Paramilitary leader’s “self-interview” causes outrage

Paid advertising featuring an interview with paramilitary chief Macaco, published on El Espectador (clic the picture to see the full page… I apologize for the bad quality of the picture)

On Saturday, weekly newspaper El Espectador published on his page 16A a “paid advertising” featuring an interview with Carlos Mario Jiménez Naranjo, also known as Javier Montañez or Macaco, former commander of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) now demobilized Central Caribbean Bloc (BCB), whose “Justice and Peace” confession is scheduled for this week. Jiménez presents himself as a “peace businessman”. Jiménez replaced late Carlos Castaño as the BCB commander, when he joined the AUC while being a drug dealer (he could be extradited to the US because of this).

Of course, the Fundación Villa de la Esperanza, which paid the ad, is supported by Jiménez. In the “self-interview”, Jiménez keeps justifying the reasons he entered the AUC, claiming he was forced to do so. About paramilitary chief Salvatore Mancuso’s confession three weeks ago, when he implicated a lot of key people in Colombian politics (including current Vice President Francisco Santos and his cousin, Minister of Defence Juan Manuel Santos), economy, military, police and even large American and domestic companies, which allegedly supported the paramilitary death squads, Macaco says: “Mancuso’s truth is his truth and this country won’t be able to take it as a thermometre to measure we the ones who follow him, because my truth, as the other commanders’ one, has another nuances. My truth is, mainly, the one about the confrontation against guerrillas and the liberation of some regions from the insurgent oppression”. Later, he says “if the truth [will lead] to rise more resentment, why [should I] tell the truth?”. His confession will refer about “the confrontation of BCB in the regions and how illegal economies worked” there, where the 7,000 members of the BCB “worked”, from south of Bolívar Department, at the north of the country, passing by Santander Department and the Magdalena Medio region, until the Guaviare jungles and the southern Pacific coast, all places where they are allegedly responsible of massacres and murders.

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Colombian television nostalgia [videos]

First, I must apologize for the lack of updates on this blog. I’ve been quite busy at work, but I’m back. I’ll bring you a lot of what Colombian blogosphere said about paramilitary chief Salvatore Mancuso’s deposition last week in a post for Global Voices Online on Thursday.

So, I want you to relax and enjoy these classic videos from the old Colombian television. Before 1998, all Colombian free-to-air television was state-run, which granted several hours a week to private companies on two national networks. Two of those companies became television networks in July 1998. Nevertheless, some YouTube users, such as televidentecolombiano, juanrincon3006 and comando670, among others, have digitalized some of their dusty collection of TV recordings in VHS and Betamax tapes. The result is these interesting videos, which bring Colombians a lot of memories of good ol’ television.

Noticiero Promec was a 1980s primetime news show. In this clip, we have some special moments of Colombian history, such as the Palace of Justice siege in 1985 or the murder of Liberal presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán in 1989. Ah, of course, the presenter is the well-known, beloved and hated Jota Mario Valencia, currently in a morning show on pro-Uribe RCN TV.

This is a compilation of some old Colombian TV production and programming companies logos and curtains (the most recent are from around 1990), including quite old Caracol TV (currently a network) logos with a snail (Caracol stands for Cadena Radial Colombiana, “Colombian Radio Network”, but “caracol” is Spanish for “snail”).

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More on Fernando Vallejo nationality issue; VP Santos controversial TV interview

Yesterday I picked up some of the Colombian blogosphere reactions to controversial writer Fernando Vallejo’s renounce to Colombian nationality. Today appeared two more posts about it which are quite worthy. The first one is from DieGoth, a right-winger writing on centre-left digital magazine equinoXio:

If I spoke about a country filled with:

  • Murderer policemen
  • Murderer soldiers
  • Murderer drug dealers
  • Corrupt, murderer politicians
  • Murderer kidnappers
  • Murderer guerrillas
  • Murderer paramilitaries

Vallejo would say it’s about Colombia. But he might also speak about… México. Switch oil for fat? Who gets that? There’s something else in the poison Vallejo spit on Colombia, but I’m not really interested on that. […]

What would you renounce to if they told you you can’t regret of that?

I, without any regrets, would renounce to be a Colombian if an absurd candidate win the election, were re-elected and there were more people supporting him than rejecting him. Something like renouncing to be a Venezuelan, if I’d live in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, or as it will be called for sure shortly, Socialist Republic of Venezuela. Because you don’t renounce because of a president, but because of a whole people you don’t share from the root with the idea of how things should be done.

El Editor reacted this way at a comment there:

What a little convincing is this harangue against Vallejo signed by a guy as Diegoth who, like Jaime Ruiz [a controversial right-wing blogger], has done nothing but blame certain idea of “colombianness” for all of Colombia’s ills.

I thought, Diegoth, that you’d be happy that Vallejo tore his passport up. After all, that would be the most consistent position regarding the discourse you’ve been maintaining so far.

And then in a post:

[I]f they conducted a survey among the [Colombian] young girls signing on foreign wedding agencies, the unemployed who leave for USA and Spain, the people seeking Canadian and Australian citizenship, and the students like me who go the hell away to another country, you would realize we the rats are hurrying for leaving the ship. You have to see, for example, how Colombian women chase foreigners who land in Colombia. […]

Let’s change the subject. On Tuesday night, during an interview in pro-Uribe Fox News-like RCN Televisión network, Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos (whose family owns the only national newspaper) said that if the U. S. Congress didn’t pass the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia, it may “review its relations” with the U. S. No, please, don’t laugh, it’s serious. But the controversial part comes now: he said that as many as 30 Colombian Congresspeople may be jailed for the parapolitics scandal. Reaction was huge. Interior Minister Carlos Holguín Sardi said Wednesday that “everyone is innocent until proven guilty”, Foreign Minister’s office had to clarify U. S. “relevance” and Colombia’s “respect” for the Congressional debate on the FTA, and President Álvaro Uribe ordered Santos to “correct” his remarks. The Vice President sent a letter to Congress and will meet some Congresspeople on Thursday in order to do that. But, what was Santos meaning?

Journalist Felipe Zuleta has an hypothesis:

Pacho [Santos] wants the gringos to argue with Uribe. With it, U. S. government turns its back to the Palace’s mafioso [Uribe] and put him to wander trough the world running away from Americans and Colombian “judiciary”.

His commentators, as Orlando el curioso, support him:

Bogotá’s oligarchy is in frank “rebelliousness” against the Medellín Cartel and it’s not willing to lose its 150-year hegemony because of the drug lords who are now usurping House of Nariño.

What they want is to oust Viceroy Álvaro de Uribe y Vélez (a. k. a. el Patrón [the nickname Pablo Escobar used]) to avoid an eventual presidential victory for [opposition leftist] Democratic Pole in 2010, because of the teflon wear and tear the ‘carriel’ and ‘arriero’ little emperor may suffer.

Pachito [Santos] needs to arrive to the Bolívar’s throne during these last two years of the mafia term in order to design from there the strategy who allows him to put there the candidate supported by the traditional bi-partisanism and stop the Democratic Alternative Pole.

Some even say that candidate would be former president and OAS general secretary César Gaviria Trujillo, currently leader of the centre Liberal Party, who would become an “obstacle” for any leftist political group in Colombia.

Víctor Solano says:

Again, the media are the showcase of the inappropiate remarks made by the high officials of the Colombian government. […] Mr. Santos: everything you say will be used against you and it doesn’t matter how you appear because even if you wear pyjamas or short pants, [Colombian] citizens will see in your face the Vice President, the government.

Controversial writer renounces his Colombian nationality

Writer Fernando Vallejo, also known as the “master of swearing in Spanish language”, announced early this week his renounce to Colombian citizenship. Vallejo, born in Medellín, has criticized outspokenly and with sarcasm Colombia’s endless war, the Catholic Church, president Álvaro Uribe, and has even called Spain “the shame of human kind”. It is said he likes teenage boys and is an animal rights activist. Once he wrote (his novels are written in the first person): “In your dreams! With pleasure I’d hit the Pope on his ass, but even touch a little animal of God?”

In a communique broadcast on Caracol Radio on Monday, Vallejo, author of Our Lady of the Assasins (novel dealing with violence in Medellín which was turned into a movie in 2000), said:

Colombia slammed its doors at me in order to earn a life in a decent way other than government and politics, which I despise, and put me to sleep on the streets covering myself with newspapers along the Carrera Séptima with its ragged homeless and stray dogs, who I consider my brothers since then. […]

One year ago [Colombia] wanted to jail me because of an article I wrote on SoHo magazine pointing at the contradictions and the ridiculous things [found] on the Gospels. That was supposedly an offence against religion and I got sued. Offences against religion in the country of impunity! Where murderers and genocidal killers walk free on the streets, as the paramilitaries, which the blessing of his accomplice, the shameless Álvaro Uribe who they re-elected for presidency. Since I was a child I knew that Colombia was a murderer country, the murderest on Earth, heading year by year, unbeatable, the statistics of infamy. Later, on my own experience, I came to understand that beside being a murderer, it was abusive and miserable. And when they re-elected Uribe I found out it was a stupid country. Then I ran for naturalization in Mexico, which I was granted last week. So let’s make it clear: that bad country of Colombia is not mine anymore and I don’t want to know a thing of it. I want to live the rest of my life in Mexico and I want to die here.

Vallejo’s decision has caused both approval and outrage at the Colombian blogosphere. With anger, Óscar Ortiz says:

What dignity will this man have, because he promotes sexual abuse to underage boys, homosexualism and resentment to the race, this guy who enjoyed to pay children for them to please his sexual fantasies, some of them also devoted to crime and murder, or guess where the inspiration for both the movie and the book “our lady of the assassins” comes from. It was his life, as a young thief in Medellín city.

Carolina, from Con senos y con sesos, slams Vallejo this way:

I don’t care a bit, mister Vallejo, what you think of this land which gave you birth and which precisely, because it’s so “murderer”, gave you the enough material for you to write your controversial stories, I don’t care a bit because, for me, you are a foolish coward who argues, as so many others, that he leaves the country because it’s not offering him anything. If it’s not offering anything to them, wouldn’t it be because people like you has not anything valuable to offer or to do for this country?

Peter P@n, from Cali, expresses:

But to say that Colombia is a stupid country, the murderest on Earth and to say that overseas with its characteristic rhetoric and eloquence, is like to say bad stuff about his ex-girlfriend and disclose with his friends, for example, that she’s “lousy on bed”.

At Piso Tres, Velvet says:

Vallejo is wrong, of course, when he calls all Colombians with those adjectives. It’s also true he can be using the proper noun “Colombia” to give to understand and give it even more strength to the fact that during several generations a lot of Colombians have been killing themselves. Whatever the reasons Vallejo has to generalize that way, the reaction of the big majority of people who have given their opinion is also disproportionate taking his claims as a personal offence, something that doesn’t make much sense anyway.

On the contrary, Juan Buridán praises Vallejo’s “authenticity”:

Among the lame nationalism, so fashionable since Uribe’s arrival in office, this new manifestation of ‘pissing off anyone’ will seem a terrible affront for a lot of people […] It’s offencive that someone renounces his/her nationality, but it’s not offencive that the government, administration after administration, keeps negotiating impotently the State’s autonomy and Colombian citizens before the violent [groups] , in the middle of a happy impunity, or that the Spanish king or royal household keep being honoured as if we were still part of their domains.

Some commentators at journalist Felipe Zuleta’s blog also agree with Vallejo:

  • I also feel very ashamed for “bad-living” in a country which has been kidnapped by the worst criminals, where the narcoparamiltaries torture and kill for thousands and most of the “decent” people (here the murderers call themselves decent people) hide and lie about that. I’d like to live in other country too and not to know anything that happens here, but I’m jailed in a country which has lost its mind and a nationality I reject.
  • It’s worth to say that here the only ones who feel proudly Colombian are the drug lords and all their derivations. Mafia is number one Colombian pride.
  • Vallejo renounced his nationality because of the shame he feels for the ones ruling us: the Medellin Cartel on his new presentation.

Off-topic: First, please check out my recent articles at Global Voices Online. And join us and let’s celebrate equinoXio digital magazine’s (where I contribute once in a while) first anniversary.

Demonstrators in Washington call Uribe an “assassin” (pictures)


*All the pictures featured on this post were taken by Flickr user b.wu

During Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez visit to Washington on Wednesday, seeking U. S. Congress approval for the controversial Free Trade Agreement and more money for the already failed Plan Colombia, demonstrators yelled at him, accusing the leader of the death of aroung 400 unionist and only 10 convictions. The same guy who said he’d be a “guerrilla man” and a “paramilitary” with a gun, not a mediocre one, all the same week, decided to “talk” to them, as the “democrat” he says he is (what a strategy!).

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Uribe’s defence on primetime [“Al Gore rejected me” :'( ]

While Tuesday’s debate on paramilitarism in Antioquia was broadcasted on a national public network on the afternoon, Thursday’s press conference was held on primetime on every national networks, with TV, radio and agencies like EFE, AP and AFP journalists and correspondents chosen by invitation (excluding print press, maybe punishing El Tiempo for its “centred” editorial on the issue, which is “infamous” according to Pablo Escobar’s cousin and presidential adviser José Obdulio Gaviria) and the news that U. S. former vicepresident Al Gore had cancelled its participation at an enviromental forum in Miami the next day for the “‘deeply troubling” allegations by opposition congresspeople. This is bad news, but for him, not for the country, specially after Democrat senator Patrick Leahy “re-freezed” US$55 million for Plan Colombia earlier this week. The same night, earlier, during another press conference with Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, Uribe angrily said “I’m worried because the political friends of the guerrilla, who pose here as political enemies of the ‘yankee imperialism’ go often to the U. S. to discredit Colombian government”. I “covered” the press conference “live” for digital magazine equinoXio.

Uribe’s fanatical supporters claim that Uribe “swept” Congressman Gustavo Petro’s allegations, specially because he was fast at denying his links with paramilitaries, but I think he actually evaded some of the important questions and treated quite disdainfully La W Radio‘s Félix de Bedout and Caracol Radio‘s Néstor Morales, by calling them “doctors”. He maybe hit well back on the allegations against his family, but some serious things came up. Remember the picture of Uribe’s brother Santiago with the drug-dealing clan Ochoa? Well, Uribe said he was taken a picture with Justo Pastor Perafán, another drug dealing lord currently in a U. S. prison. When AFP correspondent said he was a friend of friends of paramilitaries (that’s true, as you can see by the currently imprisoned congresspeople), he did not answer clearly.

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The disappointing debate on paramilitarism in Antioquia

Yesterday finally the long awaited “debate” on paramilitarism in Antioquia department, the one where President Álvaro Uribe was born and was its governor from 1995 to 1997, was held at Colombian congress. There was a lot of interest, because opposition senator and former M-19 guerrilla Gustavo Petro had said he would reveal a list of 2,000 personalities allegedly involved with paramilitarism. He did not show any list but he indeed did another stuff:

An opposition lawmaker on Tuesday alleged that paramilitary death squads met at the ranch of President Álvaro Uribe in the late 1980s and plotted to murder opponents, an explosive charge in a growing scandal that has unearthed ties between the illegal militias and two dozen congressmen.

Basing his accusations on government documents and depositions by former paramilitary members and military officers, Sen. Gustavo Petro said the militiamen met at Uribe’s Guacharacas farm as well as ranches owned by his brother, Santiago Uribe, and a close associate, Luis Alberto Villegas.

“From there, at night, they would go out and kill people,” Petro said, referring to the sprawling ranch owned by Álvaro Uribe, who served as a senator from 1986 to 1994. […]

Uribe, since he first ran for office, has also been dogged by the fact that paramilitary groups grew dramatically during his term as governor in the northwestern state of Antioquia, from 1995 to 1997. During that time, he helped spearhead the creation of Convivirs, legal vigilante groups. Some were later denounced for having morphed into paramilitary death squads or for serving as fronts for paramilitary warlords.

Wow, I can’t wait for Álvaro Uribe’s reaction. But if some of Petro’s accusations were not “precise”, the government’s defence was not better. Before the hearing, Pablo Escobar’s cousin and main presidential adviser José Obdulio Gaviria, as another Antioquia politicians, had said the debate was an attack against Antioquia people. Carlos Holguín, minister of Interior, and Andrés Gallego, minister of Transportation, defended Uribe and his democratic security policy. The same did another ruling coalition congresspeople, maybe deviating the debate.

From AP:

Petro, citing government records and statements by members of the security forces, revealed that a civilian self-defense program known as Convivir – championed by Uribe when he was governor of Antioquia – was infiltrated by members of the death squads. Convivir has been since shut down.

“Convivir … ended up bringing paramilitaries to the farm of the current president of the republic, who apparently had no idea while he was governor,” Petro claimed.

From Reuters:

Petro presented no concrete evidence of illegal activity by Uribe, who was first elected president in 2002.

Interior Minister Carlos Holguin took the floor of the Senate after Petro spoke, accusing him of playing politics.

“He is painting Colombia as a country of assassins and paramilitaries,” Holguin said. “And people believe his nonsense.”

From Bloomberg:

Uribe, who governed central Antioquia province from 1995 to 1997, has repeatedly denied involvement with the groups. The discussion in congress of Uribe’s past comes amid a broader investigation into alleged ties between lawmakers and paramilitaries that led to the detention of 14 members of Uribe’s ruling coalition.

“These were rural organizations that organized to defend themselves, and most of them were unarmed,” Interior Minister Carlos Holguin said following Petro’s address.

The allegations threaten the passage of a free-trade accord with the U.S., said Bertrand Delgado, an economist with IdeaGlobal Inc. in New York. Michigan Democratic Representative Sander Levin, chairman of the House trade subcommittee, said the developments are “very worrisome” and Colombia can’t count on passage of the agreement, the Washington Post reported Feb. 17. […]

Political uproar may factor in the debate among U.S. lawmakers as they consider additional anti-drug and military aid this year under the so-called Plan Colombia program, designed to fight narco-guerrillas.

“This will create a lot of noise, but it will pass,” said Delgado.

The 9-hour debate, which was followed with a lot of interest by many Colombians outside the country, who could only hear the audio streaming on Indymedia Colombia for one hour (inside Colombia it could be watched on state-run Señal Institucional), was somewhat disappointing (despite of the picture depicting Uribe’s younger brother departing with a member of the drug-dealing Ochoa family). Colombian blogosphere has two remarkable, complementary articles. First, Jaime Restrepo criticized Petro’s way to conduct the debate on his centre-right blog Atrabilioso:

The less we could wait that the tactics [Petro was] questioning (“anything goes”) was not part of the strategy finally used to condemn what themselves were using: if the “anything goes” [strategy] is being questioned, it turns out dirty and incongruous that in order to point out this Colombian way of living (“anything goes”), the “anything goes” is used too, specially a liar and many times devious “anything goes”.

Then, centre-left equinoXio‘s Julián Ortega Martínez also showed his deception:

It’s sad the result of this debate: partial truths, traces but no evidences, crimes we all know but still unpunished, ad hominem arguments, referrals to unfinished or old judicial processes, the ridiculous appeal to the pseudo-federal regionalism and the criticism on political control, as equal of “saying bad stuff on the country”. The governmen’t attitude is also subject of criticism, because it DOESN’T WANT TO RECOGNIZE that the Convivir project was a huge failure which had as result a plentiful, bloody river, because of the deaths of dozens of thousands of Colombians. […]

Isn’t uncomfortable that the only public person who dares to denounce paramilitary crimes and the way they infiltrated and coopted local and regional institutions has a lot of skeletons in his closet just the same way the people he’s denouncing, in spite of performing a great service on this country as political control?

Finally, I must refer to Center for International Policy’s brief. There’s a lot to come, undoubtedly…