Andean Theater

Para collaboration scandal shakes Colombian secret police

Jorge Noguera, the head of Colombia's Administrative Security Department (DAS) announced his resignation Oct. 25, inviting authorities to investigate accusations against him in the national press that he had cololaborated with illegal paramilitary groups. Noguera told reporters he was innocent of accusations made by DAS employees he had met with paramilitary leaders and oversaw a department in which charges against accused drug smugglers were mysteriously erased. "I ask the authorities to investigate these accusations. My conscience is clean," Noguera said. Also Oct. 254, Uribe fired DAS subdirector José Miguel Narvaez. (Reuters, Oct. 25)

Paras kill Afro-Colombian leader

On the morning of Oct. 27, authorities certified that the body of an Afro-Colombian found washed up on the banks of the Rio Leon at Bocas de Zabalo, Chocó department, dead of gunshot wounds, was that of Orlando Valencia, a peasant leader from Curvaradó who was abducted by paramilitaries Oct. 16. Valencia's wife and seven children, accompanied by rights observers, are now travelling to Chigorodó municipality, to demand his remains from the local morgue. The local Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz, an independent human rights association, is demanding that the Colombian government take measures to guarantee the safety of Valencia's family and the community of Curvaradó, charging that paramilitaries have effective control of the region in collaboration with the National Police and the army's 17th Brigade. New verbal threats from local paras against Curvaradó community leaders have been reported in recent days.

Plan Colombia "ineffective": Venezuelan drug czar

"Plan Colombia," Bogotá's US— backed program to reduce drug production in that Andean nation, "isn't working," charges Luis Correa, leader of Venezuela's National Commission Against Illicit Drug Use (Conacuid). Luis Correa said there had been "a huge increase" in illegal crop production in areas of Colombia near the Venezuelan border. "In July, we were able to prove it through satellite photos provided by the OAS, which even revealed new landing strips," the Conacuid chief told reporters. "In my opinion, this shows that Plan Colombia isn't working, because — according to what they said — the purpose was to eliminate the crops and reduce drug production."

Indigenous leader assassinated in Colombia

On Oct. 11, unidentified gunmen shot dead Francisco Antonio Cuchillo Baltazar, a 57-year indigenous governor of Ginebra municipality of the southwestern Colombian department of Valle del Cauca, the authorities said. Cuchillo was hit by three bullets when he was waiting for a bus to return home. His daughter, Lili Cuchillo, said her father "was shot three times, one in the head and two in the chest, by an assault rifle. To this moment we do not have information about which armed group committed this crime." She said this murder "represents an attack on our communities. They took a leader away from us." On Sept. 5, Jorge Eduardo Cuchillo Baltazar, the governor's brother, was kidnapped and shot dead. His body was found near Ginebra. (Xinhua, Oct. 13)

Chile: Mapuches march

On Oct. 10 in Santiago, Chile, nearly 4,000 people took part in a "Dignity March" called by Meli Wixan Mapu and other Mapuche organizations. The marchers called for the release of Mapuche political prisoners, and for Mapuche unity in the continued struggle for land and self-determination and against violations of indigenous rights by the Chilean and Argentine governments and by business interests. (Campana Continental Contra el ALCA, Oct. 12)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 16

Afro-Colombian activist "disappeared"

At midday on Oct. 16, Orlando Valencia, an Afro-Colombian representative of the Community Council of Curvaradó in the department of Chocó, was arbitrarily detained and "disappeared," despite being protected by official measures of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The abduction took place immediately after the vehicle in which he was travelling with human rights observers and other members of the community, en route to a regional peasant assembly, was stopped by the National Police in the municipality of Belén de Bajirá. The police demanded the occupants' documents at rifle-point and briefly detained them. On the way to the local police station, they passed a truck filled with men they recognized as paramilitaries. They were released after several hours of interrogation, in which Valencia was accused of being a "reinsertado"—a demobilized guerilla fighter

Osama bin Laden: football in US-Venezuela spat

In an Oct. 9 interview with CNN, televangelist Pat Robertson—who recently got in hot water by calling for the assassination of Hugo Chavez—accused the Venezuelan president of giving Osama bin Laden $1.2 million after the 9-11 attacks and of trying to obtain nuclear material from Iran.

Chile: Mapuche youth seize cathedral

On Oct. 5, a group of seven Mapuche indigenous students from the Frontier University in Temuco, Chile—on hunger strike since Sept. 29—began an occupation of the Temuco cathedral. Another two hunger strikers did not participate because they were hospitalized on Oct. 4. The action was the latest in a series of protests started at least three weeks earlier by some 120 students demanding repairs to the Las Encinas Mapuche student residence, where they live, and autonomy in its administration.

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