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Colombian "Democracy" at Work as Government Removes Elected Senator and Human Rights Defender

Attorney General Cites Dubious Evidence to Fire Senator Piedad Cordoba, Opposition Leader

Colombia's Attorney General Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado today announced he was firing opposition Senator Piedad Cordoba from the nation's Congress, barring her from public service for 18 years.

Sen. Piedad Cordoba, a member of the country's Liberal Party and an outspoken critic of the government's drug war policies, was dismissed for allegedly aiding members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla group (FARC in Spanish initials).

Piedad Cordoba has not been charged with a crime, and the only evidence against her comes from dubious electronic documents that were allegedly found by the government after it raided a FARC camp in 2008. At the time the Colombian government claimed that it had found laptops belonging to FARC leader Raul Reyes.

Soon after the supposed discovery of the electronic equipment, the government's official line on the raid kept changing. The number of computer disks found fluctuated. Colombian law enforcement authorities admitted to handling the disks before they were given to INTERPOL for inspection. There was no actual proof of where the computers came from, who they belonged to, or who put the documents on to the disks.

For years Piedad Cordoba has continued to criticize US-backed anti-drug operations, which she says have only contributed to countless murders and human rights abuses at the hands of paramilitary and police forces in the country. In a 2004 interview with Narco News, Piedad Cordoba said “Every day the crisis gets deeper. There are people who have made the decision to look for a military solution for a problem that is connected, inarguably, to the drug trade, but also to misery and poverty.”

Lawsuit Against Liquor Makers Illuminates Drug-War Charade

Colombian Government’s RICO Litigation Alleges Global Booze Companies Are Doing Business with Narco-Traffickers


Occasionally, the U.S. justice system opens a window into the true nature of the drug-war pretense, despite the political rhetoric employed to conceal the hypocrisy.

That is the case with respect to a pending lawsuit that pits the government of Colombia, and its various departments (or states) against two of the world’s largest liquor producers, England-based Diageo Plc and France-based Pernod Ricard SA — both of which have major U.S. operations and produce well-known brands such as Smirnoff, Johnnie Walker, Captain Morgan Chivas Regal and Martell.

In the litigation, a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act case filed in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn, the government of Colombia accuses the giant liquor companies and their co-conspirators, including distributors based in Aruba (a Caribbean island nation just northeast of Colombia), of having “engaged in and facilitated organized crime by laundering the proceeds of narcotics trafficking,” among other acts, according to the court pleadings.

In what can only be described as a real head-scratcher, the government of Colombia is continuing to wage this legal battle against the liquor makers even while it presses for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States that, by the terms of the proposed pact (now awaiting approval from the U.S. Congress), would actually make it easier for liquor makers and distributors to expand their business activities in Colombia.

Venezuela's Elections-September 26

            Sunday, September 26, Venezuelans will elect the members of their national assembly for the next five years.  No one can foretell the outcome of the elections.  The stakes are high.

          If the opposition can win one third of the seats, they will be able to effectively put brakes on many of the Chávez government’s proposals.  But, whatever the outcome, there are some things to keep in mind.

            One: the electoral process in Venezuela is one of the finest in the world.  I am not able to vote in these national elections because I am not a Venezuelan citizen.  But, as a person who has more than ten years residency in the country, Venezuela does give me the right to vote in local and state elections and so I can personally describe the process.

            First, one has to be registered to vote.  Upon arriving at the proper election place, there is a list indicating which of the voting tables has your personal information and the voting machine you will use.  You are required to show proper identification, sign that you have come to vote, and put a thumb print alongside your signature.

            All voting is then done electronically, but when you have touched the button to register your vote, you also receive a printout of your choices which you then deposit in a ballot box.  (After the elections, 54% of these are checked to verify that they conform to the results of the electronic results).  Finally you are required to dip the small finger of your right hand in a cleansing solution to remove any oils before dipping it in a bottle of indelible ink that is impossible to remove for several days, thus preventing a person from returning to vote more than once.

Eye Scanners Being Tested Along US-Mexico Border

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning to test iris scanning technology on undocumented immigrants in the border town of McAllen, Texas, according to a report from a Mexican news service.

In a story that has gained little media attention in the United States, DHS representative Amy Kudwa confirmed to Notimex that the agency will be conducting a preliminary test of the technology in October on undocumented immigrants who have been detained in southern Texas. The eye scanners being tested are reported to have the ability to track up to 50 people a minute from several feet away.

Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have already warned against the potential for the technology to be used by the government to abuse the civil rights of citizens and foreigners traveling in the country. The scanners record the biometric information and store it in a database for identification at a later time.

The report quoted Kudwa, saying that “This is a preliminary test of how the technology works. At this point we have no specific plans to acquire or deploy this technology.” However, the test raises the possibility that the technology will be adopted by the agency to replace the collection of finger prints that is normally done when immigrants are locked up.

DHS manages the Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection agencies, which detain thousands of immigrants each year.

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Evo Morales and Palestinian Authorities in New York: The Right to Water

By Brenda Norrell

Photo: President Evo Morales at traditional feast after playing soccer in the mountains of Bolivia. Photo Brenda Norrell.

Bolivian President Evo Morales and Palestine Authorities will speak in New York on Wednesday, on "The Right to Water of Occupied Palestine," as President Morales presses the nations of the world to guarantee the right to water for humanity.

The right to water is one of the fundamental rights stated in the declarations produced by those attending the World Peoples' Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, in April. Of the 35,000 people attending, the majority were Indigenous Peoples.

President Morales has carried those standards to the United Nations, as the governments of the world prepare to negotiate at the UN Climate Conference in Cancun, Nov. 29—Dec. 10.

President Morales announced that he would join high-level Palestinian Authorities in New York to speak on the Right to Water, while in New York for the General Assembly of the United Nations.

Legal Battle May Force CIA to Return Drone Code to Sender

Tech Firm Wants Faulty Pirated Software Taken Out of Circulation


An East Coast software development company is seeking a court order from a judge in Boston that, if granted, could require the CIA to return “hacked” software it acquired for use in the agency’s Predator Drone program.

The software firm, Intelligent Integration Systems Inc., or IISI, filed a motion recently for a preliminary injunction in Suffolk County Superior Court, where it has been engaged since last November in a heated legal battle with Marlborough, Mass.-based computer maker Netezza Corp.

Should the motion be granted, Netezza would be forced to round up all IISI software programs that it allegedly pirated, re-engineered for a new computer product, and then sold to various customers, including the CIA. That so-called “hacked” software, in the case of the CIA, is now being used to guide killer drones to their targets, according to IISI’s legal pleadings, despite the fact that the modified software doesn’t function properly.

The IISI/Netezza litigation revolves around a series of claims and counterclaims related to a sophisticated, analytical software program, known as Geospatial, that was developed by IISI and is capable of high-speed integration of spatial data (such as maps and visual images) with non-visual data — such as names and phone numbers.

ICE Probe of Retaliation against House of Death Reporter Seriously Flawed

Federal Agency Investigates Itself and, “Surprise,” Finds No Wrongdoing, FOIA Records Show


The internal affairs unit of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, whitewashed an investigation into an act of intimidation carried out by two of its agents against a journalist, according to an analysis of Freedom of Information Act documents obtained recently by Narco News.

The offending agents worked for ICE’s Office of Professional Responsibility (internal affairs), which, like a scene out of Alice in Wonderland, turns out to be the very same unit that was charged with investigating the agents' intimidating actions, the FOIA records reveal.

So, OPR was essentially investigating itself.

In addition, the OPR agents who “investigated” the offense failed to interview any of the witnesses to the intimidation or even the complaining party — the president of the Federal Hispanic Law Enforcement Officers Association (FHLEOA), Sandalio Gonzalez, a former high-ranking DEA commander.

UN Report: US abuse of Native Americans and migrants

By Brenda Norrell

A joint report for the UN Periodic Review from the US Human Rights Network has been released. Unlike the US State Department's watered-down version of the testimony presented at the Listening Conferences, this 423-page report documents the US human rights abuses of Native Americans and migrants.

The Human Rights Network report includes Indigenous Peoples Rights, US torture in violation of Geneva Conventions and the systematic racial discrimination in the US, in regards to race and gender in housing, employment and elsewhere.

The new report describes the shocking and inhumane treatment of migrants by ICE and Homeland Security and the militarization of the US/Mexico border.

The report states how migrants are held behind barbed wire, subjected to strip searches and denied basic human rights during imprisonment.

"Depending upon where they are detained, they may not be permitted contact visits with family, may be subject to degrading conditions including strip searches, and may face barriers to communicating with their family, counsel, or other support systems. Immigrants in detention may be held for prolonged periods of time without access to the outdoors.

El Departamento de Estado retiene fondos para el Plan México

El organismo gubernamental recorta USD$26 millones al programa debido a preocupaciones en materia de derechos humanos

En una acción sin precedentes, el Departamento de Estado de los EEUU decidió recortar USD$26 millones de un total de USD$175 millones que sería usado para la guerra contra las drogas en México.

El dinero es parte de la Iniciativa Mérida (Plan México), un acuerdo de seguridad por USD$1.4 billones aprobado en 2008, en donde los Estados Unidos proporcionan entrenamiento y equipo a las fuerzas de seguridad mexicanas, incluyendo a las Fuerzas Armadas.

Esta es la primera vez que el Departamento de Estado retiene fondos para un acuerdo de seguridad por cuestiones de derechos humanos. El organismo gubernamental afirma que tomó esa decisión basado en los abusos a los derechos humanos cometidos por el Ejército Mexicano.

El diario Arizona Republic, que publicó la nota por primera vez este fin de semana, escribe que:

El gobierno de Obama quiere que México juzgue a los soldados acusados de abusos en los tribunales civiles, fortalezca sus leyes en contra de las violaciones a los derechos humanos y establezca formas para que los grupos de ciudadanos tengan mayor participación en las estrategias de la lucha contra las drogas, dijo Harry Edwards, vocero del Departamento de Estado.

... Bajo los términos de la Iniciativa Mérida, se supone que el Departamento de Estado retendrá 15 porciento de la ayuda antidrogas a menos que México cumpla cuatro condiciones: asegurar que los soldados acusados de abusos a los derechos humanos sean procesados en tribunales civiles, mejorar la rendición de cuentas de la Policía Federal, hacer cumplir la prohibición a la tortura, y consultar con grupos civiles las estrategias antidrogas.

Como Narco News ha reportado, durante la administración de Felipe Calderón ha habido más quejas por abusos a los derechos humanos en contra de militares que nunca antes. De las 4,305 quejas reportadas desde 2006, 56 miembros del ejército han sido sancionados desde entonces.

State Department Withholds Funds For Plan Mexico

Citing human rights concerns, agency cuts $26 million from drug war program

In an unprecedented move, the US State Department has decided to cut $26 million from a $175 million payment that will be used to wage the drug war Mexico.

The money is part of the Mérida Initiative (Plan Mexico), a $1.4 billion security agreement passed in 2008, in which the United States provides training and equipment to Mexican law enforcement and military personnel.

It is the first time that the State Department has denied funds from the security pact due to human rights concerns. The agency claims it made the decision based on human rights abuses committed by the Mexican military.

The Arizona Republic, which broke the story over Labor Day weekend, writes that:

The Obama administration wants Mexico to try soldiers accused of abuses in civilian courts, strengthen its laws against human-rights violations and establish ways to give citizens groups a greater say in the anti-drug strategies, said Harry Edwards, a spokesman for the State Department.


...Under the terms of the Merida Initiative, the State Department is supposed to withhold 15 percent of anti-drug aid unless Mexico meets four conditions: ensuring that soldiers accused of human-rights abuses are prosecuted in civilian courts, improving the accountability of the Federal Police, enforcing a ban on torture, and consulting with civil groups about the anti-drug strategy.

As Narco News has reported, there have been more human rights complaints against the military during Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s administration than ever before. Out of the 4,035 complaints that have been reported since 2006, 56 members of the military have been disciplined since that time.

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Mike Wilson, Tohono O'odham, responds to threat of poisoned water

By Brenda Norrell

Photo: Mike Wilson at water station for migrants on Tohono O'odham land, where a large number of migrants die each year of dehydration. Photo Brenda Norrell.

ARIZONA -- Mike Wilson, Tohono O'odham who puts out water for migrants on Tohono O'odham land as humanitarian aid, responded to an e-mail threat of poisoned water.

The anonymous e-mail said, "F you. I hope some real Americans will step up and put poison in the water. I hope you are the first to drink."

The e-mail threat, on Aug. 29, was sent in response to the article, "Tohono O'odham Nation surrendered its will to the Border Patrol."

Wilson said, "I'm not surprised by the threat, it is certainly expected and no one is immune. Humane Borders has received these threats for the last ten years, including the writing of 'veneno' (poison) on the sides of its water barrels in the desert.

O'odham to National Guard 'We do not want you on our land'

Ofelia Rivas, traditional O'odham living on the border, released a statement to the National Guard, who are to arrive on the US/Mexico border in Arizona on Monday.

Photo by Jason Jaacks.

To the United States National Guard arriving in O'odham Lands,

We are not compliant people, we are people with great dignity and confidence. We are a people of endurance and have a long survival history. We are people that have lived here for thousands of years. We have our own language, we have our own culture and traditions.

You are coming to my land, you may find me walking on my land, sitting on my land and just going about my daily life. I might be sitting on the mountain top, do not disturb me, I am praying the way my ancestors did for thousands of years. I might be out collecting what may be strange to you but it might be food to me or medicine for me.

Sometimes I am going to the city to get a burger or watch a movie or just to resupply my kitchen and refrigerator. Some of us live very much like you do and some of us live very simple lives. Some of may not have computers or scanners or televisions or a vehicle but some of us do.

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