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FARC-EP News from Habana Cuba 04 2015

US Soldiers and Contractors Sexually Abused at Least 54 Children in Colombia Between 2003 and 2007

 

Written by Greg Grandin, taken from The Nation

 

When Colombian men rape Colombian women, it is news. When US soldiers and private defense contractors are the rapists, not so much.

 

Last week, FAIR noticed that not one major media organization in the United States has covered the charge, reported in Colombia (and online in English by the invaluable Medellín-based Colombia Reports), “that US military soldiers and contractors had sexually abused at least fifty-four children in Colombia between 2003 and 2007 and, in all cases, the rapists were never punished–either in Colombia or stateside–due to American military personnel being immune from prosecution under diplomatic immunity agreements between the two countries.” Nor, as far as I can tell, have any of the State Department’s allied human rights groups made mention of the allegations.

 

The media silence goes hand in hand with the official immunity granted not just to US diplomats, but soldiers and employees of shadowy private security firms hired by Washington to carry out much of Plan Colombia. One of the rapes occurred in 2007 and was reported in the Colombian press. It was allegedly committed by Army sergeant Michael J. Coen and an employee of a private security contractor, César Ruiz. The victim was a 12-year-old girl. “They abducted her, they drugged her, they took her to the air base near the town of Melgar and raped her, they took videos of her,” the victim’s mother told reporters. Then they drove her into town and pushed her out of their car in front of a church. The crime was well covered in Colombia, but a search of Proquest news turned up only one item in English the United States, a translation of a piece that was part of reporting in Spanish published by the Nuevo Herald (affiliated with the Miami Herald) by Gonzalo Guillén and Gerardo Reyes:

 

The U.S. government has made little effort to investigate a U.S. army sergeant and a Mexican civil contractor implicated in Colombia in the rape of a 12-year-old girl in August 2007, according to an El Nuevo Herald investigation.

 

The suspects, Sgt. Michael Coen and contractor Cesar Ruiz, were taken out of Colombia under diplomatic immunity, and do not face criminal charges in the United States in the rape in a room at Colombia’s German Olano Air Force Base in Melgar, 62 miles west of Bogota.

 

Colombian prosecutors issued arrest warrants. But they were “not executed because of the immunity of Coen and Ruiz.” Under a series of treaties dating back to 1962, members of the US military stationed in Colombia are immune from prosecution. That immunity has since been extended to private security firms, which have been implicated in a series of crimes in Colombia related to drug- running, money laundering and rape.

 

Guillén and Reyes write that the US military made no effort to interview key witnesses, including the victim. A representative of the US Army did show up at the victim’s hometown of Melgar to question the victim’s mother, Olga Lucia Castillo, about the “life and customs” of her daughter: “In an interview with El Nuevo Herald, Castillo said a man who introduced himself as Jhon Ramirez, US Army criminal investigator, interrogated her at a police station in downtown Bogota. The interview was blunt, Castillo said, with Ramirez armed with a gun during the interrogation.”

 

“He seemed more interested in having me sign a release exonerating (Coen and Ruiz),” Castillo said, “than learning what happened with my daughter.”

 

Here, in Spanish, Guillén and Reyes provide a detailed description of the assault, based on an interview they did with the mother. After the crime, the victim tried to commit suicide, and the family had to flee Melgar, joining the millions of others of Colombia’s internally displaced peoples (Colombia is second only to Syria in numbers of internal refugees).

 

This case is back in the news in Colombia because it was included in a report issued by the Comisión Histórica del Conflicto y sus Víctimas—a commission established to write an overview history of Colombia’s armed conflict. The commission (whose 804-page report can be found here) is a sort of watered-down version of a truth commission, established in a 2014 accord signed by the Colombian government and FARC guerrillas as part of peace talks aimed at ending the country’s half-century-long civil war. It was quickly put together, meant mostly to allow all sides in the conflict to present their interpretation of the conflict’s origins.

 

The chapter titled “sexual imperialism” (part of a larger section on the role of the United States in supporting state terrorism, written by Renán Vega, a Colombian historian based at the Universidad Pedagógica Nacional de Bogotá) recounts another serious sexual assault that, like the rape described above, was covered by the Colombian press, both in print and on TV, but ignored in the United States: in 2004, “53 underage girls were sexually abused by mercenaries, who filmed and sold the tapes as pornographic material.” According to one news story, the scenes on the tapes were “hard, crude, and violent.” The case was taken up by the Colombian human-rights organization, “Corporación Colectivo de Abogados ‘José Alvear Restrepo.’” But immunity held. The victims of this crime likewise were forced to flee their homes. At least one committed suicide.

The Comisión Histórica doesn’t name the private security firm involved. The Colombian press, however, identifies DynCorp, a Virginia-based contractor. Dyncorp is only slightly less infamous than Blackwater, having been involved in numerous international outrages, including, as David Isenberg, author of Shadow Force: Private Security Forces in Iraq, writes, “a sex slavery scandal in Bosnia in 1999, with its employees accused of rape and the buying and selling of girls as young as 12.”

 

 

FARC-EP says goodbye to Eduardo Galeano

 

The FARC-EP expressed today its feelings of regret because of the death of the revolutionary writer and intellectual Eduardo Galeano.

 

On the website of the Peace Delegation in Spanish, they published a communique entitled Thank you Eduardo, for everything, signed by the National Secretariat, the FARC’s highest 9-member leadership.

 

“Nobody on our continent who has read “The Open Veins of Latin America” could continue living in peace without doing in some way something for the demands of the indigenous people, the black people and the impoverished masses of this so-called New World”, states the communique.

 

The FARC-EP highly appreciates Galeano’s wisdom, reflected in his books:

“It was enough to read some pages of his uncountable books, or pay attention to the wise logic of his words, full of irony, to understand on which side stood his brilliant intelligence”.

 

The FARC-EP further states that his political stance against big landowners, landlords, bankers, governors, politicians, empires, priests never led him to predicate hatred against anyone. His commitment with the cause of the peasants, the workers, the invisible masses, according to the insurgency, is exemplary.

 

And the communique finally reads:
“Thank you Eduardo for thinking like that, for helping us this way, for keeping alive in this manner the hope of the human species”.

 

 

Let’s keep our heads cool: FARC-EP

 

The Peace Delegation of the FARC-EP published a communique about the military operations in Cauca; this is the complete communique:

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Havana, Cuba, site of the peace talks, April 15, 2015

 

The FARC-EP deeply deplores the consequences of the ongoing offensive by government troops against our units in unilateral truce.

 

As a result of the military siege of the army, the FARC’s legitimate reaction resulted in the death of 10 soldiers and injured 18 in the municipality of Buenos Aires, Cauca.

 

Public statements by high officials make clear that the events occurred in the context of intense counter-guerrilla operations on the ground that are increasing ever since the start of the ceasefire.

 

We have strongly denounced the premeditated attacks carried out by the Public Force, causing casualties among our ranks and putting at risk the process of de-escalation of the conflict, which has been started in order to decrease the impact of war on the population.

 

We remain convinced that while developing peace talks, it is absurd to continue sacrificing lives on both sides. We regret the loss of lives caused by the conflict, causing the mourning of Colombian families. It is increasingly clear that it is urgent to reach the signing of a bilateral cease-fire, which will create a better environment to advance towards the signing of a final agreement.

 

We unequivocally state that, as is evident, from Havana the FARC-EP are not commanding any military operations; all members of our Peace Delegation are working on the progress of the talks. We know how painful this situation is for the Army because we, too have suffered the loss of comandantes and fighters since December 20. We strongly call upon the Government to keep its head cool and not take ill-considered measures that could jeopardize the progress of the Dialogues and the maintenance of the unilateral ceasefire.

 

We believe both parties must proceed to lower the tension in the whole country and in the Cauca region in particular. Accordingly, we request the immediate launching of mechanisms of verification and distension of the situation of military confrontation in the area where these unfortunate events have occurred.

 

We make an explicit call to the Broad Front for Peace (Frente Amplio por la Paz), the guarantor and accompanying countries of the Dialogues – Norway, Cuba, Venezuela, Chile, the ICRC and UNASUR, to sent as soon as possible a mission to Buenos Aires, Cauca, to verify what happened and prepare a report with recommendations to prevent a recurrence of such events.

 

Peace Delegation of the FARC-EP

 

 

 

The New Power in Colombian regions

Written by: Isabela Sanroque

 

In a lot of rural regions of Colombia, the State doesn’t exist. Its presence has been limited to army patrols, which far from representing justice are dedicated to the repression of the civilian population with their military operations.

 

The lack of interest of those in power to solve the needs of the peasantry, has resulted in backwardness and stagnation in the economic, social and political development of our rural areas.

 

The FARC-EP has been present in these areas for more than 50 years. The fact that our organization is recognized by the population as the true authority is because we were born out of the governmental injustice. The coexistence with FARC-EP combatants and the fact of observing firsthand the sacrifices that are involved with living in the jungle, makes them appreciate our dedication to the cause of the poor and makes them identify with us in the need to fight for improving their living conditions.

 

In these regions, the communities are organized in Community Action Boards (Juntas de Acción Comunal), committees or working groups, which are the expression of a collective effort. Among peasants, they design plans for the benefit of the community, assign tasks and organize teams. For our part, we totally respect those organizations, their autonomy and their leadership, limiting ourselves to address their requests.

 

We understand that most of the Colombian peasants are semi-illiterate, which is why we advise them on technical and management issues and we exercise control when required. For example, to build a bridge, we might help to design it, and as we don’t have the resources to invest, we simply advice to appoint the inhabitants with the best behavior as treasurers of the community budget, in order to ensure a proper management of the money.

 

In many of these territories people displace themselves on foot or by mule, on trails and rough roads that serve as a supply route. Many of the existing roads have been built by the farmers with their own resources; each family makes a contribution for that, according to their ability. Schools are repaired and sustained by parents.

 

The guerrilla accompanies these processes, always instilling collective, community and solidarity work, and according to the military conditions, the guerrillas help with the physical labor. This help and contribution is supremely valued by civilians, who understand that our support is very different from the so-called “civil-military campaigns” carried out by the army, which usually intend to obtain intelligence about possible “guerrilla collaborators”.

 

Another aspect of our interaction with the people is the agrarian work; we recommend people to grow food in order to be able to counter economic blockades by the army, which deprive families to stock up food with the excuse of not allowing the guerrillas to obtain food. In this regard, the guerrillas with the communities grow crops together, collect the products together and consume what the land produces.

 

A very important criterion in these areas is to defend and protect the environment. In order to do so, a committee is appointed with the task of monitoring the commitment not to cut trees in a disproportionate way, not to contaminate water, to promote recycling, etc. Whenever possible, the guerrillas join the work of garbage collection or tree planting, explaining to the people that it is necessary to change the capitalist mentality that finishes off with all natural resources.

 

In these territories, most people associate the words courts and judges with the warrants they have and the persecution they face because of being “guerrilla collaborators”; in order to resolve differences between neighbors or villages, the communities create ‘bodies of reconciliation’, a kind of judges elected by the community according to their ethics and responsibility. When the problems get very serious, the guerrilla movement mediates these situations, accompanying those judges, hearing both parties and seeking the best solution.

 

The public health system in these regions is reduced to very basic medication (pills for headaches), which are prescribed for all diseases, even the most serious. There are no hospitals, less specialists. In the ranks of the FARC-EP we have educated combatants who have become doctors, to care for the needs of the guerrillas; but they also provide service to the communities. Thus, in campaigns of medical and dental health care, our doctors go to the villages and attend the health problems of the inhabitants. We have saved thousands of lives through emergency and preventive treatment.

 

These are just some elements of our daily relationship with the people in areas where we are present and which have allowed us to build confidence with the people and being recognized as an authority in the regions.

 

 

FARC considers death of compatriots in Cauca regrettable

 

The country is awaiting the news of a bilateral cease-fire, Mr. President

Comandante Pastor Alape took the floor today, April 15, to answer questions from the press present at the entrance of the International Congress Center, after launching the question: “Who killed the representative to the Congress by the Patriotic Union Leonardo Posada?” The insurgency referred to the need to declassify secret files of the State in order to clarify the responsibility of the social and armed conflict.

 

Likewise, the spokesman expressed concern about the combats that occurred in the Cauca department yesterday at midnight. He stressed that such facts are a result of the government inconsistency of ordering military operations against a guerrilla force that is at truce since 4 months.

 

He called for a national debate on the need to stop the war, if we really want to advance in the construction of a peace agreement: “No more mothers who have to take their children to the cemetery.”

 

To the first question, if it was an ambush, the Comandante responded briefly:
“Ambush, counterambush, assault … what matters is that Colombian people died, that’s what we have to stop. There is no explanation to the fact that in the midst of a peace process, amid a unilateral ceasefire, there are still attacks taking place. Let’s also remember Gilberto Becerro, guerrilla combatant of the FARC-EP, among many others, who have died in this same scenario of a unilateral ceasefire. The attacks have to stop.”

 

He made clear that the mandate of the Colombian people is to continue with the ceasefire, preferably bilateral. The rebel spokesman also highlighted the words of President Juan Manuel Santos posted on his twitter account:

 

“I regret death of soldiers in Cauca. This is the war we want to end.”

 

Finally, he made a call upon the president to understand that the bilateral ceasefire is urgent for the nation, and that people are waiting for the news of the announcement by the government of a bilateral ceasefire.

 

He called the announcement by President Barack Obama to lift Cuba from the list of countries that support terrorism “an act of common sense”. According to the Comandante, these are gestures that create a climate of peace throughout the continent, and should take the Colombian government to the understanding that the guerrilla forces in Colombia cannot continue with the status of terrorists forever (also read: Terrorism or legitimate rebellion?)