factual error in a previous blog entry. I said that Israel had killed eight people in the Gaza raids. I apologize. In fact, Israel has killed 17 people, including a 4 year old and an 11 year old, in these raids.

On the topic, a minor note via News Insider relating to the ‘all are equal but some are more equal than others’, the US is taking steps to make it easier for Israelis (and no one else) born in ‘terrorist countries’ to get US visas. In other words, painting whole countries as ‘terrorist’ and discriminating against people born in them is okay — as long as these people are not Israelis.

Mordechai Vanunu, the Israeli who leaked information on Israel’s nuclear arsenal and then was kidnapped and imprisoned for 18 years, is now in hiding in a church, after the Israeli press leaked his address.

Last, and important after the assassinations of Yassin and Rantisi, Bush’s endorsement of the settlements, and the ongoing starvation and slaughter in Gaza, is that Sharon is again making noises about killing Arafat. The idea can only be to try to provoke a spectacular atrocity by Palestinians that can then be used for another reprise of ‘Defensive Shield’, another major atrocity like Jenin, or something facilitating the ethnic cleansing that is the ultimate goal of all this.

Coca Cola wrestles activist to the ground!

After the machine-gunning of a unionist’s family in Colombia (the union, SINALTRAINAL being one that is trying to negotiate with Coca Cola, and one that has seen quite a few of its unionists murdered by paramilitaries in the employ of Coca Cola’s bottlers over the past few years), some activists took things to the shareholder’s meeting yesterday. The full story below…

Coca-Cola faces down shareholder revolt and ejects protester

The Guardian David Teather in New York Thursday April 22, 2004

Coca-Cola yesterday faced down a shareholder rebellion at its annual meeting as well as protests from human rights activists which led to one being forcibly removed…

Reports from the annual meeting in Wilmington, Delaware, said shareholders looked stunned as security guards wrestled the human rights activist, Ray Rogers, to the ground. He had been shouting and swearing at Coke chairman and chief executive Douglas Daft. Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said the force used looked excessive.

Mr Rogers had been accusing Coke of violating human rights in Colombia. Legal filings in US courts have claimed that the company and its Colombian bottlers have hired rightwing death squads to intimidate unions at the plants. They claim nine union organisers have been killed in the past decade. Mr Daft said yesterday that the charges “are false and outrageous”.

Other protesters alleged that the company’s bottling plants in India are depleting water supplies in local communities and causing pollution with discharged materials…

full article here

Campaign to Stop Killer Coke – adds

Dear Campaign Supporters:

1. Yesterday, the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke successfully demonstrated at Coke’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Wilmington, Delaware. The protest generated extensive media coverage – a few samples are linked below. A highlight of the Washington Post article describes that Coke CEO Douglas Daft suppressed an independent investigation of the charges regarding Coke’s abuses in Colombia (if you do not get a “hot” link, copy and past the web addresses below):

Washington Post:

Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Atlanta Business Chronicle:

2. In addition, the following link will bring you to a radio piece produced by Workers Independent News Service. This requires an MP3 player and is best heard on a high-speed internet connection:

3. We have added several photos of the demonstration to our Protest Pics section.


Campaign to Stop Killer Coke
(212) 979-8320

Required Reading: Stan Goff

I just finished Stan Goff’s fantastic book on the previous US invasion of Haiti, ‘Hideous Dream’. It should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand:

1) US military policy, and how it plays out on the ground
2) US policy towards Haiti, in the recent past and today

For those who don’t know, Goff was a Special Forces Master Sargent, the head of a team of soldiers in Haiti. When he went, he believed that the mission was what was advertised: disarm the paramilitaries and the army, stop the atrocities, and help the democratically elected regime return. He discovered that the real mission was anything but, but he was spit out by the system for trying to do some decent things locally within the letter of the law. It is an amazing story, extremely revealing on levels that are very difficult to get anywhere else. There is no one as solid politically as Goff who understands the US military as well as Goff and can write about it and talk about it as well as him, as far as I have come across.

This is not to say that I agree with everything he’s said or everything he’s written — just that I read everything he writes, and I read it very carefully, and have learned a lot from each and every piece, and a tremendous amount from this book. Please pick it up. I’m moving on to his ‘Full Spectrum Disorder’ when I get the chance.

Because Israel killed in Gaza, they have killed in Gaza again

Just after they killed Sheikh Ahmed Yassin last month, Israel stepped up its efforts to starve the population of Gaza. This act could be deemed a kind of pre-emptive, mass reprisal, or preventive collective punishment. It is a truly innovative kind of murder and requires imagination to present and racism to swallow. Luckily for Israel, there’s plenty of both to go around.

Well, Israel has done it again. Yesterday they slaughtered 8 people in Gaza, including at least one 13-year old child, to try to prevent reprisal attacks for the killing of Abd-el-Aziz al-Rantisi (and two others who happened to be in his car).

Who needs a ‘cycle of violence’ when Israel can kill using previous killings as stand-alone justification?

Another (2) Coca-Cola Killing(s)

The CSN asks you to sign this petition on US Colombia Policy.

Speaking of the US and Colombia, a certain famous US corporation’s bottlers employ paramilitaries to kill unionists in Colombia. There was recently a hunger strike by unionists whose desperate action result in negotiations with Coca Cola. The reprisals against those unionists have officially begun, with the slaughter of a unionist’s family in their home by machine gunners today. Here is the full note, translated and circulated by the UK Colombia Solidarity Campaign.


At 7 am on April 20, 2004, various armed men with machine guns entered the home of the brother of Coca-Cola union leader Efrain Guerrero’s wife in Bucaramanga, and fired indiscriminately at the family, killing Efrain’s brother-in-law, Gabriel Remolina, his wife Fanny and wounding three of their children. One of these children, Robinson Remolina, is in grave condition in the hospital.

This is not the first time that the families of Sinaltrainal union leaders have been the victims of such violence. This happened in the context of the labor conflict against Coca Cola, where we are trying to avoid the firing of workers due to closing production lines. The union is also negotiating a new convention with the company which was presented in March of this year. On April 18, we held the workers’ assemblies where we approved the petitions that we would present to the Coca Cola bottlers in Bucaramanga, Cucuta and Barrancabermeja. We also just had a meeting with the Vice President of the Coca Cola bottlers where we expressed our concern for the security problems. In addition, the lawyers who filed the case against Coca-Cola in the United States, for acts of anti-union violence, just announced they had filed a new brief to reinstate Coca-Cola as a defendant.

We demand an end to the aggression against Sinaltrainal affiliates and our families, and we demand that the authorities investigate and find the material and intellectual authors of these crimes.

Enough already of so much injustice!




20th April, 2004

Guaitarilla, Colombia

Because I never even try to understand anything by myself, I asked one of my trusted Colombian friends to explain the events in Guaitarilla to me. My friend replied: “Guaitarilla? SURE!!!”

Here is my friend’s explanation, complete with an unsolicited and very nice comment. And this story ain’t over, either…

The news in Colombia, everywhere, all media had only one thing to talk about: Guaitarilla. Initially the story is that accidentally at dawn, an army patrol unexpectedly met with a GAULA police team (special forces) and confused them with FARC terrorists and shot them, killing all of them. The Police commander gave this very version on all media. 4 civilans were killed with the 7 policemen. According to this high officer, the 4 were either narcotraficantes or insurgents captured by the police. The army gave a different version and contradicted the police. According to army officers, the GAULA had nothing to do in that area, they did not inform the army about this and that lack of coordination led to the problem. The initial report from the attorney general’s office comes out and the forensic report shows that the victims were shot inside their vehicles, at short distance and that their bodies were moved out of the cars to make them look as though they had been shot outside!

In other words, they were massacred at point-blank range.

Then, a witness shows up, seeking protection. He is an active policeman from the same GAULA unit who was not on duty that day, but who “decided” to accompany the group’s rounds from his own vehicle and was keeping contact with them through his car radio. He was the brother of one of the civilians killed (allegedly criminals according to the National Police Comander).

His brother, he said, was not a criminal, neither were the other civilians, but paid informants of the more than 1 million that Uribe has called the “million friends”. [[NOTE from Justin: this is the network of civilian informers Uribe promised in his election]]

In fact, locals have informed that GAULA does regular rounds with support from informantes in the area because there are drug laboratories in the region. The rounds are to “vaccinate” (get money from, extort from) the drug processing operation. The army intercepted them knowing they had money (and cocaine, as this is better payment) and attempted to have these goods transfered to the soldiers from the Police. The witness said (it was everywhere in the news) that his brother called him to say, we are being stopped by an armed group, stay behind til I tell you what is happening. The next communication was, it’s OK, come over, it’s just army people. We are alright. The man says he was scared and decided no to come closer and then he heard the shots, round after round and ran away only to discover later that his brother and the entire group had been massacred.

This caused a scandal. Even fairly right wing columnists and liberals (Maria Jimena Duzan) commented on their editorials (El Tiempo) that the corruption within the armed forces had gone beyond the wildest nightmare. Everyone wanted the truth. Too many cases of accidents, massacres, confessions, corruption etc. This had to be clarified. The truth had to come out.

Uribe moved swiftly to promise a full report and resolution “punishing those responsible” within a week. The fact is the cover-up is evolving and now “evidence” will point at a “mistake”. A specific commander or two might be destituted for mis-communicating and end of story…..OR IS IT?

Nobody swallows the lies now. The army is irreparably discredited, not because they are corrupt assasins, crooks connected to drug trade and theft of all types, but mostly because they have done things in a way such that everyone knows the truth AND THAT IS UNACCEPTABLE. They have to learn to lie better, especially if they are to win the US’s dirty war and advance not only in controlling the whole country through a paramilitary regime lead by a paramilitary president, but because Colombia and the Colombian army of paras and soldiers and policemen are to lead (under the command of General Hill), the attack on Venezuela. So, a clean up is required so that private deals are not tolerated, institutional corruption is well administered and dirty war managed through official lies only.

THERE YOU HAVE IT. tHE FUTURE OF THIS CONTINENT IS BEING WRITTEN IN COLOMBIA AND FEW GIVE A DAMN ABOUT IT. ESTABLISHED LIES, A FASCIST DRUG RELATED PARAMILTARY-CORPORATE GOVERNMENT REGIME AND FULL GUIDANCE FROM us GOVERNMENT, SOUTHCOM AND STATE DEPT. Freedom or free trade through horror. Want a cut on the deal? Easy, write in favour of Uribe, Bush, Plan Colombia, the armed forces and against Venezuela and you are in!!! They need people desperately, especially since types like you keep telling the truth!!!

Some interviews with Chavez

Just reading some interviews with Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez, in various Latin American papers. Some quotes from a La Jornada interview are interesting about the conflict the US is trying to sow between Colombia and Venezuela:

On the Colombian Senate declaration against Venezuela:

-“The Colombian Senate is nothing but the firing of a sniper whose mission comes from Washington. I am absolutely sure… Such a stupid, senseless, incredible resolution can’t be explained any other way… a group of the most rancid and ultraconservative oligarchs of Colombia are following an order that came from Washington”

-” It shows the lack of reflection by the US government, which doesn’t understand the strength of this government and its genuine popular support, where the people are defending a peaceful revolution, despite all there remains to be done and all the projects that were foiled by the coup…”

He criticized the Latin American elites, calling them a “fifth column” for US plans. But he pointed out another fact:

“While the Colombian oligarchy attacks Venezuela’s dignity or tries to, here we are, for the first time, giving a just and dignified treatment to millions of Colombians who live in our country, no different from our own Venezuelans. There are 3 million Colombians who are receiving documentation, especally those who have been here over 5 years, fleeing war or narcotrafficking. These are the problems the oligarchy has sown over many years. But they are our brothers and we know that 80% of these Colombians are Bolivarians.”

-“Today Bush’s government is seeking authorization from Congress to put more troops in Colombia… on the border, there are armed groups doing incursions into our territory… kidnappings and assassinations of leaders… we have had to send two brigades, because it’s an extensive area. We are in a lot of danger: the Bush government is pushing the government of Venezuela and we don’t know where this will end…”

[From La Jornada, April 18, 2004]