Another murder against the unions in Colombia

Because the campaign against unionists and activists is so blatant and murderous in Colombia, these folks are often provided with bodyguards or allowed to have them. In the past, the Colombian government has tried to strip unionists of this protection, or replace trusted bodyguards with agents of the state or paramilitaries. A more obvious strategy is simply to use the paramilitaries to kill the trusted bodyguards, and that was the strategy taken against a SINTRAMETAL (metalworker’s union) bodyguard and his wife on June 22. Details below.

Policy of the extermination of trusted bodyguards of Union Leaders continues in the Cauca Valley, Colombia.


JUNE 23rd 2004.

The Trade Union of the Pacific Iron and Steel Company SINTRAMETAL YUMBO, The Association for Social Research and Action, NOMADESC and the participating organisations in the “National and International Campaign Against Privatisation, Corruption and the Criminalisation of Social Protest: FORBIDDEN TO FORGET” denounce before the National and International community the brutal assassinations of bodyguard HUGO FERNANDO CASTILLO SANCHEZ and his wife DIANA XIMENA ZUÑIGA. We appeal to that you demand of the Colombian Government that they put a stop to the violent attacks against bodyguards of trade union leaders and defenders of human rights in the Cauca Valley, Colombia.

The Acts:

1.. At 10:30pm on Tuesday the 22nd of June 2004, HUGO FERNANDO CASTILLO SANCHEZ, his wife DIANA XIMENA ZUÑIGA, their four year old son JUAN FERNANDO CASTILLO and five year old nice NICOL CASTILLO were waiting for food in their car outside the drive-thru restaurant “YOGUI” on the Calle 27 with Kr 31ª in the Jardin neighborhood. A grey Mazda 323 X car with blacked out windows pulled up and a black male got out and firing multiple shots at the couple in the car in front of the two children.

2.. HUGO FERNANDO CASTILLO SANCHEZ was a bodyguard assigned to the Home Office Special Protection Program for trade unionists and human rights defenders. He had been working for the program for the past three years as an agent of the Security Administration Department (DAS) and was assigned to The Trade Union of the Pacific Iron and Steel Company, SINTRAMETAL YUMBO.

3.. HUGO FERNANDO CASTILLO SANCHEZ received six 9mm calibre bullets to his body which killed him instantly. His wife, DIANA XIMENA ZUÑIGA reached hospital alive but died before it was possible to perform surgery.

4.. The couple assassinated, HUGO FERNANDO CASTILLO SANCHEZ of 26 years of age and DIANA XIMENA ZUÑIGA, of 22 years leave two children orphaned; 4 year old JUAN FERNANDO CASTILLO ZUÑIGA who witnessed his parents´murder and two and a half month old baby MELANY CASTILLO ZUÑIGA.

5.. This policy of extermination of bodyguards known and trusted by union leaders in the region occurs at the same time that high risk trade unionists have refused to accept unknown bodyguards assigned to them by the Security Administration Department (DAS). Many union leaders have preferred to go without security schemes provided by the government rather than accept bodyguards in whom they do not have total confidence. While some union leaders are currently protected by precautionary measures taken by the OEA this brutal unofficial response to the refusal to accept assigned guards leaves high risk trade unionists effectively unprotected.


1.. On the 14th of April, 2004, the attempted assassination of SINTRAMETAL leader EDGAR PEREA ZUÑIGA resulted in the death of his brother RAÚL PEREA ZÚÑIGA.

2.. On the 15th of April, 2004, SINTRAEMSIRVA leader, CARLOS ALBERTO CHICAIZA was assassinated.

3.. On the 1st of May, 2004 twenty demonstrators were injured by police on the peaceful May Day March in Cali, Colombia.

4.. On the 2nd of May, 2004 JESÚS ALEXANDER HERMANDEZ, bodyguard assigned to the special protection programme for union leaders and human rights defenders and community leader in the San Luis Neighborhood was killed in an assassination attempt against SINTRAMENTAL leader EDGAR PEREA ZUÑIGA.

We urgently Demand:

a.. A thorough and exhaustive investigation into to bring to justice the material and intellectual authors of the assassination of HUGO FERNANDO CASTILLO SANCHEZ and DIANA XIMENA ZUÑIGA.

a.. The immediate provision of the necessary and sufficient mechanisms of protection to guarantee the safety of the bodyguards of the Home office Protection Programme for Union Leaders and Human Rights Defenders.

· That the Colombian Government explains the reasons for the ongoing and systematic persecution of union leaders and their bodyguards in the Cauca Valley, Colombia.

· That the Colombian Government provide sufficient and necessary guarantees for the respect of constitutional human rights to life, security, freedom of opinion, information, assembly, protest and the right to form trade unions.

Asociación Para la Investigación y Acción Social


Sindicato de Trabajadores de Las Empresas Municipales de Cali

Sindicato De Los Trabajadores Universitarios De Colombia


La Unión Sindical Obrera

Asociación para el Desarrollo Social Integral


Central Unitaria De Los Trabajadores
Sindicato de Trabajadores de la Minería en Colombia

Movimiento Estudiantil del Valle del Cauca y Nariño

Corporación Servicios Profesionales Comunitarios


Fundación Comité De Solidaridad Con Presos Políticos Seccional Valle del Cauca

Sintramunicipio Bugalagrande

Sintramunicipio Yumbo

Sintramunicipio Dagua
Sintrametal Yumbo

Organizaciones Barriales Juveniles Artísticas y

Populares de Santiago de Cali

Sudan’s crisis

Reading the Toronto Star for the Fear and Loathing Report I came across an article on Sudan, which continues to get worse., as the war leads to humanitarian crisis, as inevitably occurs. Most of the people who die in wars — I realize this is repeated over and over — don’t die from bullets or bombs, but from starvation and disease due to the collapse of infrastructures. The pattern of war in Sudan seems to me to be one drawn from paramilitary strategies around the world: the government backs militias to massacre and displace the civilian population to try to destroy an insurgency — or, simply, to use the insurgency as a pretext for displacing the people and promote a kind of ‘development without people’: sometimes the displacement is the point. That’s a common thread in Colombia: the saying goes, in Colombia it isn’t that there is displacement because of war. There is war so there can be displacement.


More than 100 people killed in attacks in Iraq today. In the usual pattern in these filthy colonial wars, civilians were the bulk of those killed. The war of beheadings has continued in its grotesque fashion as well. You’ve heard of the South Korean who was beheaded. The Taliban and the US allies are apparently beheading one another in Afghanistan.

Patrick Cockburn published an article on Iraq, I assume originally in Counterpunch, but republished on ZNet. He speculated on the nature of Iraq after June 30.

Discussing Iyed Allawi, Iraq’s new PM’s strategy to restore order, Cockburn says Allawi “wants to rebuild an Iraqi army and security force by persuading senior officers from Saddam Hussein’s army to reconstitute their units. He says he will centralise control of the armed forces so they are no longer auxiliaries for the US army, and direct them against the insurgents. “

But I had always assumed, without much to confirm it, that much of the insurgency, particularly in the early days, was precisely reconstituted units of the army. Directing these against themselves is likely to be a difficult proposition indeed. I could be wrong on this.

Rahul blogged about today’s violence arguing that it is very dangerous for Iraq right now. Not sure if I agree, but worth reading. Also very much worth reading is Dilip Hiro’s analysis of the June 30th business.

Fear, Loathing, and some hilarious news from Canada

First, on the election. Sorry I missed a few days. It is a combination of several things. First, boredom. Despite being a ‘nail biting’, ‘tight race’, when the candidates and the media agree on so much it is hard to keep motivated for daily commentary. Second, my own fear and loathing have been getting the better of me and making me want to just forget about it all. But, here we are and I owe you a report. So, here goes.

Paul Martin said that he won’t try to form a coalition with the NDP if he gets less seats than the Conservatives, ruling out that great hope that many left-liberals held, and bringing things that much closer to my own projected scenario, a Conservative-Liberal coalition government. It is actually going to happen folks, and it is going to be ugly.

I suspect that the husband of Canada’s governor-general Adrienne Clarkson, John Ralston Saul, would find this to be an example of the genius of the Canadian people. When the Quebec referendum of 1995 happened, and the Quebec population voted 51%-49% to stay in Canada, most federalists were really scared by how close it came. Ralston Saul said no, it should have been even closer — the electorate did the exact thing needed to humiliate both sides. Maybe an optimistic gloss on the high apathy plus the statistical tie between the Liberals and Conservatives is a similar message. Now if only we had a way of humiliating them without punishing ourselves…

So here’s the hilarious news. The Canadian government has finally disclosed a report on the Maher Arar case (Arar, a Canadian citizen of Syrian origin, was deported to Syria by the US thanks to Canadian intelligence, tortured for ten months before managing to return to Canada). The report consists of 89 fully blacked out pages. Thanks a lot, Canada!

In news that won’t be distressing to a lot of people in Toronto, it seems our good police chief Julian Fantino will not be continuing in his post, from which he served and protected the city’s most vulnerable so effectively, after March. So long chief, and it couldn’t have happened to a better guy.

Shocking news: Haitians to be excluded from Haiti’s economic development!

Some of the details of the plan for Haiti are starting to emerge, as a meeting of various global bureaucrats and the government have made some decisions. The World Bank was front and centre.

Grassroots International, whose Haitian counterparts effectively endorsed the coup as well, has published a communique from those Haitian organizations denouncing the new economic plans as disguised colonialism. Below is an article from the Inter-Press service quoting some of the civil society groups whose voices were broadcasted loud and clear when they were attacking Aristide during and after the coup, but who now have been discarded because they don’t endorse the intensification of the economic plunder of Haiti that the coup has brought.

Since the exclusion of Haitians, their lives, their democratic will, and their aspirations, was the whole point of the coup in the first place, this economic plan and the dumping of anyone with progressive ideas from governance is just a continuation and consolidation of the coup.

By Jane Regan
1,310 words
22 June 2004
Inter Press Service
(c) 2004 Global Information Network

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Jun. 21, 2004 (IPS/GIN) — Haiti has a new development plan aimed at pulling the country out of its age-old economic, social and political morass with new roads and schools, policy changes and millions upon millions of donor dollars.

The only problem, critics say, is that it was written behind closed doors, follows a neo-liberal economic recipe and is little more than “disguised colonialism” because of the large role played by international institutions like the World Bank.

The Cadre de Cooperation International (CCI) or Interim Cooperation Framework, a draft summary of which was released earlier this month, has a generally neo-liberal economic orientation that calls for more free trade zones (FTZs), stresses tourism and export agriculture, and hints at the eventual privatisation of the country’s state enterprises.

But it also promises broad social and economic interventions, including the immediate repair or building of hundreds of kilometres of roads, the promotion of alternative energy sources and a radical improvement of the education system.

The CCI — which represents the first time that donors and lenders have sat down with one another and the government to coordinate efforts in this overwhelmingly aid-dependent country — will be used to orient the aid “pledging conference” scheduled for July 19-20 in Washington, DC.

Donors and lenders like the World Bank and the European Union are expected to make financial commitments to Haiti during those two days.

The plan was developed over the past six weeks by about 300 mostly foreign technicians and consultants, some 200 from institutions like the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank, and the rest mainly government cadres.

Thus, a two-year social and economic plan for a country of eight million has been drawn up by people nobody elected.

Haitian Prime Minister Gerard Latortue and his ministers were hand-picked last March to run the country by an eight-person “Council of Eminent Persons” who had backing from the United States, France and the United Nations Security Council.

Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide allegedly resigned Feb. 29 following more than a year of protests and after an armed group took over half of the country’s police stations and marched on the capital.

The ex-president — now in exile in South Africa — continues to claim he was overthrown in a “coup d’etat” by the U.S. Haiti’s fellow members in the Caribbean Community have refused to recognise the new administration and continue to insist on a probe into what exactly happened the night Aristide was flown from his country in an American jet.

And the CCI will be carried out in a country where a U.N. peacekeeping mission of what will eventually be over 8,000 soldiers and police is in place. The Brazilian-led force is charged with providing security and stability so that elections and development projects can be carried out.

A three-page statement by critics of the program last week said the CCI plan “reinforces the structures and forms of [foreign] domination” of Haiti.

Almost no one from the country’s large and experienced national non-governmental organisation (NGO) community, the local and national peasant associations, unions, women’s groups or the hundreds of producers’ cooperatives or numerous other associations was invited to participate in the CCI’s 10 working groups.

And while the CCI documents have been available on-line for several weeks, only a tiny number of Haitians have access to the Internet. Further, the papers are written in English or French, a language that only 5-10 percent of Haitians speak and read. Most people here speak only Creole.

Even the seven-person Council of Eminent Persons, meant to serve as a kind for counter-balance for Latortue, was not aware of or invited to participate in the process.

“They didn’t ask us,” Anne-Marie Issa, one of seven “eminent people” and the director of Radio Signal FM, told IPS. “We only heard about it like everybody else, in the press after it was all over.”

On June 11, some 60 representatives of more than three-dozen organisations and NGOs met at a religious retreat to learn about the CCI and to launch a counter-offensive. The room was full of anger, according to Joseph Georges, director of the Society for the Animation of Social Communication (SAKS), an NGO that works with community radio stations.

“We thought we were finished with the habit of exclusion,” he told IPS, referring to Haiti’s previous governments, including the recent Aristide administration.

“The document is completely lacking in any kind of nationalist vision. It calls for privatisation, for development only for tourism areas. And it was drawn up by ‘experts’, most of them from overseas. You can’t plan the country’s development without including the peasants,” Georges said.

Among those organisations not invited to the table are groups like the National Association of Haitian Agronomists (ANDAH), the Haitian Platform for an Alternative Development (PAPDA), the Papaye and the Tet Kole peasant movements and women’s associations, he added.

Georges was among the signatories of the three-page document denouncing the CCI as “disguised colonialism” developed without “any concern for transparency,” which “took place in a context of a growing loss of sovereignty.”

“The CCI is on the way to becoming the provisional government’s program,” the groups said. “But so far, except for the ministries of agriculture and health, the Boniface Alexandre-Latortue government has not told the nation what its overall policy orientation will be for what remains of its 18-month mandate. This information deficit is all the more worrying since it is occurring while there is no sitting parliament.”

Government officials reject the criticisms.

Minister of Economy and Finances Henri Bazin told IPS critics are misreading the CCI if they say it calls for privatisation.

A summary of the CCI released in early June calls for audits, training for directors and “the engagement of private management of certain public enterprises,” but not privatisation, he said. Bazin said he was “overall very satisfied” with the plan’s orientation.

Minister of Planning Roland Pierre, who helped coordinate the CCI, also rejected the criticism, and described it as “a Haiti-led effort”.

“Ministry employees who have worked for the government 10 or 20 years oriented the CCI,” he said in an interview.

The economic orientation of the CCI is not much different from the broad economic lines followed by the governments of Aristide and Rene Preval. Aristide, Haiti’s first democratically chosen ruler, was president from 1991-1995, although that term was interrupted by a three-year coup, and from 2000 until his recent resignation. Preval, his former prime minister, ruled from 1995 to 2000.

Both administrations pursued neo-liberal – or unfettered free-enterprise – economic policies. In the mid-nineties, Aristide and Preval began the process of privatising state enterprises with the sale of the country’s flour mill and cement plant, and Aristide lowered tariffs on imported agricultural goods to zero or near-zero. During his second term, Aristide vowed to open 14 FTZs around the country.

Still, it is also clear the CCI planning process excluded most sectors, although Pierre told IPS he and other planners gave groups ample time to make their criticisms known.

“The documents are available at various ministries,” noted the minister, adding that at meetings he attended, he heard little criticism, nor has anyone offered alternative ideas.

But consultative meetings took place in late May or June, after the bulk of the CCI documents were written, and the ones in the countryside were very poorly attended, according to Georges. Groups like SAKS and ANDAH have not yet been invited to give their opinions, he added, and are working on an alternative proposal.

McNamara: Another war criminal who will not go to jail

I am often several months behind the curve. For example, I watched “The Fog of War” on video just last night, despite its release half a year ago. I watched it because several friends who I respect told me it was very revealing (I will be skeptical of their judgement from now on). It is Robert McNamara, US Secretary of Defense during the Vietnam War, talking to the camera, interspersed with a little footage here and there.

McNamara looks into the camera and lies. Or maybe he didn’t know: most are lies of omission. But he lies about the Tonkin Gulf resolution; he lies about the US terrorism against Cuba. He presents false dichotomies: did ‘we’ have to firebomb Japanese cities and kill hundreds of thousands? He says, the alternative was having our troops invade Japan and die in the hundreds of thousands. Oh really? Did anyone look into the possibility of not invading Japan? He says, I can’t remember if I ordered the use of Agent Orange. Certainly it was used when I was secretary of defense. We don’t have any laws against the uses of particular chemicals. I certainly wouldn’t have ordered the use of anything illegal.

Basically, the movie was filthy lies and apologetics for the genocidal campaign against the Vietnamese. He actually went to Vietnam and berated the Vietnamese, asking them: “Was it worth it, making us kill 3.4 million of you?” As if it was the Vietnamese who chose to be slaughtered. He presents Castro as if he was insane because of his behaviour during the Cuban missile crisis, as if McNamara himself and Kennedy were not the aggressors. He forgets the missiles in Turkey pointed at the USSR that made the USSR want to answer with missiles in Cuba.

If the Nazis had won world war II, if one of the Nazis in the bureaucracy at the time had sat down 40 years later with a sympathetic director and talked about all the close shaves that he had lived through in his life, you would have something like this film. I wouldn’t recommend it. Neither do the various leftists who reviewed it at the time, like Alex Cockburn.

Israel/Palestine Roundup

First, I was alerted to an interesting piece by Uri Avnery by Samer Elatrash who wrote a similar piece. Both pieces treat the myth of the ‘generous offer’ that Israel gave the Palestinians. I find Tanya Reinhart’s book, Israel/Palestine, to be the best antidote to this myth, but the new pieces treat an admission by a senior Israeli official to the same effect.

A friend in Nablus who did some blogging a few months back sent some Ha’aretz articles of interest around as well. One discusses opposition in Palestinian militant groups to the plan to have Egypt take over the occupation of Gaza. Another is a ‘field guide to the new right’ in Israel.

As scary as it is to read about the right, sometimes it’s scarier to hear about the public. The last article was about public opinion in Israel, where 64% of the Jewish public supports encouraging Israeli Arabs to leave; 55% of whom believe Israeli Arabs endanger national security, 45% of whom want to revoke Arabs’ right to vote or hold political office, 72% of whom support entry restrictions on foreign workers, and about a quarter of whom would support an ultra-right wing nationalist party in elections.

If this is the state of public opinion in Israel, Palestinians might start to feel like there is no partner for peace.

My friend Tarek

The young fellow and I have completely different approaches to almost everything — some might say, charitably, that they are complementary approaches. But the truth is we have a lot in common as well. And I have a lot of respect for him, which is why I’ve been helping him out in whatever small ways I’ve been able to — mostly with (what I think is reasonable) advice which he may or may not take. Perhaps because our approaches are so different I didn’t think to promote his reports here, in spite of the fact that I am working with him on his project. But an email from a mutual friend convinced me otherwise. For the rest, I will let him speak with his own words.

My friend Tarek Loubani is in Iraq right now. This is his blog. Take a look.