Colombia: paras threaten activists —for gold cartel?

According to the US-based Colombia Support Network (CSN), the Northern Block of the Black Eagles, a rightwing paramilitary group, has threatened three activists in Tiquisio, a community in the northern Colombian department of Bolivar. The threat names Father Rafael Gallegos, Marta Lucia Torres and Said Echevez, members of Citizens Process for Tiquisio, and mentions their opposition to the “democratic security” policies of Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez. The government is promoting development of the area around Tiquisio by AngloGold Ashanti, a South African-based multinational gold mining company. CSN charges that the paramilitaries are seeking to force campesino communities off their lands “to make them available for the multinationals to extract gold.”

CSN is asking for letters to tell US Congress members to oppose US support for these actions by the Colombian government; to AngloGold Ashanti’s South American exploration manager, Chris Lodder (e-mail:, telling him to stop the company’s collaboration with paramilitary forces; and to President Uribe (e-mail:, fax: +57 1 566 2071) demanding protection for the activists, an investigation of the threats, and punishment for those responsible. (CSN alert, April 14)

On April 15 a group of 63 Congress members sent a letter to Uribe asking him to reject publicly comments by his adviser, José Obdulio Gaviria, who had said that a March 6 march for the victims of paramilitary violence was organized by “allied members” of the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The letter said six grassroots leaders had been murdered since Obdulio Gaviria’s comments, which specifically mentioned National State Crime Victims Movement leader Ivan Cepeda Castro. Cepeda Castro attended a meeting on April 15 at the Capitol in Washington, DC, coordinated by AFL-CIO president John Sweeney. Speakers cited the violence in Colombia as a reason to oppose the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), which Uribe and US president George W. Bush are seeking to have the US Congress approve. (Prensa Latina, April 16; El Tiempo, Bogota, April 17)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 20

See our last posts on Colombia, paramilitary terror and the mineral cartel in Latin America.

  1. Uribe cousin linked to paras, seeks asylum
    From Bloomberg, April 22 (link added):

    Former Colombian Senator Mario Uribe asked Costa Rica for political asylum after a prosecutor ordered his arrest for alleged ties to paramilitary groups, El Tiempo newspaper said, citing his attorney, Jose del Carmen Ortega.

    Uribe, a cousin of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, went to the Costa Rican embassy in Bogota today on the grounds that he doesn’t have adequate procedural guarantees in Colombia, the daily newspaper said, citing a source it didn’t name. He has repeatedly denied links to paramilitary death squads.

    Mario Uribe’s arrest would bring to 33 the number of lawmakers detained in a growing scandal over alleged ties to paramilitary groups, Bogota-based El Tiempo said.

    More details from BBC, April 23:

    Mario Uribe Escobar, who stepped down as a senator last October, is accused of criminal conspiracy.

    He went to the Costa Rican embassy in Bogota seeking asylum, but his request has been turned down.

    Mario Uribe, one of the most prominent figures arrested over alleged paramilitary links, denies wrongdoing.

    A jailed former paramilitary leader, Salvatore Mancuso, has alleged that he met Mario Uribe several times and was asked by him to support his senate campaign in 2002.

    Former paramilitary commanders have also testified that militias reached agreement with him to help him take over farmland.

    A statement from the prosecutor’s office accused Mario Uribe of entering into “agreements to promote illegal armed groups,” the Associated Press news agency said.