Colombia. In September, President Álvaro Uribe Vélez
decided to dissolve the Security Police (Departamento
Administrativo de Seguridad, DAS) and replace it with a new
body. DAS has repeatedly been accused of illegal methods and
cooperation with paramilitary groups, most recently in
February 2009, when it was revealed that DAS was
intercepting top politicians and then sold the information
through auction. DAS has also been accused of planning to
assassinate Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez, and relations
between the two countries have been frosty since March 2008.
countryaah, Colombia's plans to enter into a military cooperation
agreement with the United States prompted Chávez to
reevaluate relations with the country. The cooperation
agreement concerns the United States' use of six military
bases to help the government fight drug crime and terrorism.
Chavez claimed that the agreement posed a threat to
Venezuela's security and announced that the military would
be reinforced along the border with Colombia. The matter was
discussed at several UNASUR (South American Union) meetings
during the second half of the year. Several heads of state
were worried about the US's increased presence on the
continent and the risk of armor, but President Uribe Vélez
emphasized Colombia's right to decide for itself how its
domestic policy problems should be resolved.
Another factor in the diplomatic crisis with Venezuela
was the disclosure in July that security forces in a base
captured by the guerrilla group FARC (Fuerzas Armadas
Revolucionarias de Colombia) found Swedish-made weapons that
were originally sold to Venezuela. President Chávez denied
that his government should have supplied the FARC with
weapons, but Jan-Erik Lövgren from the Inspection for
Strategic Products and the Swedish Trade Minister's press
secretary Jens Eriksson later confirmed that the weapons
were sold to Venezuela in the 1980s. Chávez froze relations
with Colombia, called his ambassador home and threatened to
seize Colombian corporate assets in the country.
On September 1, the House of Representatives voted in
favor of a referendum on the issue of a possible second
re-election of a sitting president. President Uribe Vélez
has expressed doubts about his own candidacy should such a
constitutional amendment go through.
In October 2003, Luis Eduardo Garzón won the mayoral post
in Bogota for the center-left party Polo Democrático
Independiente (Independent Democratic Pol, PDI). The post is
the country's second most important after the presidential
post, and electoral victory shook the traditional parties.
It also pointed to a national tendency to strengthen the
In June 2004, ELN accepted an offer from Mexico for
mediation in the country's protracted internal armed
conflict. A communication from the ELN announced that peace
is needed to develop Colombia's future, and the guerrilla
also accepted Mexico's offer of peace mediation. High
Commissioner for Peace Luis Carlos Restrepo declared himself
optimistic in this announcement and at the same time stated
that it paved the way for the incorporation of ELN into the
country's civilian life.
In July, 200 British MPs asked the British government to
cease military aid to Colombia because of the close ties
between the state security forces and paramilitary groups
gathered in the AUC. Acc. the British newspaper The
Guardian condemned the 200 members - mostly Labor - of
British support for Colombia and asked Prime Minister Blair
to suspend military aid to the country. In their request,
MPs pointed out that the majority of trade unionists killed
in Colombia in 2002 had been executed by paramilitaries of
state security forces.
However, British Latin American Minister Bill Rammell
stated that the British government would continue its
support for the Uribe government in the field of security.
Colombia's Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Alfonso López
Caballero, also stated that the British government has been
very solid with the Colombian government, due to the
latter's efforts to secure security - although there was
still a long way to consolidate peace in the country.
That same month, the Bishop of Yopal, Misael Vacca
Ramírez was abducted and released after 3 days by members of
the ELN. The abduction was condemned by Pope Paul II, and
the government initiated a gigantic rescue operation in an
attempt to get Ramírez released. Upon his release, he stated
that he had been treated with respect. He was surrendered by
his abductors to Bishop Javier Pizarro in the city of
Trinidad in the Casanare department.
In August, a FARC spokesman made a proposal for direct
negotiations between the guerrillas and the government on
the exchange of FARC prisoners against the government's FARC
prisoners. In an interview with the TV program Noticias Uno,
guerrilla leader Raúl Reyes accepted the appointment of High
Commissioner for Peace Luis Carlos Restrepo as a broker, but
the FARC at the same time refused to use the Internet as a
medium for the negotiations. Restrepo had proposed the use
of electronic mail as the fastest negotiating method. Reyes,
in turn, stated that the FARC did not want to negotiate from
the hidden or abroad, but instead asked the government to
set up a demilitarized zone for the negotiations. The
families of those abducted in the custody of the FARC
declared themselves satisfied with the government's
designation of Restrepo as a broker,
Also in August, the United Nations and the International
Red Cross urged the Colombian government to intervene in the
impunity of abductions in the country. Acc. the two
organizations have 890 abduction cases in Colombia that have
not yet been investigated and resolved by the authorities.
The information and request were made public in Geneva
during a global disappearance meeting.
In October, hundreds of thousands of people walked the
streets across the country in protest against the Uribe
government. It was one of the biggest events in the
country's history. The protests concentrated on the high
unemployment rate and went peacefully apart from a few
unrest in Popayán in southwestern Colombia. In Bogota,
traffic was interrupted by the stellar demonstration, which
from various parts of the capital went to the Plaza de
Bolivar in the center - next to the City Hall, Congress and
the Palace of Justice. About 50,000 people attended the
demonstration in Bogota. Including teachers, hospital staff,
students and natives.