SEMANA INTERNATIONAL / Roundup Report | 2/24/2009 12:00:00 AM
Colombia is not only passion
Feb. 17th – Feb. 23th -- It’s not surprising, but it‘s sad: headlines about Colombia spread around Europe, and their only aspect in common is crime. This week political persecution, massacres, and drug-trafficking filled up the space of major papers.
How does the Colombian President Álvaro Uribe put a reporter’s life in danger? This question raises Peter Burghardt, Latin America correspondent of Germany’s major daily “Süddeutsche Zeitung“ (SZ), in his most recent article “Armoured And To The Count“ published on Friday (February 20th). At the centre of Mr. Burghardt’s interests is Hollman Morris, a 38 year-old Colombian journalist, who was publicly accused by president Uribe of being a “complice of terrorism“. Mr. Burghardt writes: “Everywhere else in the world, this would be considered utterly harsh criticism, but in the land of death-squadrons it can mean, in the worst case, the pre-stage of a death sentence.“ The “SZ“ reminds that Mr. Morris had already had to live in exile after receiving death threats due to his TV-coverage of violance in Colombian rural regions. “170 of his colleagues have been assassinated during the last thirty years (...). Since he returned to the country he’s only been able to move inside an armoured car accompanied by his bodyguards“, reporter Burghardt writes. Mr. Morris, who works as correpondent of Radio France International, was publicly stigmatized by the Colombian government after having interviewed four Farc hostages before returning to freedom. Mr. Uribe even encouraged the Interamerican Human-Rights Commission to deprive Mr. Morris of his personal security. The “SZ“ writes: “His only delict was (...) to do his job as a journalist. Morris was collecting material for a documentary about Farc.“
FARC’S NEW (KILLING) STRATEGY
Germany’s biggest broadcasting network “Deutsche Welle“ (DW) commented on the fact that FARC acknowledged the massacre of various members of an indigenous tribe in an article published last Wednesday (February 18th). Author Mirjam Gehrke writes: “The Colombian guerrilla wants to gain control over the native people’s territories, whoever resists will be killed.“ Farc had published an official declaration admitting the murder of eight tribesmen in the region of Nariño, in the South-West of the country. The guerrilla accused its victims of cooperating with the Colombian army. “DW“ depicts how new strategies of Farc commander Alfonso Cano are the source of the torturing and killing of native people.“DW“ explains the situation of indigenous tribes in the country, which have, according to the Constitution, the right of autonomy, and quotes the political scientist Theodor Rathgeber: „This autonomy is a thorn in the guerrilla’s flesh, who claim political authority in every single place they are.“ According to Mr. Rathgeber, indigenous people are stuck in a conflict whose roots go back many decades, and that will not be resolved as long as Farc can still count on international support.
SURROUNDED BY MINES
“Le Monde“ Colombia correspondent Marie Delcas also wrote a long article on Farc’s most recent crime; the text was published in the print edition of France’s major daily on Thursday (February 19th). Ms. Delcas quotes Óscar Ortiz, a leader of the Union of Awa People, saying: “Guerrilla fighters kill Awans, paramilitaries kill Awans, the army kills Awans“. The victims of the latest massacre were all members of the Awa tribe, an indigenous community living in the Western flank of the Andes, composed by approximately 25,000 people. “Le Monde“ writes: “Farc’s cynism has aroused indignation all-around“. José Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch director for the Americas, is quoted asking: “Does the guerrilla really think they will reduce their responsibility on the massacre by admitting it?“ Based on information given by the Union of Awa People, “Le Monde“ reminds that indigenous reservations are very difficult to access. They are covered by landmines, a reason which explains why it has been difficult to recover all the corpses of the recently killed natives. Ms. Delcas quotes the country’s general Leonardo Barrero: “More than fifty mines had been located around the first body that was found, so that the other Awans couldn’t do it.“
ANOTHER LOST WAR
Daniel Deckers is known in his homecountry for three things: he is a passionate commentator of the happenings within the Christian world, he knows something about drugs and Colombia, and he wears bow ties. Moreover, he writes for Germany’s major conservative daily “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung“ (FAZ), and is a friend of Colombia’s Vice-President Francisco Santos. After the release of the most recent UN report on drugs, he wrote an extensive article called “Dire Balance on Drugs“ (FAZ, February 6th). “Cocaine from Colombia, Peru and Bolivia cannot only be bought in North America, but it can also be found in growing quantities in Europe as well as along the transit routes in Brazil and Argentina, in Guatemala and Mexico, in Ghana, Guinea-Bissau or Kenya.“
Mr. Deckers had the chance to meet president Álvaro Uribe during the latter’s last visit to Germany three weeks ago. On the drug issue the “FAZ“ reporter writes about his conversation with Mr. Uribe: “Without all sorts of weapons from the U.S. the war within the Mexican drug cartels wouldn’t be as bloody, without chemicals from Pakistan there would be less heroin, and without hiding places for the guerrilla in Venezuela and Ecuador, without the corruption of security forces and politicians the supply of Colombian cocaine in the world market would be much different from now.“