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Second Annual Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia

Join thousands of people of faith from Colombia and North America to pray for an end to violence and suffering in Colombia, and act to end unjust U.S. policies that contribute to the humanitarian crisis! More than 100 congregations in the U.S., Canada and Colombia have already confirmed their participation - will you join the list? Send Jennifer an email to let us know if you're participating at jtrowbridge@lawg.org. The Latin America Working Group is actively working with coalition partners to organize this event. We will ask Congress to: * Shift the balance of aid to Colombia, in order to prioritize aid for sustainable solutions to Colombia's humanitarian crisis, rather than more military training and assistance. * Not support the Colombian Free Trade Agreement (FTA). More labor union leaders are killed in Colombia each year than the rest of the world combined. To participate in the Days of Prayer and Action, visit www.peaceincolombia.org. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe visited Washington recently to lobby policy makers for a Free Trade Agreement and more military aid for Colombia. These requests are particularly concerning right now for a number of reasons: * The war rages on in Colombia. Plan Colombia was initially intended to support the rule of law in Colombia, improve the human rights record of the Colombian military, and reduce coca production. But after 7 years and more than $5.4 billion of U.S. taxpayer dollars spent, we see just the opposite! At the end of May, the foreign operations appropriations subcommittee in the House of Representatives will consider Bush and Uribe's proposal for "Plan Colombia 2," and it's time that we call for a major shift in U.S. priorities in Colombia. Keep an eye out for emails from LAWG in coming weeks to take further action. * The U.S.-Colombia FTA will increase drug production and violence against labor union leaders. Colombia is the most dangerous country in the world to organize labor unions. Furthermore, the flooding of the market caused by an FTA will put many small farmers out of business, likely causing many to turn to more lucrative drug production. Presidents Bush and Uribe have already signed the FTA, and the ball in now in Congress' court. This will heat up in the summer, so again, keep an eye out from LAWG! * Numerous members of Pres. Uribe's party have been implicated in an unfolding scandal in Colombia in recent months. The "para-politics" scandal has revealed that some government officials - and military officials as well - have had close ties to the right-wing paramilitary group the AUC, which is on the U.S. State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. In protest of the human rights crisis in Colombia, including the murders of labor unionists, LAWG supported a demonstration in downtown Washington - organized by Public Citizen - before one of Pres. Uribe's events. You can read more about Pres. Uribe's visit and Colombia's para-politics scandal on Adam Isacson's blog, of the Center for International Policy: http://cipcol.org/.
Date: 
Sun, 05/20/2007 (All day) - Mon, 05/21/2007 (All day)
Location: 
United States

Colombia takes war on drugs to supermarket

Location: 
Bogota
Colombia
Publication/Source: 
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer (GA)
URL: 
http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/251/story/32112.html

Latin America: Colombia Bans Coca Products -- Except Coca-Cola

While Bolivia's Evo Morales and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, along with hundreds of thousands of Andean coca growers, are seeking to expand legal markets for the venerable leaf, the Colombian government is moving in the opposite direction. For years, Bogota has allowed indigenous coca farmers to sell coca products, promoting the enterprise as one of the few successful commercial opportunities available to recognized tribes like the Nasa, who have grown it for years and regard it as sacred. But in February, the Colombian government quietly imposed a ban on the sale of products outside indigenous reserves.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/cocasek.jpg
Coca Sek -- better than Coca Cola
The Nasa are pointing the finger at Coca-Cola, which last fall lost a lengthy legal effort against Coca Sek, the Nasa's energy drink popular among the Colombian young. Coca Sek infringed on its copyright, the American soft drink giant argued. With the Colombian food safety agency, Invima, decision restricting coca sales coming scant months after Coca-Cola lost its battle against Coca Sek, the suspicions are natural.

But Invima said it is merely heeding the wishes of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). While Colombia formally adheres to the 1961 United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, which considers coca a drug to be eradicated, Colombian indigenous communities grow coca legally under indigenous autonomy provisions of the 1991 constitution, and have been selling coca products throughout Colombia. But last year, the INCB sent the Colombian foreign ministry a letter asking whether the "refreshing drink made from coca and produced by an Indian community" didn't violate the 1961 treaty.

While the treaty considers the coca plant a drug to be suppressed and eradicated, it also contains a provision allowing coca products to be used if the cocaine alkaloid has been extracted. That is Coca-Cola's loophole, and the Nasa call it hypocrisy.

"They lose their fight in October and then in February the government decides to prohibit Coca Sek," said David Curtidor, a Nasa in charge of the company that produces the drink. He is leading a legal challenge to the ban. In the meantime, the community is losing $15,000 a month from lost sales of Coca Sek and other coca products. "Why don't they also ban Coca-Cola? It's also made of coca leaves," he complained to the Associated Press.

Coca-Cola wouldn't confirm or deny to the AP that it even uses a cocaine-free coca extract, as is widely believed. It did deny having anything to do with Invima's decision. Invima told the AP Coca-Cola had no role.

But the Nasa are suspicious, and they're not the only ones who think Coca-Cola gets special treatment. Last year, Bolivia's Morales, a former coca grower union leader himself, complained to the UN General Assembly that "the coca leaf is legal for Coca Cola and illegal for medicinal purposes in our country and in the whole world."

And now, whether at the bidding of the INCB or Coca-Cola, Colombia is moving to strangle the legal market for coca, even as it leads the world in coca production despite $4 billion in US aid this decade and the widespread aerial spraying of herbicides. In so doing, it places itself directly against the current in a region where coca is increasingly gaining the respect it deserves and the power of the coca growers is on the increase.

Colombian Group Urges Retooling of US Aid

Location: 
Colombia
Publication/Source: 
Voice of America (DC)
URL: 
http://voanews.com/english/2007-05-09-voa23.cfm

Afghan fighters processing opium to boost drug profits: US official

Location: 
Brussels
Belgium
Publication/Source: 
EUbusiness (UK)
URL: 
http://www.eubusiness.com/news_live/1178636419.5

US drugs czar urges Europeans to use influence with Venezuela to help reduce cocaine flows

Location: 
Brussels
Belgium
Publication/Source: 
International Herald Tribune (France)
URL: 
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/05/08/europe/EU-GEN-EU-US-Drugs.php

U.S., allies seen as losing drug war

Location: 
Mexico City, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-cocaine5may05,0,4123403.story?coll=la-home-headlines

The Afghan village that uses opium as its currency

Location: 
Shahran-e-Khash, BDS
Afghanistan
Publication/Source: 
Belfast Telegraph (UK)
URL: 
http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/article2512213.ece

Colombia aid gets new scrutiny

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
St. Petersburg Times (FL)
URL: 
http://www.sptimes.com/2007/05/04/Worldandnation/Colombia_aid_gets_new.shtml

GWU Panel Event: The Humanitarian Crisis in Colombia

The GW Latin American and Hemispheric Studies Program, the Latin America Working Group, the U.S. Office on Colombia, the Center for International Policy, and the Washington Office on Latin America present: The Humanitarian Crisis in Colombia: Realities On the Ground and How the United States Can Play a More Constructive Role Colombia is in the midst of a humanitarian crisis in which internal displacement, human rights violations, and paramilitary and insurgency violence stubbornly persist in many areas outside of the country’s major cities. The United States plays a key role in Colombia through its provision of military aid, its massive aid program, Plan Colombia, and its continued effort to fight a militarized supply-side drug war. Join an esteemed delegation of human rights experts for a panel briefing and town hall discussion on the humanitarian crisis in Colombia. No RSVP necessary. This event is free and open to the public. It will be conducted in Spanish with consecutive English interpretation. Esteemed guests include: Eduardo Zuñiga Eraso, Governor of Nariño province, Colombia. Mr. Zuñiga has governed Nariño, a province currently at the epicenter of Colombian conflict, since January 2004. Governor Zuñiga previously was rector and professor of anthropology of the University of Nariño, and has received the national prize for anthropology applied to indigenous communities. Father Maurizio Pontin, coordinator, Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees (Movilidad Humana) section, Pastoral Social. Father Maurizio coordinates programs and policy for IDPs and refugees carried out by the Colombian Catholic Bishops’ Conference. He will describe the problem of violent land takeovers by armed groups, the needs of displaced communities, and the church’s response to the crisis. Marco Alberto Romero, President of CODHES, the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement. Mr. Romero is a political science professor affiliated with the National University of Colombia, where he has held posts as director of political science, vice dean and director of the political science journal. He has been an investigator affiliated with CODHES since 1995.
Date: 
Wed, 05/09/2007 - 12:30pm - 2:00pm
Location: 
1957 E Street, NW
Washington, DC
United States

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