Text of mail sent to CSM via their website in reply to "Colombia extradites paramilitary leaders to US: victims angry":
Perhaps Sibylla Brodzinsky could explain how she reaches her conclusion that the extradition of 14 paramilitary leaders to the US helps Uribe "send a message that he has no hidden agenda with the paramilitaries"?
In fact, the truth is quite the opposite.
By extraditing these men to the US, Uribe is in fact shutting them up, as several of their lawyers have gone on record to say (a fact completely ignored by Brodzinsky):
Santiago Rodríguez, the former lawyer of Colombian drug trafficker Hernando Gómez Bustamante: "I would not allow a client of mine to talk" about crimes committed in Colombia other than drug trafficking offences, for which the 14 were extradited, the Cuban-American lawyer said in a telephone interview from the United States with the Bogotá station W Radio"
According to the Colombian paper El Espectador, Diego Alvarez, lawyer of Diego Fernando Murillo, alias ‘Don Berna' (one of those extradited) thinks that the Colombian government is looking to avoid any more problems with the revelations about connections with politicians: "cortar de tajo a la Corte Suprema de Justicia, no sólo con las revelaciones de relaciones de los políticos con las autodefensas sino además con lo que se empezaba a vislumbrar en las versiones libres sobre la implicación de militares"
Further, El Espectador reports that several of the lawyers consulted agree that the extraditions are designed to obstruct the Peace & Justice process because precisely now, the paramilitary leaders were starting to reveal their collaboration with the Colombian military.
Brodzinsky even quotes José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch, whose statement completely invalidates Brodzinsky's thesis: "The bad news is they may no longer have any reason to collaborate with Colombian prosecutors investigating their atrocities against civilians and their collaboration with high-ranking government officials," he says". I repeat: may no longer have any reason to collaborate with Colombian prosecutors regarding their collaboration with high ranking government officials, including (again Brodzinsky fails to inform) the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe himself, who is also under investigation.
Brodzinsky also ignores other NGO opinions:
"Iván Cepeda, spokesman for the Movement of Victims of Crimes of the State (MOVICE), complained to the press that the extraditions would "seriously affect" the rights of survivors, and said they were aimed at keeping the paramilitary leaders from continuing to provide the names of military, political and business accomplices and allies.
Eduardo Carreño, vice president of the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective, a human rights group, told IPS that "this move confirms what we have said from the start: that a Congress with a strong paramilitary presence legislated on its own behalf, and that the victims are the forgotten ones in this process." "
While Brodzinsky does mention Mario Uribe, she, in fact, hides the closeness of the relationship between Mario and Alvaro behind the expression 'close politicial ally'. In fact Uribe is one of his closest political collaborators, and in 2003 Uribe-Escobar participated in the foundation of the Democratic Colombia Party which was the base of the former Sector Democrático movement; President Alvaro Uribe is President of the party, Mario its 'director'.
According to Bill Van Auken and Ascher Brum, "The former senator (Mario Uribe Escobar) played a key role in getting Álvaro Uribe elected, and apparently mobilized the country’s death squads to help secure political victory." They also quote Senator Gustavo Petro, leader of the main opposition party "“What we’ve seen happen is a de facto alliance between powerful economic interests and narco-traffickers, and the motives were to co-opt institutions and convert Colombia itself into a criminal enterprise,” "
Along these same lines, according to the Polo Democrático Alternativo or PDA:
"The Arco Iris Foundation concluded, after an investigation funded by the Government of Sweden, that in 2002, in regions where paramilitary squads wielded great influence, 28 Senators were elected; that in local elections in 2003 in the same regions 285 mayors, 6 departmental governors and 3,500 municipal council members were chosen; and that in 2006, a total of 83 Senators and Representatives (of a possible total of 268) were elected from those areas. It is therefore not an exaggeration when Colombians speak of para-politics and para-politicos to describe relations between these illegal armed bands and many political leaders.
A thorough understanding of the phenomenon requires knowledge of the political allegiance of those accused under the law of paramilitary connections. Data shows that thirteen of the fourteen members of Congress who have been detained or remain fugitive are uribistas, that is, supporters of President Uribe. The Chief of the President's secret police is obviously a President's man. The two jailed governors, the six imprisoned mayors, and almost all of fifteen leading politicians detained in jail are also uribistas. 87% of the 83 members of Congress identified by the Arco Iris Foundation as having links with paramilitary groups are militant uribistas. These statistics led to the coining of the term para-uribismo as the best description of a situation that has also been accurately referred to by U.S. news organizations as the para-gate scandal."
Why does your newspaper not give this kind of background so that your readers can truly understand what is going on in Colombia? As a publication that uses the word 'Christian' in its name, do you not think that printing lies, half-truthes and distortions goes against that Creed? "
After all the negative news to come out of the region recently, finally some good news in Ha'artez - one presumes this news was meant for the Israeli youth...:
"For the cannabis-growing residents of eastern Lebanon, recent internecine fighting in the country has been a blessing, albeit one covered in hash resin and dollar signs.
To these villagers, gunshots and warfare are good for business, and the last three years have been far too quiet for their taste, leaving the authorities more than enough time and resources to come for their crops.
Peace and quiet frees the Lebanese Army to help local law enforcement combat the drug trade, especially in the summer, when soldiers and police are deployed to cannabis fields to rip and cut the flowering stalks of marijuana set for processing and export to Israel, Europe and beyond.
The army has signaled that it could step up its involvement to bring an end to fighting that broke out last week - the country's worst internal clashes since the end of the civil war in 1990, which has left at least 54 people dead and scores more wounded.
The last time the cannabis farmers of Lebanon had such a bumper crop was during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, when the security situation in the country brought anti-drug law enforcement to a halt. With fighting flaring up again in Lebanon, the farmers can expect another marijuana windfall, especially if the army is deployed in force throughout the country's cities to quell the recent bloodshed.
Newspaper reports have stated that even in peacetime security forces are often wary of entering the cannabis growing areas, as many of the farmers and their security guards are heavily armed.
An investigation by the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat has found that over 25,000 acres of cannabis were planted in Lebanon this year, an amount that should yield an impressive amount of hashish for the area's farmers.
A report compiled by the United States Government in 2003 praised Lebanon's efforts to combat cannabis cultivation, as well as the Syrian government's cooperation in fighting the drug trade.
Nonetheless, in spite of the profitability of the drug trade, little improvement has been seen recently in the quality of life of the estimated 180,000 residents of eastern Lebanon"