Hector Mondragon - 'Diego'

Hector Mondragon, economist

National advisor for group of 14 campesino organizations, including:
ANUC- National Association of Campesino Users
(Asociación Nacional de Usuarios Campesinos)
ONIC- National Organization of Indigenous People in Colombia
(Organización Nacional Indigena de Colombia)
[See http://www.onic.org.co/]

Hector’s website: http://www.gratisweb.com/ciclocrisis

Z magazine has a lot of his articles translated into English.

"Can take pictures, quote, and tape record; any problems that can come from that we already have!"

[Hector now never talks on the phone; never sleeps two nights in a row in the same place. Although he is a public figure, his meetings are always kept a secret from the general public, hence our referal as the 'Diego' meeting. This name changes daily and from meeting to meeting.]

Very happy to be able to talk, especially with those people who have put their own bodies on the line. I myself was tortured by a graduate of the School of the Americas and always thought it’s important for me to be reconciled with him. Someday all should be reconciled with their torturers, but that can only happen when the School of the Americas is closed.

Thank you for participating in the struggle. Thank you so much for coming here to see what is our reality.

On September 16 there's a planned campesino mobilization. One indigenous organizer has already been killed -- suggesting the possibility of further repression against attempts to organize.

Started with news of all the world. Town Puerto Alvira in Meta captured by guerrillas. Showed map of Southeast Colombia. I worked there with indigenous people. [Passes around photo book.] When I knew them, there were about 1000 people; now only 370 are left. A line of oil exploration began in 1993 in their territory; three anthropologists expressed concern about the consequences of the pipeline on the indigenous in the area. The majority of the people died from illnesses from colonialization, most of them curable. Many died of simple cold/flu.

A massacre would get international attention. So now the strategy is to let them die. Currently there is a meningitis epidemic; effective treatment costs $30/person. The indigenous have money deposited in their own bank account ($30,000), and they are legally entitled to it by Colombian Constitution. They were told they could not withdraw funds for treatment because they could not speak Spanish with bank officials. Concerned anthropologists and Protestants volunteered to translate for them at the bank, but this overture was denied by the bank and /or government because the would-be translators did not have degrees in linguistics! The doctor said, " I don’t know their language but anyone can see they want to live." Nevertheless, many died from the meningitis.

HM and a missioner have been trying to help the survivors put together a legal claim. While doing research in their area, HM and missioner were caught by FARC, who intended to kill them. At the same time, U.S. missionaries were caught by the FARC and accused of being CIA. Area campesinos, who know HM well, intervened and saved their lives. "A missionary and I were willing to give our lives so that these indigenous could live, but God wanted the missionary and me and the indigenous to live so we could keep giving our testimony. These are campesinos, who grow coca because they cannot get their grapefruit to the market. I had been there with my son. This is an area of coca. I wanted my son to meet the coca farmers. These are marvelous people, very poor, very hospitable. They need to eat. There were hundreds of grapefruit trees. We ate what was there. If they could sell these in New York, they would be rich. But they’re rotting there. The indigenous group had a meeting with the guerrillas to ask them to release the missionaries. They had me in one place and the missionaries in another place. The guerrillas told me to write why I was there. I filled a notebook. They released us both. FARC let the group of indigenous go the same day they let me go. So the indigenous went to the lake and fished and caught so much fish to feed all of the assembly."

(As an historical aside to the above unfolding situation, HM mentioned that the first oil exploration in Colombia was in 1916, where Barrancabermeja currently exists. The indigenous population there was exterminated. Forty years after Standard Oil started exploration there were only six indigenous, now there are none. So a national indigenous group of Colombians presented a lawsuit and won.)

WFP I Team member Tanya Snyder translates for Hector.

Regarding the recent removal of 2000 people from Puerto Alvira by the FARC: In 1996, when fumigation started, 30,000 cocaleros had a rally in Guaviare-Putumayo. The method of repression was to throw tear gas canisters from helicopters. The same method was used later in Genoa.

A year later, July 13, 1997, the paras came to the town of Mapiripan and massacred more than 30 people. Mapiripan is the town center. Puerto Alvira is one town depending on the center of Mapiripan. Then they came to Puerto Alvira and killed 27 people. They shot a little girl in the spine. Campesinos say there were more than 50 deaths. The massacre in Mapiripan lasted 5 days and nobody stopped it. In Puerto Alvira, the same happened. The army came only after the guerrillas came. There was much criticism of the army. But the procuraduria let the people go. [I think this means that the procuraduria, which has the role of investigating official misconduct, released the military officials whose malfeasance permitted the masssacre.] The campesinos were angry because the guerrillas got there too late to help the people.

So what I think is this: The paras came again to that region. So the guerrillas came and sent the people to another region. We should ask if this was really by force. The truth is the people needed to leave because they were afraid of another massacre by the paras. Even if they didn’t, the people had a right to be scared because of what happened before.

I don’t defend the guerrillas, because they have also done massacres. They are very arbitrary and militaristic. But behind what the media says, we have to see the history. Why don’t they give complete news? The media say the guerrillas were using the 2000 people as a shield against the paras. But the paras almost never attack guerrillas. 90% of attacks between paras and guerrillas are the guerrillas attacking the paras. Paramilitaries attack people who can’t defend themselves, who don’t have weapons. Like killing the president of the union on Wednesday, while he was working on the plans for the campesino mobilization for September 7. This is the first warning that they will attack this mobilization.

The national and international press always talks about the crimes within the guerrilla and its true almost always. But they don’t talk about the crime of the state and the paramilitary. We don’t see in the US press that indigenous are allowed to die because of petroleum. Because the press tends to talk about guerrilla atrocities but not paras', it is important the delegates take this information home. Most important to us that you come here to take this testimony about what is being hidden.

Romans 1:18: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." This verse is saying they hold the truth captive in injustice. Sort of like trapping a fish in a net -- they keep the truth prisoner and it's in this net that they keep it prisoner. Like in Bible of Jerusalem, they say they keep the truth prisoner and it's in this net that they keep it prisoner.

What is this net? You in the US can see it better than we can because that’s where the nerve center of power lies. Because the media center holds this. So all the publishing of the Hearst is controlled by the same people that control JP Chase. Director of Hearst is also the director of JP Chase.

20% of the shares of the Washington Post are owned by Coca Cola. Coke is the company sued in the US because leaders of the union were being killed in Colombia.

People who run Time Warner and AOL are the same people who run CNN. Principal shareholder of this group is City Bank [or Citigroup?]. City Bank [or Citigroup] is very important in Colombia. It came to Colombia for coffee when called First National City Bank. The Graves family were founders of City Bank, so stopped working in export coffee, more profitable to sell coffee thorough transnational General Foods, which is under control of Kraft, which is the property of Phillip Morris (Marlboro producer). So these great transnationals are able to saturate the market with their product, and to lower their costs to twenty-percent. So the margin of profit increased to 40% in 2000-2001, ruining the campesinos here. In 2000, Colombia imported coffee from Peru to fulfill coffee contracts. In 2001 they didn’t import it or make anything because the price was so low. Peru started to grow coffee again, but when new market became saturated and price dropped, they started growing coca again.

Delegation members listen to 'Diego'

We can see Phillip Morris profited from it in another way. In this way Marlboro made the price of cigarettes lower in Colombia. This ruined all campesinos growing tobacco and sellers -- not for a healthy reason though. Really planes leave with poison and come back filled with more poison.

City Bank or Phillip-Morris also is a major shareholder of Unilever, an English Dutch Company. English company sold margarine called Uni; Dutch sold soap, Lever. Today, company has shareholders from those two companies and also US Best Foods. Among brands has margarine -- Lipton Tea, Ponds Creams, Mazola. Decided wouldn’t buy more tomatoes from Colombia and began to import, which ruined all Colombian farmers. Logically they went on to grow coca. Now only crop promoted in Colombia is the African Palm because Unilever needs to saturate the world market with oil like Phillip Morris with coffee. The primary ingredient in soap is this oil, so they brought the African Palm to Colombia. African palm cultivation has created economic and environmental crises in Cameroon, Nigeria, Malaysia.

The crop is now being inserted into Chiapas, Honduras, Colombia, Ecuador, etc. Here in Latin America, there are huge programs to grow African Palm. Campesinos say: Give us the land and we’ll give you 20% of the production of it. In 1999, the production rose 14%, while the price went down 14%. No money was made; campesinos are likely to absorb the loss. Land is a guarantee for the partners. Campesinos are treated as partners if the crop fails, so they can absorb the cost.

And this is another part of Plan Colombia, in addition to fumigation and export crops. Colombia is now importing 8% more food. Farmacia owns Monsanto, which intersects with Pfizer, which intersects with Halliburton and Citigroup. Three members of the Bush administration have connections with this Farmacia complex and Citigroup.

Also, bear in mind that Plan Colombia's helicopters are created by companies connected to both Democrats and Republicans. General Dynamics makes Black Hawk helicopters. Really half of them to balance the Republican and Democratic party. Half of the helicopters are made by Huey. Some Senators are sponsored by one company, others by another.

Now we are beginning to understand Plan Colombia. There are four more companies with these connections with Citigroup. Nortel telephone; Carlyle military investment; RAND Corporations -- security advising counter espionage firm; Entrust.

Frank Carlucci was secretary of defense under Bush Sr. All have connections with Citigroup.

Nortel, owner of Colombian cell company PalmCell, is connected with state telephone company Telecom; there is a trap called "shared risk." If it made money the company shared earnings; if it lost money only Telecom would lose money. Would have to keep paying Nortel as if it had made money.

Colombian government thought this was illegal and hired a lawyer, the new government’s Minster of the Interior Landano (?). If court case is won, it will break the state telephone company and lead to privatizing the phone companies. RAND Co. did a big report on Plan Colombia and made a lot of recommendations. One of these was to legalize the paramilitaries. Now you can see the whole business world owns the government. It can manufacture cigarettes, launder money, lend money, charge external debt, plant African Palm, ruin campesinos, import and them impose "security plan" for public order, and -- more than that -- the same people give us our news. This, then, is the net.

Citigroup also involved in petroleum oil companies. Chevron has exploration zone in North of Colombia where some of biggest massacres in the last two years took place. Northern most zone of Colombia -- half of it was Dutch company Shell.  Military base has been created for Plan Colombia just a few km from Colombia and Venezuela.
In April 2000, the late Senator Paul Coverdell (GA) wrote that intervention in Colombia is necessary not only to control Colombian guerrillas, but also to control Venezuela, the largest oil producer in the hemisphere. So Plan Colombia has become regional in nature. Ecuador also produces oil.

Now more US military force in Paraguay than Colombia because Paraguay is a strategic point for control of all crises in South America.

Argentina's December crisis occurred in Uruguay yesterday -- people were looting supermarkets, including monied people who were not allowed to withdraw their funds from the bank. We all know what happened in Argentina. People rose up against the crisis for payment of external debt -- had assumed transnational debt as part of Argentine debt. So to pay, Mennen government privatized all industries.

Many examples of popular organizing having successes in countering privatization in many countries, inc. getting representatives elected.

In Paraguay campesinos stopped privatization of phone companies. Peru struggled -- people stopped the electric company from being privatized.

Bolivian mobilization stopped the privatization of water. Campesinos killed off the politics of fumigation of coca. 21% voted for a coco farmer for president. Coca growers managed to elect 8 of 27 Congress members. Great organizing force in that country.

More good news.

In a Mexico area, an indigenous group kept off an airport that would have been imposed on their lands. Mexico, to bring in NAFTA, had to change the Constitution because lands of campesinos and indigenous were inalienable. Now they can be sold. That’s why the Zapatista insurgency when made this change in the Constitution also wanted to take land in the Ateneco region but couldn’t

Colombian war mostly served to take lands from campensinos. 1984 -- 5000 people biggest landholders owned under 32% of the land; now they own 49% of the land. More than 2 million campesinos are displaced. This is not the first time this happened in this country. In 1948-58 over 2 million campesinos were displaced off their land. Violence did not begin with the narcotraffickers or the guerrilla. It is a system/network of violence that keeps the truth prisoner. Here we are giving life every day to break thorough this net. As said in Jeremiah, the word of God is in disgrace because we watch our friends die and be murdered.

I had met with the union leader killed Wednesday the week before. I also feel very deeply the threat against us and the kids. Like Jeremiah, I feel a fire, and we keep moving forward, and God gives us much happiness. Like seeing you here today, and knowing that you are all willing to share with us this struggle and this sacrifice.

Q: What is your analysis of the "dissolving of the AUC"?

I think there are various causes. I think one fundamental one is to put themselves in accord with the report of the RAND Corporation and its suggestion for paramilitaries to be legalized. There need to be "good" paramilitaries and also "bad" paramilitaries, because then the bad paramilitaries are held responsible for all bad things the paramilitaries did through time. "Good" paramilitaries can be separate from them - the operation is a laundering of the paramilitaries. Those paramilitaries are taking advantage of the media of this network -- interviewed by Time, Spanish TV, Colombian media chains, put out a book, part of a jet set. The others, bad ones, keep doing their dirty work. No doubt the recommendations of RAND will be applied. The bad paramilitaries will keep carrying out dirty work. And army and good paramilitaries will be the immaculate people and can wash away intersections with the drug world even though all know the father of Carlos Castana was a drug trafficker and Carlos Castana himself was a drug trafficker until very recently, a few days ago.

New President Uribe has been accused of connections with drug traffickers. When he had control of civil aeronautics, he gave licenses to all drug traffickers and the plane of his own father, and that plane was found in one of the largest drug trafficking bases. Past will just be cleansed and forgotten.

There are conflicts between paramilitaries over whole question of the importation of milk. Good paras support importation as part of multinational campaign; bad paramilitaries oppose importation on behalf of cattle ranchers and big landowners -- bad paras are attacking plants.

Q: How was your commitment formed?

Started on social movement at 12 years old in High School in Christian Catholic group. Read the Bible, would say Matthew 25 converted me. When I was hungry you gave me something to eat. When I was thirsty-- I saw a bit of Jesus Christ in the poor people worked with people in the poorest neighborhood in Bogotá and fell in love with them and made a very deep and radical commitment to them. We may have committed many errors, but were faithful to that commitment.

Q: Bad guerrilla/indigenous relation?

Not a new problem. In his eyes because since 1948 the guerrilla came from areas that had experienced massacres to get rid of campesinos; majority of guerrillas are youth from the displaced campesino families -- not just men, women, too. Some of these came in at six, for example Commandante Marulando. In their mind, there are two parts of the "program." First, to survive. Second, to avenge themselves. For these reasons, they were never very respectful of human rights or international law, and have always used massacres. Colombian guerrillas don't understand the indigenous communities, unlike the Zapatistas who are themselves indigenous. Colombian guerrillas impose a "campesino invasion" on the indigenous in their lands, due to the displacement problem. This sad situation -- campesinos vs. indigenous -- is manipulated. The drop in coffee prices led to ethnic war.

Final comments regarding globalization:  Big Wall Street firm Merryl Lynch gave exact opposite advice to small shareholders than to big firms, which is why small shareholders lost all their money. It’s the same thing with the IMF. They counsel the Colombian government: No subsidies on agriculture and use complete free trade and ruin all the campesinos. At the same time farm subsidies are increasing in the US and not complete free trade. That’s why Jos.Steiglitz, former IMF guy, has written a book that shows that advice of IMF has led to worsening crises in Argentina and Indonesia. And Uruguay also applied IMF advice, and yesterday the consequences came and now new Ministry of the Economy used to be IMF/Colombia director. So you already know what will happen. Government likes to say Plan Colombia is not just military, also investment, but that’s just a big lie, taking a look at the budget of Colombia.

Just calling it Plan Colombia, over seventy percent of the money is either military things or fumigation. There’s a $52 million loan from the World Bank for increasing the cultivation of African Palm. But compared to $2 billion in spending, $52 million isn’t that much. An even more important part is the commercial area. Something all the big business people had been asking for was the Andean Trade Preference Act to import Colombian and Andean goods to the United States without any customs taxes. Supposed to have a beneficial effect on the Colombian economy. ATPA was approved simultaneously with the Fast Track, giving Bush the authority to negotiate trade with any Latin America countries that would accept it, rather than regionally. Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru will be pressured to sign. With FTAA, "an avalanche of imports and privatization will flatten us."

Agreements Colombia already has allowed for foreign laws to be applied. For example a transnational energy corporation has a lawsuit with the Colombian state. Fernando Landano again the minister if apply Colombian law, Colombia would win. If applied US law, Colombia would win, but the second biggest shareholder is Viviendi, a French company. So, the very wise lawyer applied French law and the energy company won. The lawsuit was between the Colombian state and a north American company, and the contract was made in Colombia but they used French law.

That’s the economic aspect of the Andean Initiative. The way that Neoliberalism came to Latin America was by General Pinochet. "The FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) will come to Colombia in the helicopters of Plan Colombia," because of the resistance (in Venezuela to the coup d’etat, in Bolivia to the water privatization, and in Peru to energy privatization). They want to break all resistance with Plan Colombia.

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