Connecting Colombias 69 views away from minor milestone, one thousand views in a month

Paramilitaries threatening to play football with a politician´s head, confused guerrillas opening fire on a fellow leftist´s presidential-campaign convoy and an environmental disaster that causes thousands of animals to die of thirst, are a few of the subjects in the files of Connecting Colombias.

Numbers don’t mean everything with a blog, but obviously it’s good to be seen and read. Otherwise a blog won’t accomplish much.

Well, with 24 hours remaining in March, Connecting Colombia’s is 69 views away from its first 1,000-view month. It’s a modest goal, but everything in its own time.

So, if you’ve ever been curious about Connnecting Colombias, today is a good day to take a peek. This is the news that North American media giants aren´t interested in. Here are a few of the options:

Captura de pantalla 2014-03-30 a la(s) 11.50.37* Dramatic, tragic video from Colombian television of the death of thousands of wild Colombian animals in Casanare. Everything from global warming, to the petroleum industry, the rice-producing in industry and deforestation are blamed. The investigation continues.

* Former M-19 guerrilla leader Gustavo Petro was eventually removed from office in a controversy over garbage collection, at least that’s what some would like the world to believe. A more believable reason for his ouster are the powerful enemies he made exposing the paramilitary-political connections which still dominate so much of Colombian political life.

* Paramilitaries have long been a powerful, deadly influence in Colombian life. The gun-toting, drug dealing, assassins aren’t ready to give up running Colombia without a fight. They succeeded in electing a good number of candidates in Colombia’s congressional elections in March.

* Amost anything can happen when you have armed groups running about the country. Sometimes things get out of hand and they even start shooting at their friends. Well, that’s what happened when the Ejército Liberación Naciónal ran into then Unión Patriótica presidential candidate Aída Abella campaigning in the countryside.

* It says above that Gustavo Petro has made some powerful enemies exposing links between murderous paramilitaries and politics. Well, some of them apparently wouldn’t mind removing Petro’s head and using it to play a little football. It’s a terror tactic that goes back at least to the days of El Bogotazo, the rioting that erupted after the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán on April 9, 1948.


Thousands of wild animals die of thirst in Colombia´s Casanare

A summer without rain, global climate change, deforestation and poor management are among the causes blamed for the death of thousands of wild animals in Colombia´s Casanare in the past two weeks. Deaths of non-domesticated animals have ranged between 6,000 and 20,000.
Captura de pantalla 2014-03-30 a la(s) 11.50.37Emergency efforts have saved thousands more from death. And government crews are removing the thousands of rotting carcasses.
In other parts of Colombia, heavy rains have caused flooding.
Chigüiro, alligators, turtles and thousands more cattle have been lost.

Poor environmental practices by cattle companies, rice-producers and petroleum companies are all being examined as a result of the environmental tragedy.


Human rights workers, union leaders massacred while Colombia talks peace with FARC

The massacre of Colombian human rights defenders and union leaders continues at an alarming rate, unaffected by peace talks, an Amnesty International investigator said this week.

Amnesty International

(Photo credit: AslanMedia) Union leaders and human rights defenders continue to be assassinated at alarming rates, according to a United Nations report on Colombia.

“The peace talks represent the best opportunity in over a decade to put an end to the 50-year-old armed conflict. However, the warring parties continue to be responsible for appalling serious human rights violations and abuses. These include forced displacement, extrajudicial killings, kidnappings, abductions, and enforced disappearances,” Marcelo Pollack, Amnesty International’s researcher on Colombia stated on the international human rights organization’s webpage.

There were 70 human rights defenders and at least 27 members of trade unions killed in 2013, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ preliminary annual Colombia review.

Pollack said the Colombian government has failed to act in key areas:

* Paramilitary groups have not been dismantled and continue to commit a large share of human rights abuses, despite a near decade-long ‘demobilization’ process.

* Extrajudicial executions have diminished, but not disappeared. And the state of near impunity continues for assassins.

* Guerrilla groups have not been convinced to recognize human rights and continue abuses such as child recruitment, mining land with explosives, and civilian displacement.

* The government has failed to stop the backlash of violence against land restitution claimants. Colombia has almost six million internally displaced persons. The land restitution law of 2012 has been implemented slowly, and the process has been sharply criticized for the lack of protection claimants receive if they attempt to use the law.

For more information please read:

In English:

En Español:



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Court overturns Ordóñez´s ban of Medellín mayor who revealed paramilitary-political connections

Just when Colombian Inspector-General Alejandro Ordóñez looked like an unstoppable force, a Bogotá court overturned his order Thursday banning former Medellín mayor Alonso Salazar from politics for 12 years.

Multitudinario apoyo al Alcade Alonso Salazar

(Photo credit: santiagolondonouribe) Former Medellín mayor Alonso Salazar has had his political rights restored by a Colombian court. Inspector-General Alejandro Ordóñez had ordered the mayor removed from office and banned for 12 years after he released photos of another politician in the company of paramilitaries.

It´s an event which gives hope to former Bogotá mayor Gustavo Petro, who was ousted from office and banned for 15 years purportedly over his restructuring of the capital´s garbage collection system. President Juan Manuel Santos signed the papers last week removing Petro, despite the request by the Comisión Internaciónal de Derechos Humanos that Petro be allowed to remain. The international body said it would violate Petro´s political and human rights to remove him before the comisión could determine whether the decision was justified.

Petro congratulated Salazar for the restoration of his political rights on Thursday. The Alonso case “is a demonstration of the arbitrariness of Ordóñez,” Petro wrote in his Twitter account.

Salazar and Petro have much in common. They´ve both been removed from office by Ordóñez and both fought to expose Colombia´s persistent infiltration of politics by deadly paramilitary forces.

Independent investigators say at least 25 per cent of the candidates elected in the March 9 congressional elections have paramilitary connections.

Salazar´s case reaked of injustice, even more so than Ordóñez´s removal of Petro, a former M-19 guerrilla leader who represents almost everything the ultra-Conservative Ordóñez opposes in Colombia.

Salazar was removed for releasing photographs of another Colombian politician in company of paramilitaries. It´s the sort of activity that not only puts a political career at risk, but someone´s life as well.

Ordóñez, however, chose not to congratulate Salazar for his courage, but to severely reprimand him for “political interference.”

The high court known as the Consejo de Estado ruled that the sentence Ordóñez imposed on Salazar was “disproportionate”. That is the word used frequently to describe the 15-year banned from public office that Ordóñez imposed on Petro. Even many of the left-wing mayor´s opponents have criticized the length of the ban and said it was time to re-examine Ordóñez´s powers.

It remains to be seen what impact the high court´s decision will have on Colombia´s desire to reign in Ordóñez´s powers.

Vice-president Angelino Garzón ruffled his boss´s feathers when he said this week that Colombia had taken a step backwards in term of human rights and its international repuation with the firing of Petro.

Another Santos ally, Congressional President Juan Fernando Cristo, added his voice to those wanting to re-examine Ordóñez´s powers in the wake of Petro´s firing.

For more information please read:

In English:

En Español:



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‘Attack on unions causes rift between federal Conservatives,’ TradeTalk magazine

‘Attack on unions causes rift between federal Conservatives,’ TradeTalk magazine

It’s great to be writing for TradeTalk, the B.C. Building Trade’s magazine for 35,000 unionized B.C. construction workers.

In the 2013 Winter edition I had the privilege of writing about the federal Conservative government’s combative policies towards organized Canadian workers. Conservatives were shocked, and many angry over the Senate revolt which saw the defeat of Bill-377, which would have punished Canadian unions, possibly violated the Constitution and undoubtedly caused needless confrontation.

But what do the Conservatives have in store for Canadian workers between now and the 2015 federal election?

Well that’s what I had an opportunity to write about. Check it out here if you are interested (The article is on Page 20):

This issue also includes articles about the controversial Temporary Foreign Workers’ Program. There’s a right way to employ and treat temporary foreign workers. It is all explained here.

Represión de la protesta en Colombia

Peaceful protest in Colombia is often countered with extreme state violence.
Frequent abuses against protesters and bystanders have been documented and verified.
But as PBI Colombia reports here changes to the law are going to create an environment where more abuse is possible.
The new law will “criminalize social protest,” as stated in this PBI Colombia blog, posted in Spanish.
PBI accompanied organizations investigating abuses by ESMAD and has examined changes to the law governing peaceful protest.
Abuses committed against peaceful protesters by the state security forces include: sexual assault, torture, forced confinement, and arson of victims´ homes.
The new law shall increase the maximum penalty for a person who blocks public use of a road from three to five years. And it shall expand the definition of the persons the law applies to include persons directing or assisting. Someone providing food at a blockade could be prosecuted under this law, the PBI Colombia report states.
La Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos demands Colombia:
* Respect the right to peaceful protest and not criminalize peaceful protest,
* Create an organization responsible for maintaining the right to peaceful protest that would develop protocols for state security forces attending protests.
* Meet with the CIDH regarding the right to peaceful protest and expression.
PBI Colombia not only accompanies people and organizations threatened by violence, they are documenting and informing the foreign community about systematic abuses.
(I will attempt to post an English link for the PBI Colombia blog if I can find one. If not, the Google translator works quite well for those do not read in Spanish.)


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PBI Colombia (English)

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Paramilitary presence lurks behind Gustavo Petro´s political assassination

The still shocking removal of Gustavo Petro as Bogotá mayor yesterday added to the recent electoral evidence that Colombian paramilitary-political alliances are flourishing, certainly more than their left-wing critics.

Petro, it seemed, had won. He and his supporters were ready to celebrate. Then, everything changed. Changed completely.

The courts turned a final thumbs down Tuesday to a legal challenge of the mayor´s firing. Then in the middle of the night an international human rights court seemed to ride to the mayor´s rescue when it recommended protective measures which many assumed would prevent Petro´s firing.

President Juan Manuel Santos had indicated earlier he would respect the human rights court´s recommendations. Many thought he would.

Then, while thousands gathered in Colombia´s political centre, La Plaza de Bolivár, to celebrate the supposed victory, Santos struck a rapid, hard blow against Petro and his supporters.

He ignored the Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos´s recommendation, fired Petro and appointed an interim mayor.

Colombians woke up today again reminded they live in a country where politicians can buy votes, work with paramilitaries and permit the murder of human rights defenders with near impunity. But a left-wing politician can purportedly be removed from office and barred for another 15 years, all supposedly for restructuring the city´s garbage collection system.

Not many really believe Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez fired Petro because there were three days poor garbage service in Bogotá in December 2012.

That Petro removed massive, lucrative contracts from allies of the political right, allies of Ordóñez and former president Álvaro Uribe is more believable to many.

That Petro, the intellectually combative former M-19 guerrilla leader, made his name in Colombian politics exposing paramilitary-political connections is even more believable to many.

Especially when one considers Petro exposed much of the paramilitary-political conspiracy that planned nothing short of the complete takeover of Colombia. He was also the first to charge paramilitaries financed Uribe´s 2002 election campaign.

Wednesday´s rapid events obscure the larger picture: The continuing struggle between the still strong paramilitary-political alliance and those on the Colombian left who have risked lives and careers to oppose it.

An independent analysis by Fundación Paz y Reconciliación of the March 9 elections show 70 of 131 candidates connected to various illegal, armed groups were elected in Colombia’s congressional elections.

The revelations provided by the analysis reveal some 53 per cent of candidates with connections to armed, illegal Colombian organizations such as paramilitaries, organized crime or guerrillas were elected. (Most of the illegal connections were with paramilitary groups.)

Petro´s exposes of paramilitary infiltration of Colombian political life earned him the second most votes in the 2006 senatorial elections.

But the paramilitary efforts to dominate Colombian political and economic life did not end when Petro, then others, exposed them. They continue today.

That recently re-elected Polo Democrático Senator Iván Cepeda is also being investigated by Ordóñez is rather ominous. It´s especially ominous when one considers Cepeda is also one of the fiercest critics of paramilitary-political links, especially when it comes to Uribe. He has authored two books that delve into Uribe and his family´s paramilitary connection. Though he finished near the top of all senators elected on March 9, he could soon be removed by Ordóñez.

Cepeda, a forward thinker, has asked the CIDH to examine his case, before Ordóñez has the opportunity to fire him.

And, that Piedad Córdoba, another of Uribe´s most persistent critics met a similar fate, strongly suggests a systematic elmination of popular, left-wing politicians. Ordóñez removed Córdoba from office, and barred her from politics for 18 years.

Life goes on in the capital: Labour Minister Rafael Pardo has taken over as appointed mayor, the Marcha Patriótica are calling for marches and strikes, and FARC negotiators in Havana, Cuba again said that Petro´s removal raises suspicion´s about the government´s ability and intent to permit left-of-centre Colombians to participate in politics.

Peace negotiations with FARC rebels continue in Cuba, while paramilitary-linked politicians obtain political office and elected left-wing politicians are removed.

For more information please read:

In English:

En Español:

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President Santos rejects international human rights court, fires Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro

The victory party in Plaza de Bolívar turned into a funeral when Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos snubbed an international human rights court and fired Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro.

Santos defied the court’s recommendations that Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro not be immediately fired. Santos fired Petro as thousands gathered in Bogotá to celebrate in belief that Santos would respect the request as he earlier indicated.

It was announced minutes ago that Santos is appointing Minister of Labour Rafael Pardo as interim mayor of Bogotá. He has rejected the Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos´ recommendation that the embattled left-wing mayor not be removed until it can be determined whether his and Bogotá voters´ political and human rights would be damaged by the decision.

The shocking move comes as thousands were called to Bogotá´s Plaza de Bolívar to celebrate the CIDH recommendation made earlier today that Petro not be fired. Celebrations turned quickly to anger. Anti-Santos chants erupted and protesters denounced Petro´s removal as undemocratic.

But the strong showing by former president Álvaro Uribe´s right-wing Centro Democrático in Bogotá and the weak showing of the Colombian left in last week´s congressional elections suggests Santos worries more about losing votes to the right than to the left during this election campaign.

Firing Petro could be aimed to shore up right-wing support.

For more information please read today´s earlier post at:

International court intervenes in Gustavo Petro´s future, puts President Santos on political hotseat

Just as Bogotá´s embattled Mayor Gustavo Petro ran out of legal options in his fight to hang onto his job, an international human rights court has given him perhaps one last chance.

(Photo: Liliana Campo Granados) Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro´s long battle to continue his term now is in the hands of President Juan Manuel Santos as an international human rights court has asked Colombia to allow him to stay until it can reach a decision on the legality of his removal

(Photo: Liliana Campo Granados) Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro´s long battle to continue his term now is in the hands of President Juan Manuel Santos as an international human rights court has asked Colombia to allow him to stay until it can reach a decision on the legality of his removal

But whether that last gasp amounts to anything is in the hands of President Juan Manuel Santos, the man who has stayed as distant as possible from the three-month battle between Colombia´s right-wing Inspector General Alejandro Ordóñez and the former M-19 guerrilla leader turned politician.

Santos has done everything in his power to avoid getting caught in the battle between the pro-Petro and the pro-Ordóñez forces that has raged since Dec. 9, when Ordóñez ordered Petro be fired for purportedly mismanaging Bogotá´s garbage collection system.

Ordóñez not only ordered Petro be removed from office, but ordered he be barred from any public office for 15 years. This would effectively end Petro´s political life, and especially a shot at the presidency in 2018. Some have speculated Ordóñez himself is considering running for the presidency in the same year.

Santos has said repeatedly that he would respect the process in place to deal with the political crisis.

Now that process has dropped the crisis at his door, just as he wages his re-election campaign.

The option of staying out of the fray no longer exists. Santos must take a stand.

The courts turned down the last of Petro´s numerous legal appeals on Tuesday. They ruled the applications claiming the dismissal of an elected official would violate his human rights – political rights – and those of Bogotá electors are not absolute.

The Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, a body of the Organization of American States,  last night asked Colombia to delay Petro´s political execution. The CIDH wants Colombia to take the preventive measures of allowing Petro to continue until it has time to determine whether firing Petro is a violation of his and Bogotá voters´rights, based on international law.

The CIDH can take years to make such a determination.

Santos must decide whether he will go along with the CIDH request and allow Petro to retain his office while the process plays iteself out. Or Santos must decide whether to appoint an interim replacement and possibly call an election to replace the ousted mayor.

Whatever he chooses, Santos is in the hot seat. His bid to be re-elected Colombian president on May 25 could swing on how he handles the Petro versus Ordóñez battle.

If he allows Petro to stay, he will arm former president Álvaro Uribe and his supporters who will attempt to profit electorally from the president´s decision. If he insists Petro leave, and ends the long-running battle, he risks a backlash in Bogotá and beyond, not only from Petro supporters, but from those who believe electors should choose and remove their politicians.

For more information please read:

En Español:

In English:

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Fired senator Piedad Córdoba presents fraud case to political executioneer, Alejandro Ordóñez

It´s one of those bizarre political encounters, hardly imaginable even in Colombia.

Piedad Córdoba sube al helicóptero

(Photo credit: Globovisión) Former senator Piedad Córdoba has used her FARC contacts to negotiate the release of hostages. Those same contacts have caused her to be barred from politics. Today, she presented the manned who barred her from politics with evidence of recent election fraud.

Piedad Córdoba, once nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize then removed from office for purported inappropriate links with FARC guerrillas, met today with Alejandro Ordóñez, the man who removed her from office and barred her for 18 years.

The former senator presented Ordóñez with more of the mounting evidence of massive election fraud in last Sunday´s congressional elections. Among the supposed examples of fraud was that used to deny her son, Juan Luis Castro Córdoba, a seat in the House of Representatives.

Castro Córdoba was running to replace his mother. Many election posters featured her photo, and not his.

Córdoba headed a delegation of Afro-Colombians, and members of the Colombian left, including representatives of political parties Polo Democrático Alternativo and the Unión Patriótica.

Examples of election fraud, such as vote-buying, intimidation and the manipulation of vote counts have been rampant since last Sunday´s election.

Strangely, all the votes have yet to be counted.

The meeting was apparently conducted with no reference to the bitter battle between Ordóñez and Córdoba, which cost the controversial, left-wing senator her political career, in the same fashion that Bogotá Mayor Gustavo Petro now faces. Ordóñez fired Córdoba in 2010 for her communications with FARC guerrillas, the same contacts she used to negotiate the release of hostages and inspired her nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The meeting apparently featured no rancor from the political battle that ended Córdoba´s career as an elected official.

Afterwards, she spoke of her confidence in Ordóñez to consider the complaints. And Ordóñez restricted his comments to the complaints at hand.

“I have listened judiciously to the complaints that they presented, various of which we have already heard,” Ordóñez said afterwards. He said he would take appropriate measures with the agency which runs Colombian elections.

Though the congressional campaign ended last Sunday, the presidential vote is set for May 25.

Meanwhile, many in Colombia are wondering if Petro is finally in his last moments as Bogotá mayor. He has relied on populist demonstrations, appeals to international human rights organizations and pleadings in Colombian courts to hang onto his job since being ordered removed by Ordóñez last Dec. 9.

Anything is possible, but many expect the courts to dismiss the appeals by Petro and his suporters, who have argued removing the former M-19 guerrilla leader from office for purportedly mismanaging the restructuring of the city´s garbage collection system, would be a violation of his and voters´ human rights.

Petro is also hoping for a last-minute stay-of-execution from the Comisión Internaciónal de Derechos Humanos. He asked the Organization of American States body to take preventive measures to protect those rights while it determines whether his dismissal would violate international law.

For more information please read:

In English: (This article is about Colombian election fraud in general, as Google produces no articles in English about today´s meeting.)

En Español:,49288c72d36d4410VgnCLD2000000ec6eb0aRCRD.html

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