FAO: Robert Capurro, CEO Canning House
Professor Linda Newson, Director of the Institute of Latin American Studies
Dear Linda and Robert,
Re: Canning House and ILAS’s invitation to Alvaro Uribe Velez
We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, are writing to express our deep dismay at the invitation which Canning House and the Institute of Latin American Studies have extended to ex- Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez to speak at Senate House, and to urge you to cancel the event. We believe that by giving a platform to Mr Uribe your institutions will compromise their moral integrity, as well as offend many Colombians who were direct and indirect victims of the repressive policies of Alvaro Uribe’s presidency. We believe that Uribe’s responsibility for crimes against humanity means that he is deserving of moral censure, and thus urge you to rescind his invitation.
Alvaro Uribe is currently under investigation in Colombia for sponsoring paramilitary death squads. Just last week he was called to appear before a parliamentary commission to be questioned about these accusations, but didn’t appear using the excuse that he would be out of the country speaking at conferences.
Throughout his political career Uribe has been repeatedly linked to paramilitary groups.
According to the internationally renowned Colombian human rights defender Father Javier Giraldo, Alvaro Uribe ‘orchestrated the coordination between the Army and the paramilitary groups that resulted in 14,000 extrajudicial executions during his term of office. The strategies which he developed to ensure impunity for those who…committed crimes against humanity will go down in history for their brazenness.’
These extrajudicial executions include around 3000 ‘false positives’, cases in which civilians (mainly rural peasants) were murdered by the Colombian army then dressed in military fatigues and presented as guerrillas fallen in combat. A preliminary report released in November by the International Criminal Court raised the prospect of Uribe being tried for his responsibility in the ‘false positives’ scandal by finding reasonable basis to believe that killings were part of Uribe’s government policy.
During Uribe’s time in office, state security services coordinated the systematic political
persecution, harassment assassination of anyone deemed to be an opponent of the
government: trade unionists, human rights defenders, community leaders, students,
academics, indigenous and Afro-descendent leaders. The state security agency directly
under his control (the Department of Administrative Security) was also used to spy on
Supreme Court magistrates and opposition politicians.
Whilst President, Uribe also made regular public declarations which sought to stigmatise
human rights defenders and even human rights victims. After the massacre of eight
members of the San Jose de Apartado Peace Community, including three children aged
eighteen months, six and eleven, by paramilitaries working with the Colombian army,
Uribe’s response was to attempt to justify the massacre in the following terms: “in the peace community there are good people, but some of their leaders…are auxiliaries of the FARC”.
The Uribe administration also included the ‘parapolitica’ scandal in which over one third of Colombia’s members of congress elected in 2006 ended up behind bars for their links to paramilitary groups. All represented parties belonging to Uribe’s government coalition.
The sponsorship of this event by an institute of higher education is particularly
inappropriate. In the mid-1990s, whilst Uribe was governor of Antioquia, 99 educators were assassinated. Educators continued to be a major target for assassination throughout his presidency.
Even more inappropriate is the topic of Alvaro Uribe’s talk, ‘What price peace in Colombia’. Alvaro Uribe used his eight years in office to make war and sow terror across the whole of Colombia. The decision to invite Uribe to talk by such prestigious institutions is troubling since it offers him undeserved of moral legitimacy at a time when his eventual incarceration for serious crimes against the Colombian people looks increasingly likely.
We hope that as serious, sensible representatives of highly respected institutions you will reconsider and cancel the invitation.
Central American Women’s Network
Colombia Solidarity Campaign
Mesa Permanente por la Paz – Londres
London México Solidarity Group
Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB)
Hands Off Venezuela
Pan Afrikan Reparations Coalition of Europe
War on Want
UNISON North West
World Development Movement
The Colombian Caravana UK Lawyer’s Group
Global Justice Forum;
Plus 19 academics and 53 individuals