At a Feb. 10 assembly of the European Parliament in Strasbourg,
France, nearly 60 legislators waved white scarves bearing the
words "Peace and Justice for Colombia," in a protest against the
human rights record of President Alvaro Uribe Velez's
administration. The protesters waved the banners during Uribe's
speech before the parliament, then most walked out; a number of
other legislators boycotted the proceedings altogether. Fewer
than 250 of the 626 members of parliament stayed to hear Uribe
speak, and among them were at least 10 displaying the white
scarves. "We consider his visit at this time to be insensitive
and inappropriate," said Green Party parliamentarian Monica
Frassoni."There are too many open questions about human rights
Uribe addressed the parliament on the second day of a six-day
European tour Feb. 8-13 in which he sought support for military
operations against leftist rebels and reiterated that his
government will not negotiate a prisoner exchange with the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). On Feb. 9 and the
morning of Feb. 10, Uribe met with European Union (EU) officials
in Brussels, Belgium; there too, he was met with protests,
including a Feb. 9 demonstration organized by the Association of
Latin American and Caribbean Refugees (ARLAC). Speakers at the
rally included massacre survivors and union organizers from
Uribe and his 11-person entourage also visited Germany, Italy and
the Vatican. Some 100 people reportedly demonstrated against
Uribe in Rome on Feb. 11. Even Italy's rightwing prime minister,
Silvio Berlusconi, cancelled his planned meeting with Uribe,
citing scheduling problems. [Miami Herald 2/11/04 from AP; El
Nuevo Herald 2/9/04 from AFP, 2/13/04 from EFE; El Tiempo
(Bogota) 2/15/04; ARLAC Report 2/13/04 via Colombia Indymedia;
Amnesty International 2/9/04; La Jornada (Mexico) 2/11/04 from
AFP, DPA, Reuters, 2/12/04 from AFP, DPA]
In a Feb. 10 statement, Human Rights Watch (HRW) encouraged
European Parliament members to "meet and listen to President
Uribe," but urged them to postpone a donors conference planned
for later in 2004 until Colombia fulfills key human rights
commitments. HRW said Uribe has reneged on a 2003 agreement with
donor countries and the United Nations (UN) to implement 24
recommendations made by the UN High Commissioner for Human
Rights. [HRW 2/10/04]
Just days before Uribe's arrival in Europe, troops from the
Colombian Army's Seventh Brigade began aerial bombing operations
in the Ariari region of Meta department, allegedly to root out
FARC rebels in the zone. Witnesses said the army operations
endangered the lives and properties of local campesinos. As the
army operations began, the Centauros Bloc of the rightwing
paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)
murdered Communist Party leader Maria Lucero Henao and her son
David Yamith Henao in El Castillo municipality, in the heart of
Ariari. [Voz (newspaper of the Colombian Communist Party) 2/11/04
via Colombia Indymedia] While Uribe's government has refused any
dialogue with the FARC, it recently negotiated a "peace treaty"
with the AUC

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