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TITLE: COLUMBIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR: U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE: FEBRUARY 1995









                            COLOMBIA


Colombia is a constitutional, multiparty democracy in which the 
Liberal and Conservative parties have long dominated the 
political scene.  Relatively peaceful national congressional 
and presidential elections were held in June with the Liberal 
Party candidate, Ernesto Samper, winning the Presidency by a 
very slight margin in a runoff election against Conservative 
Party contender Andres Pastrana.

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

Colombia has a mixed private/public sector economy.  The 
Government continued an economic liberalization program and the 
privatization of selected public industries.  Crude petroleum 
rivals coffee as the principal export and, after the August 
discovery of immense natural gas reserves, petroleum and gas 
exports will play an even greater role.  Narcotics traffickers 
continued to control extensive illicit and licit enterprises.

For 35 of the past 43 years, the Government has operated under 
declared states of emergency which enable the executive to rule 
by "temporary" decree to deal with civil unrest associated with 
the high degree of internal violence.  These decrees frequently 
set aside fundamental judicial guarantees of due process and 
sometimes have been incorporated into permanent law by 
subsequent legislative action.  Several violent guerrilla 
organizations continued to operate, despite regular attempts to 
negotiate settlements.  Military cooperation with narcotics and 
landowner paramilitary groups in remote regions of the country 
continued.  The Government continued to allow the military to 
assert jurisdiction over, and in almost all cases to fail to 
prosecute, abuses by military personnel.  This rampant impunity 
from justice underlies Colombia's human rights problems; 97 
percent of all crimes go unpunished.

The overall human rights situation in Colombia remained 
critical, with a variety of violent actors--including the 
police and security forces--continuing to commit abuses such as 
political and extrajudicial killings, disappearances, torture, 
and other physical mistreatment.  In addition to official 
forces, other perpetrators of human rights abuses include 
antigovernment guerrilla groups, narcotics traffickers, and 
paramilitary groups.  While violence by narcotics traffickers 
was drastically reduced from previous years, internecine 
violence among the trafficking organizations still accounted 
for substantial numbers of homicides, kidnapings, cases of 
torture, and attacks against the military and the police.  
Guerrillas and narcotics traffickers continued to work 
cooperatively, especially in rural regions of the country.  The 
victims of these abuses most commonly included politicians, 
labor organizers, human rights monitors,and--overwhelmingly--
peasant farmers.  Violence directed against women and children 
also remained commonplace.  Vigilante groups, often supported 
or condoned by the police and military, engaged in "social 
cleansing"--the killing of street children, prostitutes, 
homosexuals, and others deemed socially undesirable.

The human rights situation dominated much of the new 
administration's agenda during its first few months in office.  
President Samper created a ministerial-level Human Rights 
Commission in August, and his Government revived a military 
justice reform commission intended to address the question of 
impunity for police and military violators.  The Government 
reopened investigations into several important human rights 
cases and brought charges against policemen in another case.  
At year's end, however, despite positive actions by the new 
Minister of Defense, the Government had yet to establish 
effective judicial control over military abusers of human 
rights and thereby begin to end the long reign of impunity.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

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

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

The total number of murders in Colombia appeared to decline 
slightly during the first quarter of 1994; however, it remained 
cause for grave concern.  According to a report by the 
Government's Department of Planning, between 1987 and 1992 
there were 77 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, by far the 
highest murder rate in the world.  Due to insufficient police 
and judicial resources to investigate and prosecute most 
killings and the frequently overlapping violent forces at work 
in the country, it is often difficult to separate political 
from nonpolitical murders.  According to the Bogota-based 
nongovernmental organization (NGO) "Justice and Peace", there 
were 1,268 political and presumably politically motivated 
murders between January and September.  The Andean Commission 
of Jurists (CAJSC) estimated that in approximately 77 percent 
of all reported violent deaths from March 1993 to March 1994, 
no perpetrator could be established.  Ten candidates for 
political office were assassinated before the October 30 local 
elections.

The police and military forces continued to be implicated in 
cases of extrajudicial killings in 1994.  Members of the army's 
Tarqui battalion in Sogamoso attacked a civilian home with a 
grenade in an attempt to kill local community organizer Paulino 
Velandia.  Velandia survived the attack, which killed two 
others and injured two children.  The Procuraduria investigated 
the incident, and a separate military criminal investigation 
was also under way.  No motive was given for the attack.  The 
authorities brought one officer in question before a court-
martial, but it had made no ruling by the end of the year.

In January members of the General Gabriel Reveiz Pizarro 
battalion based in Arauca department killed nine peasants from 
the town of Puerto Lleras claiming that the attack occurred in 
the context of a counterinsurgency sweep.  The Procuraduria 
filed charges against nine officers and soldiers based on its 
investigation that determined that the army sealed off the 
town, illegally detained approximately 500 townspeople, read 
off the nine names from a list, and summarily executed them as 
suspected guerrilla collaborators.

According to the Procuraduria's annual human rights report that 
covered the 1-year period preceding April 1994, the National 
Police had the worst human rights record among state security 
agencies.  The Procuraduria linked 80 percent of its 
disciplinary decisions that involved violations of human rights 
to police actions.  In June two off-duty Bogota policemen 
stopped a bus on which they were traveling in order to 
intervene in a street scuffle.  They fired indiscriminately 
into the crowd, killing one person and forcing a 9-year-old 
street vendor to board the bus with them.  One of the agents 
then shot the child and threw the body out the window.  Taxi 
drivers initially apprehended the agents; police and 
Procuraduria investigators later determined that they were 
inebriated at the time of the crime.  In December a court 
sentenced one of the police officers involved in the killing to 
60 years, or two maximum sentences.

Human rights monitors also implicated the police in incidents 
of social cleansing, involving attacks and killings of 
individuals deemed socially undesirable such as drug addicts, 
prostitutes, transvestites, beggars, and street children.  The 
Center for Investigations and Popular Research (CINEP) reported 
that between January and October there were 291 homicides, 57 
injuries, and 22 threats that it considered social cleansing.  
This activity was particularly notable in Cali, where there 
were persistent reports of murders of indigent youths on or 
around construction sites.  According to the local human rights 
ombudsman, 20 such murders occurred in Cali in just the first 2 
months of the year.  In July a group of masked armed men gunned 
down six individuals in a northern Medellin neighborhood 
frequented by drug vendors and prostitutes.  The killers 
arrived in a taxi, lined the victims up against a wall and 
executed them gangland-style.  In this and other cases, human 
rights groups persistently alleged implicit police cooperation 
with the "clean-up squads."  The Government opened an 
investigation, but it produced no leads by the end of the year.

Paramilitary groups also perpetrated scores of extrajudicial 
killings in 1994, often with the alleged complicity of military 
units or individuals.  Indigenous community and labor leaders 
frequently were the victims of this violence.  In March unknown 
gunmen murdered four Zenu Indian leaders in San Andres de 
Sotavento in Cordoba department.  A new paramilitary group 
"Colombia Without Guerrillas" (Colsingue) claimed 
responsibility for the August assassination of Communist Party 
Senator Manuel Vargas Cepeda and openly threatened other 
members of the Patriotic Union (UP) Communist Party.  Although 
most paramilitary killings go unresolved, in January police 
arrested William Infante, the paramilitary assassin of UP 
leader Jaime Pardo Leal in 1986.  Both the Gaviria and Samper 
administrations regularly condemned extrajudicial killings, but 
rarely punished police or military personnel implicated in such 
cases.

Soldiers and police continued to be the victims of violence 
perpetrated by drug traffickers, guerrillas, and common 
criminals on a daily basis.  For example, Revolutionary Armed 
Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas murdered army 4th Division 
commander General Gil Colorado near Villavicencio in July.  
Guerrillas also killed noncombatants on a regular basis and 
assassinated several prominent politicians.  FARC operatives 
executed the highly popular mayor of Fusagasuga after 
guerrillas accidentally trapped him during an attack on a 
highway toll station.  Operatives of the Army of National 
Liberation (ELN) unsuccessfully attempted to kill the Treasury 
Minister with a car bomb in Bogota in January.  There were 
strong indications that urban operatives of the ELN 
assassinated Senatorial candidate Francisco Alejandro Gonzalo 
Jaramillo in Medellin in January and Antioquia Congressman 
Arlem Uribe in September.

     b.  Disappearance

Colombia continued to suffer from extremely high overall rates 
of disappearance and kidnaping.  According to a joint report by 
the Government and a human rights group, there were a total of 
1,378 reported kidnapings in 1994, an increase of 35 percent 
over the previous year.  Given the complexity of the internal 
disorder and the variety of perpetrators, both among the state 
security forces and illegal groups involved in this conflict, 
the disappearances for political motives and kidnaping for 
profit is often unclear; guerrillas were responsible for 
approximately half the cases.  There were rarely arrests or 
prosecutions in any of the cases.

In October the Senate passed a bill which, while narrower than 
the administration had wanted, codified the act of forced 
disappearance as a crime.  However, in doing so, it stripped 
from the bill a proposal to transfer jurisdiction in such cases 
from military to civilian courts.  The Senate also deleted a 
section which stipulated that such an act could never be 
considered in the line of duty for police and military service 
members.  In June President Gaviria had vetoed an earlier bill 
which contained the additional provisions.  Many observers 
perceived his veto as an administration concession to the 
military high command, who claimed that such legislation would 
provoke a rash of false accusations by the guerrillas against 
military officials.  The Samper administration reiterated 
objections to the proposed bill but attempted to address the 
issue by proposing language that clearly stipulated that 
service members were not obliged to obey illegal or immoral 
orders, such as an order to make someone "disappear."  However, 
this section was also deleted from the final bill.  At year's 
end, the lower House had not passed the bill.

A CAJSC report highlighted the impunity that surrounds forced 
disappearances in Colombia when it attributed at least 2,000 
cases of forced disappearance in the last 15 years to state 
security forces, yet recorded only 1 case of a military criminal
sanction for such activity.  The Office of the Defender of the 
People received 110 reports of forced disappearances between 
January and June.  In 234 such incidents for all of 1993, the 
Procuraduria reported that the authorities brought only 2 sets 
of charges.

In Cali disappearances perpetrated by state security members 
and organized criminals reached epidemic proportions, according 
to the local prosecutor's office, with an average of one 
disappearance per day.  Many of these were women and children, 
who according to the same source, often end up being forced to 
work as prostitutes.

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

The law prohibits torture, but incidents of police and military 
beatings and torture of detainees continued to be reported 
throughout the year.  These abuses often occurred in connection 
with illegal detentions in the context of counterinsurgency or 
counternarcotics operations.  Paramilitary groups that operated 
in rural areas of the country were also responsible for 
instances of torture and sometimes took credit for their 
macabre work with menacing notes left on the bodies of their 
victims.  In many cases, however, it was difficult to establish 
the perpetrators of torture since cadavers found bearing the 
traces of physical torture were rarely subject to extensive 
forensic investigations.

Justice and Peace reported an incident that occurred in June in 
Barrancabermeja in which members of the Nueva Granada Battalion 
detained the son of a local labor leader in an effort to exact 
information about local guerrilla activity.  They tied the 
person naked to a stake on an anthill, threatened him with rape 
and then almost suffocated him with a plastic bag.  Military 
officials originally denied holding the individual when family 
members questioned them but later admitted to local human 
rights officials that they had detained him.  Police also 
allegedly tortured the same victim in January by electric 
shocks and beatings during an interrogation.

Overcrowding and dangerous sanitary and health conditions in 
the prisons remained a serious problem.  In May the Bureau of 
Prisons, the Office of the Defender of the People, and the 
Procuraduria established a pilot project in Bogota's La Picota 
prison, convoking a prisoners' human rights committee to work 
with prison and government authorities to address perceived 
violations of basic human rights.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported 
that it continued to have access to most prisons and police and 
military detention centers.  However, it noted that local or 
regional commanders did not always prepare mandatory detention 
registers and follow notification procedures, resulting in a 
poor accounting of actual detainees.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention or Exile

The Constitution includes several mechanisms designed to 
prevent illegal detention.  The authorities must bring a 
detainee before a judge within 36 hours and the person 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 continued, and a 
large percentage of the prison population remained in an 
undetermined pretrial status.  The Procuraduria singled out the 
police and others conducting the late-1993 search for narcotics 
kingpin Pablo Escobar as having engaged in more arbitrary 
detentions than previously believed and stated that the police 
violated constitutional and procedural norms during this 
operation.

Exile is not practiced.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution specifically provides for the right to due 
process.  The accused has the right to representation by 
counsel, but historically representation for the indigenous and 
the indigent has been inadequate.  The Government continues to 
battle staffing and funding inadequacies to develop a credible 
public defender system.

The judiciary remained overburdened and often in a state of 
chaos during 1994.  The system is largely independent of the 
executive and legislative branches, both in theory and 
practice.  It continued to experience growing pains as the 
various courts, prosecutorial entities, and ministries 
attempted to define their roles and streamline their operations 
in the wake of the judicial reorganization brought about under 
the 1991 Constitution.  The judiciary has long been subject to 
threats and intimidation when dealing with narcotics and 
paramilitary cases.  With the decline in drug terrorism, there 
was a corresponding drop in the incidence of attacks on members 
of the judiciary, but this violence did not disappear 
altogether.  In June unknown gunmen assassinated Luis Guillermo 
Lopez, head of the Medellin prosecutor's office.  Several 
months earlier, gunmen also murdered the director of that 
office's technical investigative unit, Luis Fernando Correa.  
The police suspect narcotics trafficking organizations are 
involved in both incidents, which continued under investigation 
at year's end.

The 1991 Constitution formalized the "regional" or "public 
order" jurisdictions, in which anonymous judges and prosecutors 
handle narcotics and terrorism cases.  Human rights groups 
continued to charge that the system infringed on basic 
procedural legal rights.

As in past years, the regional jurisdiction system continued to 
be overwhelmed with staggering caseloads that it was unable to 
process expeditiously.  In May President Gaviria invoked a 
state of internal emergency in order to proscribe portions of 
the Criminal Procedures Code that would have mandated the 
release of many of the public order detainees whose cases had 
not been processed.  The Constitutional Court, however, found 
the President's action unconstitutional and struck down the 
state of emergency, facilitating the release of many of these 
suspects 1 month later.

While a late 1993 reform of the Criminal Procedures Code 
addressed the lack of certain procedural rights within the 
system, problems remained.  It is still extremely difficult for 
defense attorneys to impeach or cross-examine anonymous 
witnesses, and often they do not have unimpeded access to the 
State's evidence.  Human rights groups also took exception with 
the Government's surrender policy for major narcotics 
traffickers which involved high-level voluntary surrender and 
sentence negotiations.  These critics charged that "small-time" 
defendants were, in effect, railroaded under the system while 
powerful criminals were treated deferentially.  Critics also 
charged that the vast majority of cases sent to the regional 
jurisdiction involved low-level criminals suspected of 
subversive activity, and that the system did not effectively 
deter the major guerrilla leaders.  At year's end the Attorney 
General began a review of plea-bargain agreements to ensure 
that confessed criminals had actually committed the crimes and 
that sentence reductions were related to genuine cooperation.

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

The law generally requires a judicial order for authorities to 
enter a private home, except in cases of hot pursuit.  In 
remote regions of the country, the military forces have 
civilian prosecutorial units delegated to them.  Human rights 
groups charged that these delegate units were unconstitutional, 
and Congress refused to grant them permanent status.  
Nonetheless, there were credible reports that they continued to 
function, often facilitating army searches with little regard 
for judicious issuance of search warrants.  In one example, the 
Nueva Granada battalion carried out over 60 searches and 
detentions in the rural areas surrounding Barrancabermeja 
between January and March.  Many of the detainees reported that 
soldiers mistreated and unjustly interrogated them.

A judge must authorize telephone wiretaps and the interception 
of mail.  This protection extends to prisoners incarcerated in 
the penal system.

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

The internal subversive conflict received a good deal of 
governmental attention in 1994.  Both the Gaviria and Samper 
administrations urged the Congress to ratify Protocol II of the 
Geneva Convention.  Although a Senate committee initially 
expressed reservations as to its internal application, Congress 
ratified it without reservations and President Samper signed it 
into law on December 16.

The military forces, paramilitary groups, and particularly 
guerrilla organizations committed violations of international 
humanitarian law in Colombia's internal subversive conflict.

In April members of the army's 2nd Mobile Brigade conducted a 
counterinsurgency operation near Barrancabermeja during which 
they allegedly took a local youth, Benjamin Santos, from his 
home in the Mesa de San Rafael.  Local witnesses later reported 
seeing him dressed in an army uniform being marched with a 
patrol in the area.  Shortly thereafter his body, showing signs 
of extreme torture, was found in a local cemetery.  Military 
sources claimed he was an unidentified guerrilla slain in 
combat.  Santos' family members reported the incident to the 
local human rights ombudsman (personero) and claimed Santos had 
no guerrilla ties.  It is not known if the Government is 
investigating this incident.

Paramilitary groups, often with the alleged complicity of 
military units or individuals, usually carried out their 
violent acts with impunity.  In September a military court 
issued a detention order for former army Lieutenant Colonel 
Luis Becerra, who is widely believed to have cooperated with 
paramilitary forces by covering up the October 1993 Rio Frio 
massacre.  In September President Samper reiterated the 
Government's strong opposition to paramilitary groups and rural 
self-defense forces and promised to investigate carefully all 
allegations of cooperation with these groups by members and 
units of the state security forces.  Little, however, has been 
accomplished in ending the climate of impunity.

The loosely organized groups of the Simon Bolivar Coordinating 
Board, which include the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia 
and the Army of National Liberation, committed a host of 
violations of humanitarian law during 1994.  The most repugnant 
of these abuses was a January attack on the town of La Chinita 
in Uraba that left 35 agricultural workers dead.  An exhaustive 
NGO investigation concluded that the FARC's fifth front 
perpetrated the attack in a move to intimidate the Communist 
Party stronghold for political purposes.  FARC and ELN 
guerrilla regulars ambushed a police convoy in Purace on 
November 2, killing 11 police agents and 2 students.  A series 
of bombs exploded on city buses in Cartagena on December 21, 
killing 10 civilians.  The Government arrested three suspects 
linked to the urban ELN.

Guerrillas frequently committed atrocities against indigenous 
communities.  Guerrillas murdered four members of the Arzaria 
community in September, following a "trial" in which the four 
were accused of having participated in the February killing of 
two other tribe members allegedly working with the guerrilla 
groups.  Guerrillas also violated norms of international 
humanitarian law during attacks on military installations.  
Eyewitness survivors reported that in attacks on a petroleum 
station and military installations in Putamayo in July, FARC 
guerrillas summarily executed defenseless wounded soldiers.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The authorities generally respected these constitutionally 
protected rights, but in at least one instance there was 
implied intimidation of the media (see below).  Print and 
broadcast media regularly criticized the Government without 
recrimination.  The privately owned print media published a 
wide spectrum of political viewpoints, especially throughout 
the presidential campaign.  They often voiced harsh 
antigovernment opinions without administration reprisals.  The 
Government imposes some restrictions on electronic media 
coverage of public order and drug terrorist activity and has 
the right to prohibit coverage of certain news events that 
could affect state security.  In July some observers charged 
that the Minister of Communications' public reminder to the 
media of this constitutional provision during the 
"narco-cassette" scandal, in which President-elect Samper's 
campaign financing was allegedly linked to Cali drug barons, 
constituted a veiled threat of government censorship.  In 
September and November, Constitutional Court decisions struck 
down some of the provisions on government prescreening of 
electronic media coverage of public order and narcotics 
terrorist events.

All citizens have the right to seek a judicial injunction or 
motion (tutela) for immediate redress of violations of basic 
constitutional rights.  This theoretically provides all persons 
and organizations, including the media, a mechanism to denounce 
both private and government violations of basic constitutional 
rights.

Several incidents of violence directed against journalists 
occurred during 1994.  An unidentified gunman murdered Cucuta 
radio and print journalist Jesus Medina in January.  Unknown 
persons killed Medellin radio journalist and national vice 
president of a broadcasters' union, Martin Eduardo Munera, in 
September.  Colleagues of Munera also reported receiving death 
threats.  The International Press Society reported that 
Munera's death was the sixth slaying of a Colombian journalist 
since August 1993.   While very few of these cases are ever 
definitively resolved, it is apparent that journalists are most 
often the victims of guerrilla groups, paramilitary 
organizations, and narcotics traffickers.  In one case, 
however, the Procuraduria charged an ex-soldier with the 1991 
slaying of "El Tiempo" journalist Henry Rojas.  It also charged 
Colonel Diogenes Castellanos Guerrero, a former commander of an 
army unit based in Arauca, with covering up the incident.

The Government generally respected academic freedom, 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.  The authorities do not normally interfere with 
public meetings and demonstrations and usually grant the 
required permission except when they determine 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.  Catholic 
religious training is no longer mandatory in public state 
schools, and a July Constitutional Court decision found 
unconstitutional any official government reference to Colombia 
as "the country of the sacred heart."  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.  Indian tribes 
must still invite outsiders onto their reserves, and these 
groups remain at the disposition of the indigenous community.

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

The Constitution provides citizens the right to travel 
domestically and abroad.  In areas where military operations 
against guerrillas are under way, police or military officials 
occasionally required civilians to obtain safe-conduct passes; 
guerrillas reportedly used similar means to restrict travel in 
areas under their control.

Guerrilla incursion, military counterinsurgency operations, 
guerrilla and paramilitary conscription, and land seizures by 
narcotics traffickers often forced peasants to flee their homes 
and farms.  In October the Episcopal Bishop's Conference 
published a comprehensive study on the phenomenon of internal 
forced displacement and put the total number of such persons at 
600,000.  The report said that the single greatest cause of 
displacement is guerrilla incursion into the rural civilian 
population.  Members of the army's V Brigade threatened and 
harassed the Peasant Farmer's Refuge, a local refugee center in 
Barrancabermeja, in March.  The incident highlighted the 
dilemma faced by displaced persons in Colombia; they cannot 
stay in conflict zones for legitimate fears for their safety, 
yet they are not wanted and perceived as an economic drain in 
the regional and major cities that are their most common 
destinations.

The law provides for unrestricted emigration and repatriation 
by expatriates.

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

Colombian citizens exercise this right in regular, secret 
ballot elections that have historically been considered fair 
and open.  Presidential elections are held every 4 years.  The 
Liberal and Conservative parties have long dominated Colombian 
politics, with one or the other customarily winning the 
presidency.  The President serves only one term and may not be 
reelected.  All citizens are enfranchised at age 18.  Public 
employees are not permitted to participate in campaigns but, 
with the exception of the military, may vote.  All parties 
operate freely without government interference.  Political 
parties which fail to garner 50,000 votes in a general election 
may lose the right to present candidates and may not receive 
funds from the Government.  But they may reincorporate at any 
time by presenting 50,000 signatures to the National Electoral 
Board.

Colombia held national presidential and congressional 
elections, as well as gubernatorial and mayoral elections, in 
1994.  Liberal Party presidential candidate Ernesto Samper 
narrowly defeated Conservative Party hopeful Andres Pastrana by 
just 1.73 percentage points in a June runoff election.  For the 
first time, Colombians also elected a vice president, Humberto 
de la Calle, who ran on Samper's ticket.  Liberal Party 
representatives also dominated the congressional elections in 
both the upper and lower houses.  However, bipartisan 
coalitions were still often necessary for the Liberals to enact 
legislation.

In 1990 the M-19 guerrilla movement signed a peace accord with 
the Government and became a legal political party, Democratic 
Alliance M-19 (AD/M-19).  In 1994 the AD/M-19 fielded a 
presidential candidate and several congressional candidates, 
all of whom were defeated.

The elections were relatively peaceful, but numerous incidents 
of violence occurred.  Unknown assailants assassinated Senator 
Manuel Vargas Cepeda, the only national UP representative, in 
Bogota in August.  At least 10 candidates were assassinated and 
10 others kidnaped preceding the October 30 local elections.  
President Samper postponed elections in 10 municipalities due 
to guerrilla violence during the campaigns.  Elections 
proceeded normally in most districts, and the postponed 
elections were held successfully in December.

There are no legal restrictions, and few de facto ones, on the 
participation of women or minorities in the political process.  
There are 7 female senators and 18 female representatives 
serving in Congress, including 1 black Congresswoman.  The 
Ministers of Labor and the Environment are both women, as is 
the President's international affairs adviser and his adviser 
for social policy.  Two seats in the 102-seat Congress are 
reserved for representatives of the indigenous population.  
Both the black and indigenous populations continued to expand 
their social and political agendas and an indigenous politician,
Jesus Pinacue, ran as vice presidential candidate on the 
unsuccessful ticket of former M-19 guerrilla leader Antonio 
Navarro-Wolf.  Piedad Cordoba de Castro, a black female, is a 
senior member of the Liberal Party national committee and 
served as a member of the Government's delegation to the Cairo 
International Conference on Population and Development.

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

The Center for Investigations and Popular Research, the Andean 
Commission of Jurists, the Intercongregational Commission for 
Justice and Peace, the Permanent Committee for the Defense of 
Human Rights, the Episcopal Bishops Conference, the "Jose 
Alvear Restrepo" lawyers collective, and others are among the 
many human rights groups active in Colombia.

NGO's investigated and reported on a number of human rights 
abuses, including the army's extrajudicial assassination of two 
Socialist Renewal Current spokesmen in 1993, the army's coverup 
of the Rio Frio massacre, and the FARC's January massacre of 35 
townspeople in La Chinita.  Often these reports criticized, 
justifiably, the Government's failure to investigate and punish 
those responsible.

The Government generally did not interfere with the work of 
human rights NGO's, which were often the targets of threats and 
intimidation by the guerrillas, paramilitary groups, or 
individual members of the police and military forces.  Many 
prominent human rights monitors, including lawyers Eduardo 
Umana, Carlos Alberto Ruiz, Raul Barrios Mendivil, and 
children's rights activist Jaime Jaramillo, work under constant 
fear for their physical safety.  Unknown assailants assassinated
human rights lawyer Laura Simmonds in Popayan in May.

The Procuraduria investigates some allegations of human rights 
abuses by members of the state security apparatus, drawing upon 
a network of government representatives who serve as human 
rights ombudsmen in 1,041 municipalities.  However, the 
Procuraduria can only recommend administrative sanctions; as 
noted in this report, police and military personnel are rarely 
punished commensurately for human rights abuses.  The Office of 
the Defender of the People has the constitutionally assigned 
duty to ensure the promotion and exercise of human rights, but 
is severely underfunded.  The President has a Special Adviser 
for human rights issues, who investigates allegations of abuse 
and disseminates human rights education and information.

Since President Samper's August inauguration, he and the 
Government publicly admitted that the human rights situation 
reflected a "shameful and troubling reality."  President Samper 
requested that Amnesty International establish a permanent 
observer office in country and invited the United Nations High 
Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Colombia.  He also 
pledged to work closely with representatives of the ICRC and 
the Colombian Red Cross, and declared an "open door" policy 
with respect to international and local human rights NGO 
cooperation.

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

The Constitution specifically prohibits discrimination based on 
race, sex, religion, disability, language, or social status.

     Women

The Constitution provides that women may not be subjected to 
any form of discrimination and specifically requires the 
authorities to "guarantee adequate and effective participation 
by women at the decisionmaking levels of public administration."
Even prior to implementation of the 1991 Constitution, the law 
had provided women extensive civil rights.  Despite these 
constitutional provisions, however, discrimination and violence 
against women persist.  The quasi-governmental Institute for 
Family Welfare (ICBF) and the presidential adviser's Office for 
Youth, Women, and Family Affairs published a report that 
criticized high and pervasive levels of spouse and partner 
abuse throughout the country.  The ICBF runs programs and 
provides refuges and counseling for victims of spouse abuse, 
but the level and amount of these services are dwarfed by the 
magnitude of the problem.  According to the National Forensic 
Office, a total of 440 females reported they had been raped in 
the first 2 months of the year alone.  In a much publicized 
decision in May, the Supreme Court mandated that a husband 
abstain from physical aggression against his wife and children 
and ordered the local police to enforce its dictum by 
monitoring the individual.

Women earn, on average, 30 to 35 percent less than men for 
similar work despite being legally entitled to equal 
remuneration.  They constitute a high percentage of the 
subsistence labor work force, especially in rural areas.  
Women's groups such as Promujer and the Association of 
Twenty-first Century Women reported that the social and 
economic problems of marginalized single mothers remained great 
throughout the year, despite government efforts to provide 
training programs in parenting skills, reproductive rights, and 
birth control.

     Children

Despite significant constitutional and legislative commitments 
to the protection of the rights of children, these are only 
marginally effective in practice.  The Constitution provides 
for the fundamental rights of children and mandates 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 these rights.  A special Children's Code 
sets forth many of these rights and establishes services and 
programs designed to enforce protection of minors.

The reality is that children's rights are frequently abused.  
Vigilante gangs often linked to the police killed hundreds of 
street children in several major cities in the social cleansing 
killings described earlier.  Merchants and citizens' groups 
allegedly hire off-duty police agents and contract killers to 
rid neighborhoods of children suspected to be beggars and 
thieves; the Office of the Defender of the People reported 
clear complicity by police officers in some of these killings.  
In conflict zones, children were also frequent victims of cross 
fire by the security forces, paramilitary groups, and guerrilla 
organizations.  Deadly land mines known as "leg breakers" laid 
by guerrillas killed or mutilated many children in conflict 
areas.

Both forced and uncoerced child prostitution is commonplace in 
the five major cities of Colombia.  The Procuraduria for the 
Family reported in September that in the preceding 15 months, 
2,190 minors were killed violently, 3,125 were kidnaped, and 
452 were reported to have been sexually assaulted.  In all of 
these cases, the authorities detained only 45 perpetrators.  In 
March the Government sentenced a former police agent to 41 
years in prison for having shot a minor girl for refusing to 
dance with him at a party.

     Indigenous People

There are approximately 82 distinct ethnic groups among the 
800,000 indigenous inhabitants.  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 Government, 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 of the country with 
indigenous populations and work with other governmental human 
and civil rights organizations to promote Indian interests and 
investigate violations of indigenous rights.

There are some 334 designated Indian reserves that are run by 
traditional Indian authority boards which handle national or 
local funds and are subject to fiscal control by the national 
Comptroller General.  These boards administer their territories 
as municipal entities, with officials locally chosen or elected 
according to Indian tradition.  Indigenous communities are free 
to educate their children in traditional dialects and in the 
observance of cultural and religious customs.  The 
Constitutional Court reaffirmed in March that indigenous men 
are not subject to the national military draft.

Despite protective efforts by the Government, Indians were 
frequently the victims of violence throughout the year, by 
government security forces, paramilitary groups (often 
sponsored by landowners), narcotics traffickers, and guerrillas 
(see Sections 1.a. and 1.g.).  In zones where the guerrillas 
are active, such as the Sierra Nevada and Valle de Cauca, the 
security forces often suspected the indigenous population of 
complicity with narcotics traffickers and guerrillas.  Most of 
the incidents in which Indians were attacked or threatened 
stemmed from land ownership conflicts concerning the designated 
Indian reserves.  The National Land Reform Institute estimated 
that some 40 indigenous communities had lost the legal title to 
land they claimed as their own and that roughly 100 other 
groups had title claims that were not recognized or reconciled.

The Zenu tribe in particular saw at least seven of its 
community leaders assassinated during the first several months 
of the year.  Unknown gunmen also killed well-known Indian 
rights activist Laureano Inampue.  In response the Government 
provided bodyguards to many Zenu and other indigenous leaders.  
In September there was a rash of attacks against indigenous 
communities in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta region.  FARC 
operatives executed four Indians from that community as 
suspected collaborators with the army.  Most of the attacks 
were unsolved by year's end, and the regional land conflicts 
that spawned them remained largely unresolved.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

Two million black citizens live primarily in the Pacific 
department of Choco and along the Caribbean coast.  They 
represent roughly 4 percent of the general population.  Blacks 
are entitled to all constitutional rights and protections but 
have traditionally suffered from economic discrimination.  
Despite the passage of the Afro-Colombian Law in 1993, little 
concrete progress was made in expanding public services and 
private investment in the Choco or other predominantly black 
regions.

     People with Disabilities

The Constitution enumerates the fundamental social, economic, 
and cultural rights of the physically disabled, but serious 
practical impediments exist to prevent disabled persons' full 
participation in society.  There is no legislation that 
specifically mandates access for people with disabilities.  The 
Constitutional Court ruled in September that physically 
disabled individuals must be given access to and assistance at 
the voting stations.  In August the Constitutional Court ruled 
that the Social Security Fund for Public Employees (Cajanal) 
cannot refuse to provide services for the disabled children of 
its members, regardless of the cost involved.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The law recognizes the rights of workers to organize unions and 
strike.  The Labor Code provides for automatic recognition of 
unions that obtain at least 25 signatures from the workplace 
and comply with a simple registration process at the Labor 
Ministry.  The law penalizes interference with freedom of 
association.  It also stipulates union freedom to determine 
internal rules, elect officials, and manage activities, and 
forbids the dissolution of trade unions by administrative fiat. 
According to Labor Ministry estimates, only about 8 percent of 
the work force is organized.  Unions freely establish 
international affiliations without government restrictions.

The 1991 Constitution provides for the right to strike by 
nonessential public employees and authorizes Congress to pass 
enabling legislation that would define "essential", which it 
has not yet done.  In the absence of this definition, existing 
legislation which prohibits public employees from striking is 
still in force.  Before staging a legal strike, unions must 
negotiate directly with management and--if no agreement results 
--accept mediation.  By law, public employees must accept 
binding arbitration if mediation fails; in practice, public 
service unions decide by membership vote whether or not to seek 
arbitration.

In 1993 the International Labor Organization (ILO) criticized 
10 provisions of Colombian law, 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 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.

The most important strike in the private sector in 1994 was the 
66-day work stoppage by the 4,000 employees of Acerias Paz del 
Rio, a steel plant in the department of Boyaca.  Collective 
bargaining on salaries and benefits broke down when the union 
refused to affiliate with the new private pension system.  In 
addition, the Government's ongoing privatization plans provoked 
significant labor protests in several public enterprises.  
Petroleum workers opposed the Government's plan to divide the 
state petroleum company Ecopetrol into four smaller companies, 
a move they fear is a prelude to privatization.  The 
authorities arrested and threatened union leaders during the 
longstanding Ecopetrol conflict, and the rank and file 
authorized the union leadership to call a national strike.

Labor leaders throughout the country continue to be the target 
of attacks by guerrillas, paramilitary groups, narcotics 
traffickers, the military, police, and their own union rivals.  
They also suffer from the high level of violence and the 
pervasive use of firearms that negatively affect the lives of 
all Colombians.  In the department of Antioquia alone, unknown 
perpetrators murdered at least eight labor leaders.  In a 
single month (July), they killed Luis Guillermo Marin 
Echavarria, education secretary of the Antioquia Labor 
Federation; Luis Efren Correa, vice president of the Textile 
Workers Union; and Jairo Leon Agudelo, president of the 
Antioquia Agricultural Workers Union.  In the banana-producing 
region of Uraba, organized workers historically belonged to the 
extreme left wing of the Colombian labor movement but refused 
to cooperate with the FARC.  As a result, guerrillas killed 
labor leaders and union members, including the January massacre 
of a whole neighborhood--La Chinita--in Apartado, Antioquia.

The list of killings, intimidations, and arbitrary arrests of 
labor union leaders includes the abduction of Domingo Rafael 
Tovar Arrieta, a member of the board of the Single Federation 
of Workers of Colombia (CUT), who was also the victim of 
threats and arbitrary arrest; the July murder of Trina Soto 
Xastellanos, treasurer of the Market Sellers Union in Cucuta, 
and her sister; the July killing of Alberto Alvarado, vice 
president of the Graphics Workers Union in Bogota; and numerous 
threats against other labor leaders.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The Constitution protects the right of workers to organize and 
engage in collective bargaining.  Workers have been most 
successful in organizing larger firms and public services, but 
these unionized workers represent only a small portion of the 
economically active population.  High unemployment, traditional 
antiunion attitudes, and weak union organization and leadership 
limit workers' bargaining power in the private sector and in 
agriculture.

The law forbids antiunion discrimination and the obstruction of 
free association.  Government labor inspections theoretically 
enforce these provisions, but because of the small number of 
inspectors and workers' fears of losing their jobs, the 
inspection apparatus is weak.  The authorities fined a few 
transgressor companies, and some workers successfully sought 
redress in the courts.  The new Labor Code increases the fines 
levied for restricting freedom of association and prohibits the 
use of strike breakers.

The Labor Code also eliminates mandatory mediation in private 
labor-management disputes and extends the grace period before 
the Government can intervene in a conflict.  Federations and 
confederations may assist affiliate unions in collective 
bargaining.

Labor law applies to the country's seven free trade zones 
(FTZ's), but these standards are difficult to enforce.  Public 
employee unions have won collective bargaining agreements in 
the FTZ's of Barranquilla, Buenaventura, Cartagena, and Santa 
Marta, but the garment manufacturing enterprises in Medellin 
and Risaralda, the most important in the country in terms of 
numbers of employees, are not organized.  National labor 
leaders claim that in these FTZ's the provisions of the Labor 
Code dealing with wages, hours, health and safety are honored 
in the breach.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

The Constitution forbids slavery and any form of forced or 
compulsory labor, and this prohibition is respected in practice.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The Constitution bans the employment of children under the age 
of 14 in most jobs, and the Labor Code prohibits granting work 
permits to youths under the age of 18.  This provision is 
respected in larger enterprises and in major cities.  
Nevertheless, Colombia's extensive informal economy remains 
effectively outside government control.  Some 800,000 children 
between the ages of 12 and 17 work, according to Labor Ministry 
studies.  These children work--often under substandard 
conditions--in agriculture or in the informal sector, as street 
vendors, in leather tanning, and in small family-operated 
mines.  Working children are exposed to the same risks 
affecting adult workers, including exposure to toxic substances 
and accidental injuries, all of which contribute to impaired 
physical development.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The Government annually sets a national minimum wage which 
serves as a benchmark for wage bargaining.  It set the current 
minimum wage--about $130 (107,000 pesos) per month--in December 
1993 after the National Labor Council, a tripartite advisory 
board, again failed to reach agreement among government, labor, 
and private sector representatives.  The minimum wage, earned 
by over one-quarter of the population, is consistent with the 
Government's anti-inflation policies, but falls far short of 
providing an adequate standard of living for a worker and 
family.

The law provides for a standard workday of 8 hours and a 
48-hour workweek, but does not specifically require a weekly 
rest period of at least 24 hours, a failing which the ILO 
criticizes.  Legislation provides comprehensive protection for 
workers' occupational safety and health, but these standards 
are difficult to enforce, in part due to the small number of 
Labor Ministry inspectors.  In addition, unorganized workers in 
the informal sector are protected by social insurance systems 
and fear that they will lose their jobs if they exercise their 
right to denounce abuses, particularly in the agricultural 
sector.  According to the Labor Code, workers have the right to 
withdraw from a hazardous work situation without jeopardizing 
continued employment.  In general, low levels of public safety 
awareness, inadequate involvement by unions, and lax 
enforcement by the Labor Ministry result in an unacceptably 
high level of industrial accidents and on-the-job situations 
that jeopardize workers' health.

(###)

[end of document]

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