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TITLE:  COLOMBIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

                         COLOMBIA


Colombia is a constitutional, multiparty democracy long 
dominated by the Liberal and Conservative parties.  The M-19 
guerrilla movement, which became a legal political party, 
Democratic Alliance M-19 (AD/M-19) in 1990, fielded a 
presidential candidate and several congressional candidates in 
1993.  A small Socialist party, Patriotic Union, also 
participates in national politics.  The next national elections 
will be held in May 1994.  Until August, the country was under 
a state of emergency declared by President Cesar Gaviria in 
late 1992.  This allowed the President to issue decrees on 
public order matters normally requiring legislative action.  
During the fall session, Congress debated many of these decrees,
with the participation of human rights groups, and incorporated 
some of their provisions into permanent legislation.

Internal security is the primary responsibility of the Ministry 
of Defense, which in addition to the armed forces, includes the 
National Police (CNP).  The Department of Administrative 
Security (DAS), which is responsible for national security 
intelligence, reports directly to the President.  Elements of 
the police and the armed forces remained responsible for 
widespread human rights abuses.

Colombia has a mixed economy in which the private sector has 
assumed an even more dominant role as a result of the economic 
liberalization program introduced by the Gaviria Government.  
Crude petroleum rivals coffee as the principal export.  The 
privatization of selected public industries continued, with 
three banks and a number of smaller enterprises sold by the 
Government during the year.  Narcotics traffickers continued to 
control extensive economic interests.

Colombia's engrained democratic tradition has survived despite 
high levels of internal violence.  For 8 months in 1993 and 
35 of the past 42 years, the Government operated under states 
of emergency which gave the executive a wide range of powers to 
issue decrees, some of which impinged on the basic rights of 
citizens, in order to deal with civil unrest associated with 
internal violence.  Narcotics traffickers, leftist guerrilla 
groups, and rightwing paramilitary groups--the last of which 
sometimes act with the support or acquiescence of local or 
regional military or police units--committed the majority of 
human rights abuses.  However, the army and police appeared to 
be jointly responsible for almost as many violations as the 
combined nongovernmental groups.


Narcotics traffickers frequently resorted to terror in attempts 
to intimidate the Government and the general population.  They 
continued to disseminate false information about official human 
rights violations in an effort to undermine the Government's 
credibility.  Narcotics traffickers and guerrillas cooperated 
extensively.  The commander of the armed forces estimated that 
60 percent of the revenue of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of 
Colombia (FARC) in two provinces came from drug trafficking.

Individual members and units of the police and army were 
responsible for extensive human rights abuses including 
extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, and arbitrary 
detention.  As acknowledged by the Attorney General and the 
National Human Rights Ombudsman, a major reason for the high 
level of abuse was the virtual impunity with which most took 
place.  Targets of abuse in rural and urban areas by the 
security forces included workers, politicians, labor 
organizers, human rights monitors, and, most frequently, 
peasant farmers in guerrilla territory.  Violence and economic 
discrimination against women remained commonplace.

The Government actively sought to improve its human rights 
record and effect reform, passing a comprehensive police reform 
law establishing a civilian Police Commissioner's Office and a 
National Advisory Board.  It remains to be seen whether these 
efforts will reduce police and military abuses.  The Office of 
the Defender of the People remained underfunded, while the 
Procuraduria, an independent government watchdog agency, 
conducted some investigations and imposed sanctions on a few 
state agents implicated in human rights abuses.  The armed 
forces initiated a human rights awareness campaign at the end 
of the year, creating a special office staffed by civilians to 
advise the joint chiefs of staff on human rights issues and to 
develop training materials and programs.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

The overall murder rate in Colombia increased for the second 
year in a row in 1993.  Bogota's leading newspaper, El Tiempo, 
cited 15,000 murders attributed to all sources throughout the 
country in the first 6 months of 1993, as compared to 11,000 
for the same period in 1992.  Due to insufficient police and 
judicial resources to investigate and prosecute most killings 
and the frequently overlapping violent forces at work, it is 
often difficult to separate political from nonpolitical murders.

The Center for Investigations and Popular Education (CINEP), 
Bogota's Jesuit-affiliated human rights and social welfare 
research center, reported a total of 581 politically motivated 
murders for the period from January through September 1993, 
compared with 873 for all of 1992.  Of these, 159 were 
attributed to members of the state security apparatus, 37 to 
paramilitary groups, 242 to the guerrillas, and 143 to unknown 
perpetrators.  According to the Andean Commission of Jurists 
(CAJSC), 437 cases of politically motivated killings were 
reported between January and June 1993, with another 755 
killings presumed to have been politically motivated.  CAJSC 
also stated that, during the full year, an average of 11 people 
per day were killed in politically motivated attacks, a figure 
almost identical to that of 1992.  In December a press report 
cited a figure of 649 political killings in Colombia for the 
year.  The report also stated that the department of Antioquia 
had the highest incidence of this violence, with a total of 230 
such killings.

The armed forces continued to be responsible for extrajudicial 
killings, including one reported massacre.  Lt. Colonel Luis 
Becerra was dismissed from the army and placed under 
investigation by the Attorney General for his alleged role in 
the October 1 massacre of 13 unarmed peasants in Rio Frio by a 
paramilitary unit.  Unit members also raped six women among the 
peasants before killing them, and there were signs of torture.  
An army unit under Becerra's command was reported to have 
placed weapons on the peasants and dressed them in guerrilla-
style uniforms after the massacre.  There were credible reports 
that Becerra was tied to the 1988 killings of 23 purported 
guerrillas who later turned out to be unarmed banana workers.  
The Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights 
reported an increase in massacres over the past 12 years, 
citing 176 massacres with 857 victims in 1992.  The report 
assigned responsibility for about 10 percent of the massacres 
during this 12-year period to government forces.

In April members of the 2nd Mobile Brigade allegedly tortured 
and executed high school teacher Parmencio Bonilla, cattleman 
Jairo Arguello, and laborer Roberto Alvarado in El Mordisco, 
Arauca department.  According to witnesses, guerrillas ambushed 
a military patrol shortly before these three were captured; 
area residents reported that none of the three had ties to the 
insurgents.  There were credible reports that the army executed 
two guerrillas who represented the Socialist Renewal Current 
faction in negotiations with the Government and that the local 
authorities attempted to cover up this extrajudicial killing.

The Procuraduria reported that five investigations of alleged 
human rights violations committed by the military were 
completed between January and August, resulting in 
administrative sanctions against 14 service members.  Charges 
against nine servicemen were dropped.

Members of the CNP also committed extrajudicial killings.  
CINEP linked CNP agents to a total of 21 of these killings 
through September, noting that this number had dropped from 40 
the previous year.  In September the Procuraduria charged a 
police captain and five agents of the Criminal Investigative 
Unit (SIJIN) in Narino department for their participation in 
the summary execution of five people in Catatumbo in March 
1992.  The five, suspected of having attacked buses along the 
Pan American highway, were detained but never brought into 
custody or charged.  The bodies of the victims showed signs of 
torture, and there was no indication that they were armed at 
the time of their detention.  In March a 9-year-old girl was 
found strangled in a Bogota police station after having been 
sexually assaulted.  In the wake of the crime, CNP Inspector 
General Humberto Maldonado and Operations Director Nassim Diaz 
were dismissed, along with several other high-ranking officers.
This incident was also cause for a rapid acceleration in 
drafting the police reform bill that was signed into law in 
August, and galvanized public opinion as to the dire need for 
institutional reform of the CNP.  The murdered child's father, 
himself a police agent, was initially detained as a suspect but 
was later released.  A continuing investigation had not 
produced any new developments by year's end.

CINEP reported 118 incidents of "social cleansing" between 
January and September throughout most major cities, which 
represented a slight decline from the previous year.  This 
activity involves attacks and killings, often by off-duty 
police, directed against groups deemed socially undesirable, 
i.e., prostitutes, homosexuals, indigent street people and 
street children (see Section 5), drug addicts, and panhandlers.
Many of these victims were rural peasants forced to flee 
military and guerrilla violence in their native regions who 
migrated to the cities in search of improved economic 
opportunities.  Merchant or vigilante citizens' groups are 
alleged to sponsor the attacks; off-duty police agents or 
contract killers are the most frequently accused perpetrators 
of these murders.  The October beating death of an indigent 
street poet in Bogota at the hands of police catalyzed public 
outcry, and a crowd of 3,000 turned his funeral into a peace 
march.  Two policemen were in custody and under investigation 
for this killing.

The Procuraduria reported that the Special Investigative Unit 
formed by the Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalia) in 1992 to 
investigate these occurrences found one police officer and two 
agents linked to incidents but did not find sufficient evidence 
to suggest that there was official police complicity in 
organized attacks against a specific class of citizens.  It 
determined that the three members of the CNP acted for personal 
motives; their cases were referred to the Attorney General's 
Office for Police Affairs, where they remained under 
investigation at year's end.

The Bogota Human Rights Ombudsman associated with the National 
Office of the Defender of the People issued a report in 
September decrying the increased incidence of "social 
cleansing."  The report very clearly accused elements of the 
police of tacit complicity in these cases and cited 12 murders 
as well as hundreds of lesser abuses, such as physical 
aggression and harassment by police or police-sponsored groups.

The inquiry into the 1991 death of journalist Henry Rojas 
continued.  A former Arauca mayor and an army colonel who had 
been exonerated in May were rearrested in September.  The 
Procuraduria investigation was still pending at year's end.

The Simon Bolivar Guerrilla Coordinating Board stepped up 
attacks against the military in the early fall during its 
"black September" campaign.  In separate attacks against police 
and military convoys in Usme and Antioquia, FARC guerrillas 
killed 13 policemen and 13 soldiers, respectively.  Survivors 
of the two attacks reported that the guerrilla attackers first 
dynamited the convoys and then bayoneted or shot the wounded at 
close range.  Press and human rights sources reported that 264 
members of the police and armed forces died while on active 
duty during the year.

Guerrillas were also responsible for many extrajudicial 
killings.  Members of a dissident faction of the Army of 
Popular Liberation (EPL) assassinated a well-known, outspoken 
peace activist, Father Javier Cirujano, in May in San Jacinto, 
Bolivar.  His accused killer, Ariel Contreras, was arrested by 
DAS agents in September.  Other, less notable victims included 
those who refused to submit to extortion, those suspected of 
collaborating with the Government or military, and, in 
particular, those former guerrillas who deserted the subversive 
movements to reintegrate themselves with the noncombatant 
population under the Government's "reinsertion" plan.  In 
September FARC members killed the parents of a soldier when 
they became lost on their way to visit him and stumbled into 
rebel territory.

Nationwide, policemen continued to be murdered by drug 
traffickers, terrorists, guerrillas, and common criminals, 
although the number dropped significantly from the previous 
year.  According to official police statistics, 177 police 
officials were killed from January through September, compared 
to 620 in 1992.  Of these 177 deaths, 36 were attributed to 
narcotics traffickers.  In November National Liberation Army 
(ELN) guerrillas assassinated Colombian Senate Vice President 
Dario Londono in Medellin.  He was chairing congressional 
debate on public order legislation at the time.  Following his 
murder, the ELN published several open letters that stated that 
other congressmen who supported the legislation would be 
targeted as well.  Also in November, the body of Italian 
Honorary Consul Guisseppe Suarigia was discovered several 
months after he had been kidnaped by the FARC in Bucamaranga.

In November alone, press reports estimated that upwards of 
70 banana workers were killed in Uraba.  Accounts indicate that 
the killings were most likely perpetrated by EPL guerrillas 
against "reinserted" former subversives.  Two weeks later the 
FARC openly assassinated another 20 or so reinserted workers, 
arriving at the plantations in force with death lists in hand 
and executing the laborers in front of their fellow workers.

Narcotics-related terrorism remained at a high level during the 
first several months of 1993 but tapered off during the second 
half of the year.  Before government forces tracked him down 
and killed him on December 2, fugitive drug kingpin Pablo 
Escobar conducted a random bombing campaign in Medellin and 
Bogota, intended to force the Government to grant him favorable 
terms of surrender.  The attacks culminated in April with the 
explosion of a powerful bomb in a fashionable Bogota 
neighborhood that left 11 dead and over 200 wounded.  Escobar 
was also believed to be responsible for ordering the deaths of 
over 140 policemen since his escape in July 1992.  In October 
an ELN bomb attack in central Bogota against a police bus 
claimed the lives of 2 policemen and wounded 17 other police 
and civilian bystanders.

A shadowy paramilitary group dedicated to the elimination of 
Pablo Escobar and his Medellin-based trafficking organization 
conducted a series of terrorist attacks, mostly aimed at 
Escobar's family and associates.  The group, known as the 
"Pepes" and led by the well-known paramilitary chief Fidel 
Castano, conducted spectacular attacks on Escobar's properties 
and assets.  Despite the group's public announcement in April 
that it would disband due to government opposition to its 
activities, killings of Escobar defense attorneys and 
associates continued.  Two days before Escobar's death, the 
group announced it would resume its activities.  It claimed 
responsibility for the killing of an Escobar relative on the 
same day that the drug kingpin was killed by the military.

In general, paramilitary activity declined during the first 
part of the year but, according to press reports, began to 
resurface in the latter half of 1993.  The national weekly, 
Cambio 16, reported the return of irregular armed militias 
sponsored by ranchers and often tacitly supported by regional 
armed forces in the conflict-ridden region of Uraba.  
Paramilitary groups, including associates of deceased 
paramilitary leader Gonzalo Rodriguez Gacha, were responsible 
for a series of killings, incidents of torture, and 
disappearances among rural peasants in the Yacopi area.

     b.  Disappearance

Security forces continued to be responsible for disappearances.
The Procuraduria received 47 reports of disappearance alleged 
to have been perpetrated by the police or military between 
January and August that included 62 total victims.  Forty-two 
of these cases are still in the preliminary investigative stage,
and three were dismissed.  There were no sanctions administered 
during this period.  One case under investigation was the April 
19 disappearance of human rights activist Delio Vargas, last 
seen being forced into a vehicle driven by an army intelligence 
operative.

Given the complexity of Colombia's internal order situation and 
the variety of agents, both state-sponsored and criminal, 
involved in this struggle, the line between political 
disappearance and kidnaping for profit is often unclear.  
Combining all sources, however, Colombia suffers from one of 
the world's highest rates of forced abductions.  Disappearances 
attributed to the police and military came under increasing 
government scrutiny, and a bill was submitted to the Congress 
that would clearly define and codify forced disappearance as a 
crime distinct from kidnaping.  The chairman of the 
congressional committee studying the bill indicated that there 
were 266 allegations of disappearances pending before the 
Organization of American States in 1993.  According to CAJSC, 
of 98 reported disappearances in the first half of 1993, 34 
percent were attributed to state security agents, 14 percent 
were associated with paramilitary groups and 52 percent were 
perpetrated by unknown authors.  CAJSC noted a drop in the 
figure for military participation from the previous year but a 
corresponding rise in the rate of paramilitary involvement with 
disappearances.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Although torture is prohibited by law, incidents of police and 
military beatings and torture of detainees continued, especially
in the period immediately following detention and prior to 
long-term incarceration.  CINEP recorded 13 cases of torture 
alleged to have been perpetrated by security forces, down from 
31 the previous year.  The Procuraduria reported that a total 
of 42 cases of torture alleged to have been committed by 
members of the police and military were investigated between 
January and August.  Administrative sanctions were imposed on 
7 police and 10 members of the armed services for incidents 
involving torture during that time.  In August Gilberto Jurado, 
the Secretary of Public Works in Fortul, Arauca, and a member 
of the Patriotic Union Party, was detained and beaten by members
of the army's Reveiz Pizarro Battalion.  His torturers denied 
him medicine he requires daily and submitted him to a mock 
execution.  Jurado was saved by the intervention of the regional
human rights ombudsman who was able to secure his release and 
have him brought to a hospital.  The specific motive for the 
attack is unclear; it is not known if any investigation is 
being conducted against the military perpetrators.

The paramilitary groups that operate in the countryside 
routinely torture victims before killing them.  Torture is also 
a common guerrilla and narcotics terrorist practice.  
Unresolved cases were reported throughout many departments in 
which decapitated bodies were found with the hands and feet 
severed to prevent identification of the victim.


Overcrowding in Colombia's prisons is a serious problem that 
caused poor sanitary and health conditions in many institutions 
and drew harsh criticism in September from Prosecutor Attorney 
General Gustavo de Greiff.  The prison system, designed to 
house some 27,000 people, stood at 110 percent of occupancy in 
1993, with roughly 30,000 inmates.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution includes several mechanisms designed to 
prevent illegal detentions.  A detainee must be brought before 
a judge within 36 hours and has the right to seek, before any 
judge, a petition of habeas corpus that must be acted upon 
within 36 hours.  Despite these legal protections, instances of 
arbitrary detention occurred, although according to CINEP, 
there were far fewer cases reported in 1993 than the previous 
year.  The Procuraduria investigated cases involving alleged 
victims of arbitrary arrest or detention and levied 
administrative sanctions against members of the police and 
servicemen.  The International Committee of the Red Cross 
(ICRC) reported that it had made a significant advance in 
gaining access not only to prisons but to certain military and 
police provisional detention centers.  

Exile is not practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The right to due process is specifically provided for in the 
Constitution.  The accused have the right to representation by 
counsel, but historically representation for indigents has been 
woefully inadequate.  To address this situation, the 
Government's Office of the Defender of the People began a drive 
to establish an expanded public defender program.  Due to a 
reluctance to grant bail, many detainees never come to trial;  
they simply remain in pretrial detention until they have been 
incarcerated for the time stipulated for the minimum sentence 
applicable to the crimes they are alleged to have committed.

The judiciary remained overburdened and struggled to delineate 
its functions in the wake of the 1991 constitutional changes.  
It is independent of the executive and legislative branches in 
theory and largely in practice.  The judiciary has long been 
subject to intimidation when dealing with narcotics trafficking 
and paramilitary cases.  Magistrates, judges, attorneys, and 
prosecutors were suborned, threatened, assassinated, or had 
family members killed in connection with certain cases.  In an 
attempt to provide increased judicial protection and 
specialization in these cases, in 1991 the Government 
established a special jurisdiction for narcotics, terrorism, 
and public corruption cases.  There are five such "regional 
jurisdictions" in which anonymous judges and prosecutors handle 
all major trials of narcotics terrorists.  Law enforcement 
agencies' investigative powers were strengthened under this 
system, and conviction rates rose dramatically.  According to 
public opinion polls, Chief Prosecutor Gustavo de Greiff became 
the most respected public official in the Government during 
this time.

The regional jurisdiction system nonetheless gave rise to a 
series of due process concerns.  The regional prosecutors were 
overwhelmed by staggering caseloads, which in turn led to long 
delays in issuing indictments.  In August the Constitutional 
Court struck down a provision of the law by which the regional 
jurisdiction courts were able to suspend detainees' rights to 
provisional release and bail.  Some 5,000 drug and terrorist 
suspects stood to be released under provisions of the Criminal 
Procedures Code.  President Gaviria issued a last-minute state 
of emergency decree which temporarily prevented the release.  
According to the Director of Prisons, some 10,000 detainees 
linked to special jurisdiction cases remained in prison without 
being indicted in 1993.

Defendants in the regional jurisdiction system lack important 
procedural rights contained in the Constitution.  For instance, 
it is extremely difficult for a defense attorney openly to 
impeach an anonymous witness.  Due to the anonymity of the 
judge and prosecutor, it is also quite difficult for a defense 
attorney to bring charges of malfeasance or corruption against 
either state official.  The anonymity of the judges, 
prosecutors, and key witnesses led many defense attorneys and 
human rights groups to accuse the courts of railroading 
suspects.  A revision of the Criminal Procedures Code removed 
the restriction on defense teams copying documents used as 
evidence by the prosecution.

Critics also charged that the special jurisdiction courts were 
used to try persons involved in nonterrorist activities but who 
commit a violent act that technically brings them within the 
scope of these courts.  In one case, 13 telephone workers were 
detained for investigation by special jurisdiction courts on 
sabotage charges related to an April 1992 national strike.  
After criticism by labor and human rights groups, the Fiscalia 
later decided to try them in ordinary criminal courts.  

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

A judicial order is generally required for authorities to enter 
a private home, except in cases of hot pursuit.  There were 
widespread violations of legal norms regarding searches in 
remote regions, but in urban areas the sanctity of the home was 
generally respected.  The Procuraduria did not receive any 
reports of illegal searches by state officials between January 
and September 1993.  This might be explained partially by the 
fact that the Fiscalia was vigilant in requiring police to 
obtain search warrants, especially in high visibility cases 
such as the extensive manhunt for Pablo Escobar in Medellin.

Telephone wiretaps and the interception of mail must be 
authorized by a judge.  This protection extends to prisoners 
incarcerated in the penal system.

     g.  Use of Excessive Force and Violations of Humanitarian 
         Law in Internal Conflicts

There were no reports in 1993 that military aircraft targeted 
civilians in antiguerrilla operations.  Human rights groups, 
nonetheless, continued to insist that civilian populations in 
known guerrilla territory were purposely targeted during 
military operations.  The military denied this accusation and 
maintained that its operations did not deliberately target 
noncombatants, although they recognize that injuries among the 
civilian population occurred.

Mines laid by both the military and guerrilla forces in areas 
of conflict were responsible for maiming and killing hundreds 
of civilian noncombatants.  The guerrillas continued their 
attacks on oil pipelines and power stations.  CAJSC published 
two detailed reports on human rights abuses in Putumayo and the 
Magdaleno Medio region in which they reported that it is common 
practice for the army's mobile brigades to force civilians to 
wear camouflage uniforms and precede patrols in dangerous or 
mined areas.


Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

These constitutionally protected rights are respected.

The press regularly criticized the Government without 
recrimination.  The privately owned print media published a 
wide spectrum of political views, many of which take harsh 
antigovernment positions.  Television frequencies and 
facilities are owned by the State which leases air time to 
private production companies.  The Government imposes some 
restrictions on the television coverage of terrorist activity, 
and reserves the rights to prohibit broadcast media from 
covering certain news events during states of emergency.  Human 
rights groups charged that these restrictions were unnecessary 
and restricted the exercise of free speech through the 8 months 
of the year during which the state of emergency was in effect.  
"Tutela," which is a judicial injunction or motion that can be 
brought before any judge seeking immediate redress for 
violations of basic constitutional rights, theoretically 
provides all Colombians with a constitutional means to denounce 
perceived injustices freely.  In a few instances, tutela has 
been employed against the press by persons who felt that they 
had been slandered.  In general, however, the justice system 
and the administration have been attentive not to curtail free 
speech by means of unjustified recourse to tutela.

During 1993 violence directed against journalists appeared to 
decline somewhat but did not disappear completely.  In February 
the editor of a Cucuta newspaper, Eustorgio Colmenares, was 
murdered, allegedly by members of the ELN.

Academic freedom in Colombia is generally accepted by the 
Government, and there exists a wide spectrum of political 
activity throughout the country's universities.  Teachers at 
the elementary and secondary levels in guerrilla-controlled 
territory are often subject to threats and intimidation from 
local subversive operatives and are unable to resist guerrilla 
propaganda campaigns.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly and 
association, and the Government respects these rights in 
practice.  Public meetings and demonstrations are normally held 
without interference.  Permission is required for demonstrations

and is usually granted except when the Government concludes 
that there is imminent danger to public order.  Any 
organization is free to associate with international groups in 
its field.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

The Constitution provides for complete religious freedom, and 
there is little religious discrimination in practice.  In March 
the Constitutional Court declared unconstitutional portions of 
the 1973 Concordat with the Vatican, which requires Catholic 
religious training in public schools, and abolished this 
provision.  Mainline and evangelical Protestants constitute 
between 3 and 6 percent of the population.  The Government 
permits proselytizing among the indigenous population, provided 
the Indians welcome it and are not induced to adopt changes 
that endanger their survival on traditional lands.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Citizens are constitutionally assured the right to travel 
domestically and abroad.  In areas where military operations 
against guerrillas are under way, civilians were required to 
obtain safe-conduct passes from the military; guerrillas 
reportedly used similar means to restrict travel in areas under 
their control.

Peasants were often forced to leave their farms due to military 
counterinsurgency operations, guerrilla and paramilitary 
conscriptions, and narcotics trafficking violence.  The 
nongovernmental U.S. Committee for Refugees reported that an 
estimated 300,000 Colombians could be considered internally 
displaced.

Emigration is unrestricted, and expatriates may, by law, 
repatriate.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens exercise this right in regular elections that have 
historically been considered fair and open.

Presidential elections are held every 4 years.  The Liberal and 
Conservative parties are the most competitive, with one or the 
other customarily winning the presidency.  The President may 
serve only one term and may not be reelected.  All citizens are 
enfranchised at age 18.  Public employees are not permitted to 
participate in political campaigns but, with the exception of 
the military, may vote.  All parties operate freely without 
government interference.

There are no legal restrictions, and few de facto ones, on the 
participation of women or minorities in politics.  There are 
7 female senators and 13 female representatives serving in 
Congress and several top government officials, including the 
Foreign Minister and the Minister of Education, are women.  
Women also hold key positions in the judicial branch and the 
prosecutor general's office.  Two seats in the 102-seat 
Congress are reserved for representatives of the indigenous 
population, and a third indigenous citizen holds an at-large 
seat.  There is growing self-awareness and political activism 
among the indigenous peoples of Colombia.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

The Center for Investigations and Popular Research (CINEP), the 
Andean Commission of Jurists, the Regional Committee for the 
Defense of Human Rights (CREDHOS), the Intercongregational 
Commission for Justice and Peace, and the Permanent Committee 
for the Defense of Human Rights are among the prominent human 
rights groups active in Colombia.  These organizations maintain 
data banks on human rights and produce regular reports and 
publications showing the results of their investigations into 
human rights abuses.  Often these reports are highly critical 
of the Government and denounce its lack of zeal in conducting 
official investigations and disciplining implicated state 
agents.

These and similar groups functioned unimpeded by official 
government interference but were at times the victims of 
threats and intimidation by paramilitary groups or individual 
members of the police or military.  Some of the members of 
CREDHOS, for example, were forced to leave the country in 1992 
following the murder of two of their associates; they returned 
to Colombia in 1993 but work under different names in a 
different city due to security considerations.

The Procuraduria is charged with protecting citizens from 
abuses of human rights and investigating allegations of state 
complicity in cases of abuse or violation.  The Defender of the 
People has the constitutionally assigned duty to ensure the 
promotion and exercise of human rights, but this office is 
severely underfunded and not effective.  The President has a 
Special Advisor for human rights issues who investigates 
allegations of abuse and engages in the dissemination of human 
rights education and information.

All three of these offices collaborate extensively with local 
and international human rights organizations.  Government and 
nongovernmental organization (NGO) seminars and programs study 
the causes of violence and human rights violations.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

     Women

The Constitution declares that "men and women have equal rights 
and opportunities.  Women may not be subjected to any form of 
discrimination."  It also specifically requires authorities to 
"guarantee adequate and effective participation by women at the 
decisionmaking levels of public administration."  Long before 
implementation of the new Constitution, moreover, Colombian 
legislation had guaranteed women extensive rights.

Despite these constitutional guarantees, discrimination against 
women still exists, especially in the rural sectors of the 
country.  While legally entitled to remuneration equal to that 
of men, in practice women earn 30 to 40 percent less than their 
male counterparts.  Women comprise 41 percent of the country's 
active economic population, but men dominate the top positions 
in government and private industry.  As in past years, however, 
women continued to constitute a growing percentage of the 
university population, now almost equal to men, and increased 
their participation in a wide variety of traditionally 
male-dominated professions.

According to Pro Mujer, a Bogota-based women's organization 
that assists victims of violence directed against women, 
statistics on sexual assault are incomplete and unreliable.  
Only a small percentage of rape cases are ever reported, and 
even fewer are brought to trial.  The Government, through the 
Colombian Institute of Family Welfare and the Office of the 
Presidential Advisor on Women's, Family and Children's Issues, 
provides training and education programs in parenting skills, 
reproductive rights, and birth control, as well as vocational 
training for lower income mothers.  Nonetheless, penalties for 
abuse directed against women are often not commensurate with 
the gravity of the assault, and in the poorer urban and rural 
areas, both physical and economic discrimination against women 
is commonplace.

     Children

Colombia has significant constitutional and legislative 
commitments to the protection of the rights of children, but 
they are flawed in practice.  A Children's Code sets forth 
principles for the protection of minors and establishes 
services to enforce those protections.  The Constitution 
provides for the fundamental rights of children and states that 
the family, society, and the State are obligated to assist and 
protect children, to foster their development, and to assure 
the full exercise of their rights.

The reality of children's rights is much bleaker.  In September 
the Procuraduria issued a report showing that the incidence of 
violent physical abuse directed against children had risen 
dramatically within the past year.  An average of four minors 
per day were killed by adults in Bogota alone.  According to 
the Foundation for Andean Children, a Bogota-based group that 
caters to the needs of street children, a core group of 
approximately 200 children dwell in Bogota's sewer systems.  
Thousands of others live on the streets and resort to petty 
thievery to support themselves.  Most of these children, known 
as the "disposable ones," are addicted to intoxicating 
inhalants.  The Foundation reported, however, that the 
situation improved over the past 2 years due to international 
pressure, primarily from the European Parliament.  There were 
no roundup killings of street children in 1993, although in 
August posters sponsored by illegal merchant groups appeared in 
downtown sections of Bogota threatening such children with 
their own funerals.

     Indigenous People

There are approximately 80 distinct ethnic groups among the 
roughly 800,000 indigenous inhabitants of Colombia, who 
constitute 1.5 percent of the population.  The Constitution 
gives special recognition to the fundamental rights of 
indigenous people.  Under its provisions, two senatorial seats 
are reserved exclusively for indigenous representation and a 
special criminal and civil jurisdiction, based upon traditional 
community laws, functions within Indian territories.  The 
Ministry of the Interior, through the Office of Indigenous 
Affairs, is responsible for protecting the territorial, 
cultural, and self-determination rights of Indians.  Ministry 
representatives are located in all regions and departments of 
Colombia and work with other governmental human and civil 
rights organizations to promote Indian interests and 
investigate violations of indigenous sovereignty.

A Presidential decree issued in June regulated the creation of 
traditional Indian Authority Boards.  These boards are entitled 
to handle national or local funds and are subject to fiscal 
control of the Comptroller General.  The decree also gives 
these boards the right to administer their respective 
territories as municipal entities.  Indigenous communities are 
free to educate their children in the traditional dialects and 
in the observance of cultural and religious customs.  There is 
a small but growing number of indigenous university students.

Despite protective efforts by the Government, Indians often 
suffer at the hands of narcotics traffickers and guerrillas in 
their homelands.  The Office of the Presidential Advisor for 
Human Rights, which has a special section dedicated to the 
protection of indigenous rights, reported that attacks by the 
FARC on the Coyaima tribe in Tolima department were especially 
brutal, and included the burning of entire villages and the 
assassinations of Indian leaders.  Press reports in November 
chronicled persistent attacks by the FARC on members of the 
former indigenous guerrilla group Quintin Lame that signed a 
reinsertion accord with the Government in 1991.  In one such 
incident in November, FARC operatives executed Jorge Issac 
Vargas, a tribal leader of the Paletara Municipality in Cauca 
department, before a local crowd during an indigenous festival.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

About 2 million blacks, primarily residing in the Choco 
department, form a racial minority in Colombia, and represent 
4 percent of the general population.  They are entitled to all 
constitutional rights and protections but have traditionally 
suffered from unofficial economic discrimination.  In an 
attempt to rectify the situation, the Government passed an 
Afro-Colombian Law which calls for increased government and 
private investment in Choco.  The law also provides for greater 
self-determination at the local and regional levels among the 
black population.  The police and military also took steps to 
increase recruitment of black officers from Choco, creating 
special training programs and academy scholarships for black 
applicants to the services.


     People with Disabilities

The Constitution protects the fundamental social, economic, and 
cultural rights of the physically disabled.  In 1988 Colombia 
became a party to the 159th Agreement on Professional 
Rehabilitation and the Employment of the Disabled, as adopted 
by the 1983 General Conference of the International Labor 
Organization (ILO).  There is no legislation specifically 
mandating provision of access for people with disabilities.

In 1993 three separate bills were introduced in Congress to 
further expand protection for the physically and mentally 
disabled.  The bills proposed hiring a greater percentage of 
employees among the ranks of the disabled; a 5-percent 
allocation of the governmental Institute of Family Welfare 
budget to programs for disabled minors; and a stipend equal to 
one-half the minimum wage to those handicapped individuals who 
are unable to support themselves.  The bills were still under 
discussion at year's end.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The right of workers to organize unions and strike is recognized
by law.  The Labor Code provides for automatic legal recognition
of unions which have obtained 25 signatures from a workplace 
and penalties for interfering with workers' freedom of 
association.  It also stipulates the independence of labor 
organizations to determine internal rules, elect officials, and 
administer activities, and forbids the dissolution of trade 
unions by administrative fiat.  According to the latest data 
available (1992), 886,446 organized workers are members of 
2,435 different unions.  These groups are free to establish 
international affiliations without government restrictions.

The Constitution extends the right to strike to nonessential 
public employees and authorizes the Congress to enact 
implementing legislation.  Before carrying out a legal strike, 
unions must negotiate directly with management and engage in 
conciliation procedures if no agreement results.  By law, 
public employees must go to binding arbitration if conciliation 
talks fail; in practice, public service unions decide by 
membership vote whether or not to seek arbitration.


Two ILO supervisory bodies criticized 10 provisions of 
Colombian law in 1993, including:  the supervision of the 
internal management and meetings of unions by government 
officials; the presence of officials at assemblies convened to 
vote on a strike call; the suspension of union officers who 
dissolve their unions; the requirement that contenders for 
trade union office must belong to the occupation in question; 
the prohibition of strikes in a very wide range of public 
services which are not necessarily essential; various 
restrictions on the right to strike and the power of the 
Minister of Labor and the President to intervene in disputes 
through compulsory arbitration; and the power to dismiss trade 
union officers involved in an unlawful strike.

Throughout the year, there were various protests in major 
cities against announced layoffs of government workers, the 
privatization of several government entities, and the 
government-backed social security reform bill.  Two ILO 
technical experts, invited by the Government to provide advice 
on the social security bill, were withdrawn for security 
reasons in April.  Workers' fear of violence from guerrillas 
and narcotics traffickers has reduced the number of 
participants in labor demonstrations.  In September, after 
reports that guerrillas intended to use a nationwide strike to 
foment violence, trade unionists called off the strike and 
announced a march for peace instead.

Organized labor suffers from a disproportionately high rate of 
violence from a variety of sources including the army and 
police, illegal paramilitary groups, guerrillas, and common 
criminals, and also as a result of internal union struggles.  
There have been some complaints of violence by authorities 
against trade unionists.  These cases are currently under 
investigation by the Prosecutor General's office.

Workers at the state-owned oil company went on strike in early 
1993.  During the negotiations, guerrillas killed an oil 
company executive and stepped up sabotage of oil pipelines.  In 
retaliation for the arrest of a union leader charged with 
terrorism, guerrillas kidnaped two company employees who were 
later released unharmed.  During the year an unknown number of 
trade unionists were killed, particularly in the banana-rich 
region of Uraba.  According to press reports, 70 banana workers 
were killed in November and December during an upsurge in 
violence that led the Government to station a military brigade 
permanently in the area.  Jesus Guevara, vice president of the 
embattled Banana Workers Union, was killed on January 29 by EPL 
dissident guerrillas who opposed his conciliatory stance with 
farm owners and his moderate political views.  The Secretary 
General of the same union, Jose Oliverio Molina, was murdered 
in February by unknown assailants.  In March banana workers 
went on strike to protest the violence.  The Government 
attempted to remedy the situation by providing increased 
financial aid and more security for that region.  In April 
unknown gunmen killed another important labor leader, Jose 
Ignacio Vargas, president of a textile union in Medellin.

Rural peasants have suffered from a rise in drug trafficker and 
guerrilla acquisition of prime land in some sectors of the 
country, now totaling one-third of the best cattle land, 
according to a study by the Agrarian Reform Institute.  
Peasants living in these areas were victims of violence from 
the new landowners and guerrillas, who also forcibly recruit 
peasant youths.  These same peasants were also subjected to 
human rights violations by the military which perceives them as 
guerrilla sympathizers.  Many peasants were victims of open 
crossfire between guerrillas and the armed forces.  An unknown 
number of peasant labor organizers were killed in 1993.

The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions alleged 
numerous acts of intimidation, abduction, arbitrary arrest, 
summary justice, torture, and murder by the security services 
or paramilitary forces during 1992-93.  These included the 
assassination of 45 trade unionists in Barrancabermeja; the 
murder of a gold miner from Segovia who had protested the 
detention of a union leader by the military; the torture and 
hanging of the national leader of the agricultural workers' 
union, FENSUAGRO, and the execution of another FENSUAGRO leader 
in Magangue by armed men believed to be security forces; the 
torture and hanging of two rural workers from Ovejas at 
Fusiliers Battalion headquarters; the murder of a rural trade 
unionist by the army's Nueva Granada Battalion; the death of a 
SINTRENAL union member from La Dorada, Caldas, following his 
arrest; and the abduction and torture of a labor leader from 
Valle del Cauca, reportedly by an army intelligence unit.  It 
was not possible to confirm, either with the Ministry of Labor 
or NGO's, the complicity of state agents in these cases.  It is 
also not clear that all of the victims were trade unionists.

The ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association examined seven 
complaints containing allegations of threats against the life 
and security of trade unionists and the right to collective 
bargaining.  Its Committee of Experts expressed concern about 
the serious climate of violence which made the exercise of 
freedom of association difficult.  The workers' bench of the 
ILO conference in June alleged that 94 percent of the 618 
persons detained under the antiterrorist decree in 1992 
belonged to trade unions, that more trade unionists were killed 
in Colombia in 1992 than in any other country, and that 800 had 
been killed since 1987.  The workers also protested the arrest 
and conviction of trade union leaders for "obstruction of work" 
under section 290 of the Penal Code.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right of workers to organize and engage in collective 
bargaining enjoys constitutional protection.  Unions were 
successful in organizing larger firms and public services, 
which include less than 8 percent of Colombia's economically 
active population.  High unemployment and weak union 
organization have limited workers' bargaining power in the 
private sector.  Antiunion discrimination or the obstruction of 
union association is illegal; this prohibition is enforced by 
administrative labor inspections.  It is unclear if these 
inspections are effective.  A few companies have been fined, 
and some workers have used the courts to seek redress.  The new 
Labor Code increased the fines for restricting freedom of 
association.  The use of strikebreakers is prohibited by law.  
However, the Single Confederation of Workers of Colombia (CUT) 
alleges that Act No. 50 of 1990 undermines the right to 
organize by permitting the practice of short-term labor 
contracts and has cited several companies in which workers were 
dismissed because of trade union activity, which continue under 
examination by the ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association.

The revised Labor Code eliminates mandatory mediation in 
private labor-management disputes, and extends the grace period 
before the Government can intervene in an effort to resolve 
conflicts.  Confederations and federations are empowered to 
assist their affiliates in collective bargaining.

Colombian labor law also applies to the country's seven free 
trade zones (FTZ's).  There is no restriction against union 
organization in the FTZ's.  Several public employee unions have 
collective bargaining agreements in the FTZ's of Barranquilla, 
Buenaventura, Cartagena, and Santa Marta.


     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is legally prohibited, and this 
prohibition is respected in practice.  The Constitution 
specifically forbids slavery or any treatment of human beings 
resembling servitude.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Constitution prohibits the employment of children in most 
jobs before the age of 14, and the Labor Code prohibits youths 
under the age of 18 from requesting employment permits.  This 
provision is respected in larger enterprises and major cities.  
However, the extensive informal economy is effectively outside 
government control.  A recent Ministry of Labor study reported 
that about 800,000 children between ages 12 and 17 work.  There 
are also many younger children who work in the informal sector 
as street vendors, as well as children who work in substandard 
conditions in some small coal mines.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government annually sets a national minimum wage which 
serves as an important benchmark for wage bargaining.  The 
current level was set by the Government after the national 
labor council, a tripartite advisory board, failed to reach an 
agreement among government, labor, and private sector 
representatives in December 1992.  It is consistent with the 
Government's anti-inflation policies but falls short of 
providing an adequate standard of living for a worker and 
family.  Over one-quarter of the population earns less than the 
minimum wage, which is about $125 (98,700 pesos) per month.

The law provides for a standard workday of 8 hours and a 
48-hour workweek.  The ILO reiterated its previous requests 
that the Government amend the Labor Code to conform with the 
Convention on the issue of weekly rest.  Lax enforcement of 
labor laws is partly due to the small number of Labor Ministry 
inspectors and to fear on the part of unorganized workers that 
they will lose their jobs.

Workers' occupational safety and health are extensively 
regulated, but many such regulations are difficult to enforce 
for workers in the informal sector who are not covered by 
social insurance systems.  The ILO recommended that the Labor 
Code be amended to ensure that all agricultural workers benefit 
from compensation for industrial accidents.  Employees have the 
right to ask for Ministry of Labor inspections in cases of 
suspected occupational hazards.  According to the Ministry of 
Labor, workers have the right to withdraw from a hazardous 
situation without jeopardy to continued employment.  However, 
Colombian workers suffered many industrial accidents during the 
year, many of them incapacitating, owing to a combination of 
low levels of public safety awareness, scant involvement by 
organized labor, and lax enforcement by the Labor Ministry.  
Charges about improper working conditions in the cut flower 
export industry resurfaced during the year.  Minister of Labor 
officials admitted misuse of chemicals by the flower industry 
in the more remote areas of the country but claimed that the 
industry as whole followed proper procedures in the use of 
chemicals.  (###) 


[end of document]

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