Wednesday, November 16, 2011
We had planned the trip in September, when my friend Johanna and I were camping with some friends of hers and we were all commenting on how much we loved camping, but how rarely we did it.
Two months passed and despite being certain that his plans was going to go the way of most well intentioned plans made amongst people will a million commitments; I was sure it wasnt going to happen.
Lo and behold, hours after sending a reminder message, Johanna had suggested a place and Anita, Isaac, Mika and Juanita had all committed to going.
We ended up going to Villa de Leyva in Boyaca, a 4 hour trip north east of Bogota. It was rainy, it was cold and it was by most objective measures pretty shitty weather. However, me being the cold, damp weather person that I am, thought that the Grey skies contrasted with he green mountains serving as a background for the town of all white buildings was pretty damn gorgeous.
So we spent the weekend walking through the woods, seeing ponds turned a milky green-blue by the excess of copper sulfate and wondering how a place that receives so much rain can look so arid in some places.
The nights were spent drinking aguardiente, playing pool and then moving to the plaza where we enjpyed making a bit of a scene playing various games that adults dont normally play. It was one of he more fun nights I have had.
Anyway, here are a few pictures of the weekend. I didnt have my camera, but these are from Mika and I am hoping that Johanna and Anita get theirs up soon.
From left to right: MIka, Anita, Isaac, Juanita, me. In front of the water fall we discovered.
One of the streets of Villa de Leyva
Anita and I walking up to the mountain path
the first brook we found on the mountain hike. I thought it was the coolest thing...until I walked a little further.
Mika with Villa de Leyva in the background
Isaac with Villa de Leyva in the background
Johanna and me on the way to the mountain
the hidden waterfall I found looking for a place to pee without falling off the cliff.
Mika and Isaac enjoying the perfect mushroom from Mario Kart
Friday, November 11, 2011
Here is the Washington Post article publish on August 20 on the findings.
Wednesday, November 9, 2011
Below is an excerpt taken from an incident brief released by the Colombian Government in 2005.
"On July 12, 1997, approximately one hundred members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, AUC) landed at the San José de Guaviare airport. The Colombian Army allowed the planes to land and provided its trucks to transport the paramilitaries to Mapiripán. At dawn on July 15, 1997, more than 100 armed men surrounded Mapiripán by land and river. The paramilitaries wore clothing used exclusively by military forces, carried short- and long-range weapons whose use was restricted to the State, and used high-frequency radios. Upon arrival at Mapiripán, the paramilitary forces took control of the town, the communications, and the public offices, and proceeded to kidnap, kill, and intimidate the inhabitants. The Army collaborated in supplying munitions and communications. The Office of the Attorney General of Colombia concluded that the commanders of Brigade VII and of Mobile Brigade II demonstrated complete functional and operational inactivity despite knowing about the massacre.
The testimonies of the survivors indicate that on July 15, 1997, the AUC separated out 27 individuals who were tortured and dismembered by a member of the AUC known as "Mochacabezas." The paramilitaries stayed in Mapiripán from July 15 to 20, 1997, during which time they impeded the free movement of the municipality's inhabitants and continued to torture, dismember, eviscerate, and decapitate individuals and throw their remains into the Guaviare River. Once the crimes had been committed, the AUC destroyed much of the physical evidence, in order to obstruct the gathering of proof. The Mapiripán massacre was carried out with logistical support from and with collaboration, acquiescence, and omissions on the part of members of the Colombian Army. The Army's omissions included failing to cooperate with the judicial authorities who tried to reach the scene of the crime."
Why is it important now?
Because it is now at the center of a blame game between the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (the international legal entity that makes recommendations to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights) and the Colombian state. This argument changes the focus of the horrible event from state sponsored violence, to numbers killed and faulty investigations and calls into question the international mechanisms for the protection of human rights.
After conducting an investigation into the crime, the Inter-American commission on human rights found that 50 people had been tortured, chopped up and thrown in the nearby river. It consequently ordered the Colombian state to pay millions of dollars in reparations to the victims' families...some of which actually has been paid.
Now, the Colombian Attorney General's office has re-investigated the crime using new data and demobilized paramilitary members that have admitted to participating the massacre and have found that there are at least 9 people who where reported as killed in the massacre but who are actually still living or died in other ways.
Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian President, is now taking this case to the Organization of American States meeting and denouncing it as a flawed investigation that questions the credibility of the Inter-American Court on Human rights.
The Inter-American Court has replied saying that the State had always promoted the same witnesses and victims' testimonies as truth, even using them in future court cases, and that ultimately it is the responsibility of the state to conduct its own internal investigations regarding human rights violations.
It is important to never assume that any entity, including one designed to protect human rights, is incorruptible or infallible. However, I worry (maybe somewhat unnecessarily) that the government will use this to call into question the legitimacy of the Inter-American court system as a whole, thereby damaging the credibility of the institution whose ruling recognizing the validity of the CdP's rupture with the State we as accompaniers rely on heavily to legitimize the community's struggle.
Second, the Mapiripan event has been one of the events that most clearly shows the connection between the Colombian Armed forces and the paramilitaries in heinous massacres that often occurred over the last decade and a half. It would be heartbreaking if this new development were to detract from the guilt the State has for such links.
Third, this development comes at a time when it is finally starting to be realized that despite the fact that Santos represents a softer more enlightened discourse toward human rights, little has improved in terms of their actual protection.
(See also here. It is in Spanish, but the stat he opens with is that in the first semester of 2011, 38 human rights defenders have been killed-more than 6 per month)
I worry that this development used as fodder for the government to assert that civil society, human rights defenders included, can legitimately be excluded from future processes, like, for example a potential peace negotiations with the guerrilla. In other words, Santos says "Look what happened when I gave you respect and gave you space. Now I have no reason to trust you."
We'll see what happens.
In other news, the maximum leader of the FARC, Alfonso Cano, was killed this week in another step in the state strategy at destructing the guerrilla group through attacking its leaders. Makes sense, except for the fact that the guerrillas can replace leaders as if they were toothpicks. Plus, it seems to make equal sense to worry bout the decentralization and scattering that occurs when you cut off the head. Here is an article in English about the topic.
Also, one has to kind of think about how perverse it is that on a global scale (think Osama bin Laden or Gadhafi), societies are treating the deaths of iconic people as momentous victories that should be celebrated. Nothing like hoping for peace through celebrating murder.
Finally, the last few weeks has also seen the official 'dismantling' of the Colombian intelligence agency, the DAS, whose head has been convicted to 25 years of prison for leading the organization through a program of illegal wire tapping and participation in the persecution and murder of human rights defenders and judges. Interestingly, though not too surprisingly, wikileaks has shown that the US embassy had a significant hand in funding some of the worst DAS sections. With over 90% of the current DAS employees keeping their jobs in some other government sector, it is difficult to see this as a real change in how the government as a whole works. Like most things, I guess we'll see.
Tuesday, November 1, 2011
While it inst very interesting, what has been on my mind recently are medical school interviews, and medical school in general. Start with med school in general because it ties in a bit with my work here. It is amazing how I feel like my comfort level Bogota has skyrocketed recently. No longer do I look at this city and see a purely temporary holding spot until my real life begins. I have a rhythm. I have friends. I no longer feel like the pollution is killing me. Bogota no longer looks like a gray, ugly city and it's transportation system no longer seems like a maze made to confuse everyone.
Rather I look at Bogota and I see the incredibly acitivity that happens just under the surface. I appreiate the fact that within 10 blocks of my house I have two very active social/cultural centers organized by people ranging from ardent anarchists to progressive professionals. The pollution probably still is killing me, but ive gotten use to it, and now I see the transportation as one that values flexibility and convenience over rules and standards.