Colombia�s armed forces have fine-tuned their repression in order to avoid international criticism. Grotesquely, vice-president Santos boasts of an improvement in the human rights situation with only (!) 60 trade unionists assassinated last year compared to 184 in 2002.
We have many objections to the government seeking credit for this: there is still complete impunity for the assassins and the government is making it more difficult for trade unionist to protect themselves. Trade unionists� lives are being targeted in other ways – their families are being attacked with more forced displacements, they are being raided more often by state forces with more detentions.
Meantime the elimination of activists in other less visible sectors has increased dramatically, 139 indigenous people were assassinated in the first eleven months of 2003. Are these assassinations not just as scandalous as the murder of trade unionists?
Lastly, what is the mechanism of government action translating into fewer assassinations, if not the obvious one that the government has passed an order on to the death squads under its control?
The reality is that bolstered by the new Anti-Terrorism Statute Uribe�s regime is becoming ever more repressive. Uribe cannot brook democratic dissent, there is always menace threatening the life of opponents. This is a measure of the bravery of those who speak out. The latest example is Congressman Alexander Lopez, who dared to lay charges against Uribe for his role in the illegal liquidation of the Telecom state corporation, and who now (coincidentally?) has a contract out on his life.