Colombia Solidarity Campaign

- Fighting for Peace with Justice -

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Issue10 - April - June 2003

Colombia Solidarity No 10

April–June 2003



Arauca ? Laboratory of War

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Activists and trade unionists from around the world responded to the CUT’s call for international solidarity with the Colombian Oil Workers Union USO. Despite a campaign to undermine support for USO, delegates from five countries visited Arauca, as part of February’s solidarity mission.

Arauca is one of Colombia’s two foremost oil producing regions. Last September it was declared a “zone of consolidation and rehabilitation,” bringing the department under direct military rule. Recent articles in the mainstream Colombian media have reported Arauca’s “recapture” by the forces of the state. The Interior Minister himself has labelled Arauca as the “Laboratory of War”, and the national press are full of praise for the actions that they say have returned peace and stability to this troubled area, and liberated its residents from the grip of the guerrilla. We discovered a very different reality.

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Wake Up Call!

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Bogotá, Wednesday 4th February

Listeners to CARACOL radio station got a wake up call this morning. Carlos Castaño, the leader of the paramilitary Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia AUC, had a 47 minute interview on the main breakfast show. Castaño’s main message is that opposition to Uribe’s referendum project is subversive and hence the leaders of the abstention campaign are targets that have to be eliminated. Castaño added that he has no problems with the armed forces. Evidently Uribe’s government and the interests it represents have little problem with Castaño. He has been granted immunity from prosecution.

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CUT's Campaigning Priorities

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The CUT’s National Committee of 30th-31st January decided on its campaigns for 2003.

First and foremost the CUT will be fully involved in the Campaign for an Active Abstention against Uribe’s referendum, due to take place in May or August. Uribe has presented his 18 question referendum as a popular consultation on political reform. Certainly, everyone knows that official politics are highly corrupt but the CUT sees this as a pretext. The real issue is fiscal reform, not political reform. Cutting the state deficit, through raising taxes while drastically cutting expenditure, is what Uribe has agreed with the IMF as the condition for it extending a standby loan facility. But the cause for the state deficit is the ballooning public debt crisis. According to CUT President Carlos Rodriguez Colombia is paying out 50% of its revenues to service the domestic and foreign debt.

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Barrancabermeja

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Unions and Social Movement Under Siege

We arrived in Barranca (as the locals call it) on 5th February. The first thing you notice is the heat. The second thing is how many soldiers are in the airport - this is in addition to airport security. And what you have to know about Barranca is that the city and surrounding area are in the hands of the AUC paramilitaries (paras).

We came to offer our solidarity to USO, the OilWorkers’ Union and other social organisations, and to see how they manage to operate under such difficult conditions. We had to move about in a convoy of four vehicles for our own protection .

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"Hour Zero" for Colombian Oil Workers

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A general meeting of Colombian oil workers union USO meeting in Barrancabermeja decided yesterday, 26 March, to go on strike.

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London Mining Network

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The London Mining Network (LMN) is an alliance of human rights, development and environmental groups. We pledge to expose the role of companies, funders and government in the promotion of unacceptable mining projects.