Meditation Focus #37

Re-igniting the Will for Peace in Colombia

Web posted on April 28, 2001 for the 2 consecutive weeks
beginning Sunday, April 29, 2001


What follows is the 37th Meditation Focus suggested for the two consecutive weeks beginning Sunday, April 29, 2001.


1. Summary
2. Meditation times
3. More information on this Meditation Focus
4. Latest developments related to the ongoing Meditation Focus on the Middle East Crisis


Once again the long simmering civil conflict in Colombia is reaching boiling point. This 37-year long armed conflict in Colombia has already caused enormous human suffering, 40,000 deaths, the forcefully displacement of 2 million people, the pollution of the environment and the deforestation of a million hectares. Recent developments include an escalation of the ransacking of rural towns and the killing of peasants trapped between the rebels from the leftist 16,000-strong Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the right-wing paramilitary groups, each of them accusing the defenseless peasants of cooperating with their competitors in the ferocious battle for control of the coca-producing regions from which both armed groups derive their revenues. The broadcasting last Wednesday on a major national TV network of a 12-minute amateur video showing the FARC rebels in action as they invade an unidentified village gave the Colombians an intimate look at how they proceed to execute their invasions and added a new sense of urgency to put an end to their freewheeling mayhem in the countryside. The government has now just issued over 1,000 arrest warrants against key figures in the FARC rebel groups. On the other hand, the Colombia's U.S.-backed military, long accused of turning a blind eyes to rightist paramilitary violence, has finally stepped up its efforts to stop them from spreading more terror following an Easter Week massacre in the southern state of Valle del Cauca where 40 people were killed and mutilated by elements of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) - but with little success so far. Meanwhile, the U.S.-financed effort to eradicate coca crops in Colombia has also led to the spraying of fruit trees, maize plants and schoolchildren who suffered from rashes, headaches and vomiting.

Please dedicate your prayers and meditation, as guided by Spirit, in the coming two weeks to help create in the hearts and minds of everyone involved a profound desire to put an end to all the violence and to seek peaceful means of achieving justice, social harmony and the protection of people and the environment from any further harm. Envision a negotiated settlement between all parties involved in the conflict and the growing light of peace, love and compassion shining in everyone's heart, for the Highest Good of All.

For more details, please review our 2 previous Meditation Foci on this subject, at: -- and at:
as well as the complementary information provided below and also available at


i) Global Meditation Day: Sunday at 16:00 Universal Time (GMT) or at noon local time. Suggested duration: 30 minutes.

ii) Golden Moment of At-Onement: Daily, at the top of any hour, or whenever it better suits you.


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This section is for those who wish to understand in more detail the situation of this week's Meditation Focus. For those who wish to read on, we would encourage you to view the following information from a positive perspective, and not allow the details to tinge the positive vision you wish to hold in meditation. Since what we focus on grows, the more positive our mindset, the more successful we will be in manifesting a vision of healing. We provide the details below because we recognise that the knowledge of what needs healing can assist us to structure our awareness to maximise our healing effect.


Colombia Guerrillas Kill Peasants (Friday April 27)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - Rebels from Colombia's largest guerrilla group killed more than a dozen peasants, then clashed with right-wing militia forces in the mountains of northern Colombia, the army said Friday.

The killing began Wednesday morning outside the rural northern town of San Pedro Uraba when hundreds of rebels from the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, began pulling peasants from their homes, accusing them of cooperating with right-wing paramilitary groups and executing them, the army said. The army said 15 peasants were killed, while radio and television stations in the area in Cordoba State reported as many as 27 dead.


The 16,000-strong FARC has been lodging increasingly bloody attacks on unsuspecting rural towns in an escalation of its 37-year war. Last year, FARC rebels ransacked 70 towns around the Colombian countryside, according to the army. The guerrilla violence is taking place in tandem with a recent upsurge in paramilitary massacres that have claimed dozens of victims. Roa said the agriculturally rich highlands area has become a stronghold for both guerrillas and paramilitary forces.

In the southern state of Valle del Cauca, Colombian marines battled hundreds of paramilitary fighters accused of killing as many as 40 people in an Easter Week massacre. Marines ambushed the paramilitaries as they were trying to leave the Naya region where the killings occurred, the military said Friday.



Video Shows Attack on Colombia Town (Thursday April 26)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - It's reality TV, but in Colombia the stakes are deadly. A video shot by guerrillas themselves and aired on television has given Colombians an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the country's largest rebel army planning and executing one of its attacks on a jungle town.

The dizzying, blurry, amateur home movie - first broadcast Wednesday night by one of Colombia's largest networks - shows men, women and a shocking number of children fighters from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, overrunning an unidentified southern town. The camera follows them as they obliterate the mayor's office with homemade missiles, rob its bank and then celebrate with a barbecue in the jungle.

The sounds of explosions and gunfire are heard, but the 12-minute videotape does not show guerrillas actually firing guns, detonating explosives or killing anyone. It was unclear whether the tape had been edited. Though war footage is common here, never before have Colombians gotten such an intimate look at the rebels in action.




Colombian Labor Unions Reeling (Friday April 27)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - Lying face down on a crowded sidewalk, labor leader Wilson Borja watched a pool of his own blood forming beneath him and realized he was one of the lucky ones.

The president of the Federation of State Workers, Colombia's largest union, survived an assassination attempt that left him with gunshot wounds to the shoulder and legs and saw a bullet tear into the top of his skull.

``There has never been violence against the labor movement like there is now,'' the unionist said in a phone interview from the hospital, where he has been recovering in the four months since the attack. ``But I was not like many leaders in the labor movement who have been silenced.''

The bloodshed of Colombia's 37-year armed conflict and its drug trade has touched people in all professions - from supreme court justices to shopkeepers. But being a union leader, or even a member of a labor group, is one of riskiest of all trades.

According to a U.N. labor rights envoy who visited Colombia this week, 30 union members have been killed so far this year, after 112 died violently in 2000.

Colombia has long been a deadly place for labor activists. Fear is one of the reasons why only about 6 percent of the South American country's work force is unionized, one of the lowest percentages for Latin America.

But observers say that with leftist guerrillas escalating their war, unionists are increasingly targeted by rightists who equate their activity with communist subversion.

``In the conflict a lot of assumptions are made quickly,'' said Rafael Albuquerque, the envoy from the U.N.'s International Labor Organization. ``One of those assumptions is that many union leaders support the guerrillas.''

In its latest report on human rights in Colombia, the U.S. State Department attributed attacks on labor leaders to ``paramilitary groups, guerrillas, narcotics traffickers, and their own union rivals.''

The National Labor School, a non-governmental labor advocacy group, reports that about 1,500 union members have been murdered here in the last decade.




Colombia Massacre Warnings Unheeded (Saturday April 21)

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) - As searchers comb mountain hamlets for the bodies of those killed in an Easter week chain saw massacre, fresh charges have surfaced that Colombia's U.S.-backed military is turning a blind eye to rightist paramilitary violence.

Documents and statements by human rights workers suggest that top defense officials and army units stationed in the area of the massacre in western Cauca State had advance warning that the attack on villagers might occur.

The military army contends it did all it could to prevent what may turn out to be the largest massacre in the South American country this year. Officials estimate that as many as 40 people were killed. But some say the three-day paramilitary rampage though a swath of high Andean villages demonstrates a pattern established in dozens of previous cases.

``It's a very similar situation,'' said Armando Borrero, a former national security adviser who heads a $1 million U.S.-funded project to create an ``early warning system'' to stop attacks before they occur. ``The massacre is announced. There is information. But at the moment it occurs apparently no (troops) are in the area where the danger was the greatest.''

On Friday, teams waited for helicopter support to reach remote villages in search of bodies. In the western village of Timba, where hundreds of refugees had fled, the families of 12 of the victims wept over their coffins.

Guerrillas and their paramilitary rivals are fighting over territory and drug profits in an escalating 37-year conflict. Officials said the gunmen from the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, used chain saws and other weapons to kill and mutilate their victims after accusing them of collaborating with rival leftist guerrillas. Colombia's military, a major recipient of U.S. aid, is often accused of aiding and tolerating AUC actions.

Victor Melendez, the Cauca State delegate of the federal human rights ombudsman's office, said the army only partially responded to requests for beefed up security after hundreds of AUC fighters moved into the area.

``The troops came and went,'' Melendez said by phone from Cauca. ``Every time they arrived, the paramilitaries pulled back. But once they left, the paramilitaries immediately took back the territory.''

The mountains west of the capital are also full of guerrillas. Paramilitary thrusts into the region, partly to wrest control from the rebels over cocaine-producing crops, had forced some 3,000 villagers from there homes even before the Apr. 11-13 attack.




This drugs war is just like Vietnam

The United States is bogged down in an unwinnable contest

The United States is staging a new offensive in the drugs war, most forcefully on the public relations front. In Bolivia, we are assured, the production of coca - the plant which is the basis of cocaine - has almost been eradicated after a three-year US-backed campaign.

In Colombia, an aerial spraying campaign in the coca-growing heartland of western Putamayo has reportedly destroyed thousands of acres of crops. Colombian officials are describing the operation as "a resounding success". Two senators have just returned, praising the Colombian military's financial probity and commitment to human rights - a combination of remarks that just happens to send my personal Geiger counter, which records bullshit quotient in news reports, completely off the clock.

The word "Vietnam" still haunts policy-making in Washington, and President Bush has refused to sink further manpower into Colombia. But if you take the drugs war as a whole, the similarities are overwhelming. With the very best of intentions, Washington has committed vast quantities of resources to an unwinnable contest against a far more committed, hydra-headed enemy. And as in Vietnam, many of those resources seem devoted to kidding themselves, visiting senators and the public about operational successes.

A lot of the participants were stoned out of their brains in Vietnam too. But that war got stopped because the sons of America's suburbs started being killed and wounded in large numbers. In this war, those suffering most directly are the disempowered and voiceless: South American peasants; low-grade suppliers who get caught and jailed; addicts who end up being driven further into dependency.

It is a low-level conflict that suits pretty well everyone else: politicians who like to pretend they are taking action; recipients of their largesse who make fat livings out of the funding; the titans of the recreational drug industry who make vast and almost risk-free profits; and most of their customers, who have enjoyed a plentiful supply for decades.

Almost every action in this war has the reverse effect to what was intended. Donnie Marshall, of the US drug enforcement administration, admitted to Congress last week that the strikes against coca meant that Colombia has suspended attacks on poppy plantations, so its heroin exports have increased. Cocaine use has been dropping in the US, as the nasty effects of crack have become better known; heroin increase, however, has doubled in five years.

The Guardian reported last month that the planes were indeed successfully spraying coca crops; they were also spraying fruit trees, maize plants and schoolchildren, who were suffering from rashes, headaches and vomiting. The promised aid to the peasants had of course not arrived. A Washington Post reporter noted a week ago that on almost every farm hit by the herbicide, young coca plants were now in evidence. In Bolivia, where victory is being proclaimed, less than half the families (a UN estimate) have received assistance in planting alternative crops and most of these crops are failing. It makes British farm policy looks sensible.

There are tiny scraps of evidence that the US is starting to wake up to its folly. In its Hollywoodish kind of way, the successful film Traffic has at least made the subject topical. A new administration, in which an urge to cut costs is vying with a dictatorial nature, is showing the odd smidgin of interest.

The New York-based Drug Policy Foundation says that 500,000 Americans are now behind bars on drugs charges, compared with 50,000 in 1980. (Of course, most are black so what the heck?) The drugs war cost the US more than $40bn last year, according to the foundation: "Yet illegal drugs are cheaper, purer and more readily available than ever before." Footling with the supply chain of this brilliantly successful free market, with occasional prissy lectures to children, has solved absolutely nothing.



Time Pressure on Colombia's Peace Process (14 March 2001)


As one political observer in Bogotá recently put it, the central point of the peace process is not the social, agrarian or economic reforms on the agendas of the delegations, but political reforms - and the negotiations are still miles from even getting to that subject. The picture is greatly complicated by the fact that the Colombian conflict involves two factors which were not present in other Latin American countries that had to deal with guerrillas: first, the paramilitary militias, which arose out of the death squads of the old drug cartels and the self-defense groups organized by big landowners, and second, the narcotics trade. And for at least a decade the latter, through the protection fees and war taxes that it pays, has been a lavish, virtually bottomless source of income both for the paras and the guerrillas.

The FARC long ago succumbed to the corrupting power of drug money. But that is not the only reason why the group has lost its Robin Hood image; another is its increasingly brutal war practices. The recruiting of minors, devastating gas cylinder attacks which also harm civilians, planned assassinations and abductions - all these things have considerably diminished its store of sympathy among the populace. In addition, a broad segment of the population sees the guerrillas as an obstacle to economic growth. Their jargon from the cold war era, dotted with phrases reeking of mothballed Marxist terminology, elicit little enthusiasm today. Now the FARC finally seems to have realized the need for a concrete sign of its desire for peace. Time is of the essence. Pastrana's successor will be chosen in mid-2002.



Colombia hunts rebels filmed during attack
The Colombian authorities issue 1,300 arrest warrants against left-wing guerrillas, following their appearance in an amateur video of a rebel attack.
Hidden costs of Plan Colombia (29 March, 2001)
Vast swathes of southern Colombia now look like desert - crops withered away, the ground parched and brown, vegetation nowhere to be seen. The US-sponsored aerial drug eradication, the biggest in the world, is well under way, destroying every plant that grows over 30,000 hectares in this fragile Amazonian ecosystem. CLIP

"The situation is truly alarming," said Ricardo Vargas, an environmentalist and author of a book on coca eradication. "Forests have been destroyed... birds sprayed as well as the food eaten by monkeys, in a region with great biodiversity." At least 10,000 peasants have fled Putumayo in the last six months, leaving behind barren fields and escalating violence that has accompanied the US-backed campaign. CLIP
War Without End - special report that includes field dispatches and analysis; profiles, timelines, maps, and other reference materials; video and news archives. From CNN.
Colombia Human Rights Network - promoting human rights in Colombia through coalition building between organizations in the United States and in Colombia.
Colombia Certification - alleges that Colombia failed to meet human rights conditions attached to the $1.3 billion U.S. aid package. From Amnesty Int'l, Human Rights Watch, and the Washington Office on Latin America.
April 25 - U.S. Suspends Drug Surveillance Over Colombia





Protesters Call for End to Occidental Drilling Project Energy: Activists at firm's annual meeting say test well is on sacred native land in Colombia.

Activists targeted Occidental Petroleum Corp.'s annual meeting Friday to press for an end to an oil-drilling project on what they say is sacred native land in Colombia, continuing what has become a noisy and angry tradition for the Los Angeles oil company. As shareholders arrived at Oxy's meeting in Santa Monica, they were met by about 100 protesters waving signs, beating drums and shouting disapproving chants in English and Spanish.


Occidental, backed by the Colombian government, began drilling a long-delayed test well in the area late last year. All 5,000 members of the nature-worshiping U'wa tribe have threatened in the past to walk off a 1,400-foot cliff in the Andes in a mass suicide to protect the land they say has belonged to them for thousands of years. But Occidental continues to maintain that its test-well site is in a developed area outside the U'wa reservation.


The U'wa people, who say the land is their home and the sacred burial ground of their ancestors, are afraid their cultural identity will be forgotten, said Roberto Perez, the tribe's president. "For eight years, we have been fighting against Occidental for our land," Perez told supporters before the meeting. "We will continue to defend our ancestors, our culture and our sacred rights. . . . Several community members have been beaten, mistreated and arrested. We hold Occidental responsible."

4. Latest developments related to the ongoing Meditation Focus on the Middle East Crisis

To review this Special Meditation Focus posted on March 31, 2001, please go at:


Israeli minister praises Arafat (Friday, 27 April, 2001)

Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer has said he plans to soon open Israel's borders to tens of thousands of Palestinian workers. Speaking in a BBC interview, Mr Ben Eliezer also praised the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's efforts to stop the violence. Mr Ben Eliezer is not a man whom most Palestinians view with great affection. As a former Israeli general and now as defence minister, he represents the might of the army that confronts them.

But now he appears to be offering the Palestinians an olive branch, saying he wanted most Palestinians to know that they were not his enemy. He said he wanted to do all he could to make their lives easier and would soon be allowing tens of thousands of Palestinians to cross into Israel to work.

'Strong leader'

The Israeli defence minister said he was sure Mr Arafat was trying to find a way for Arabs and Israelis to live together. He noted that when Mr Arafat had ordered a stop to the mortaring of Israeli houses, it had indeed stopped. Mr Arafat, he said, was a strong leader.

This is all a far cry from the vilification of Yasser Arafat that has been commonplace amongst Israeli officials and their public alike. It reflects, perhaps, a realisation in the hardline Israeli Government that Mr Arafat is someone that Israel has got to keep talking to.

Over the next few days, Israel's Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, is due to discuss a tentative Arab peace plan with Egyptian and Jordanian leaders before travelling to Washington. Nobody is holding out any great hopes of a breakthrough, but at least for now there is a semblance of an Arab-Israeli dialogue.



Israel considers peace plan response (Friday, 27 April, 2001)

Israel wants specific Palestinian steps to end violence Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is briefing his foreign minister, Shimon Peres, on objections to a joint Egypt-Jordanian peace proposal before Mr Peres leaves to discuss the plan in Cairo and Washington.

Mr Sharon wants to make modifications to the plan, which is aimed at ending seven months of violence between Israeli and the Palestinians; senior Palestinian figures say they will not accept changes.

Mr Peres' trip begins shortly after Defence Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer said he plans to open Israel's borders to tens of thousands of Palestinian workers, who have been kept out of the country on security grounds. Israeli Cabinet Minister Dan Naveh told the BBC that Mr Ben Eliezer's gesture was an "olive branch" to the Palestinians.



U.S. Sees Hope in Egyptian-Jordanian Mideast Ideas (Thursday April 26)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Egyptian-Jordanian proposals could provide the basis for progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Thursday. In the most supportive U.S. comments yet on the Arab proposals, Powell said, ``We are following that very, very closely, and I know that the Israelis are looking at it and there may be something that comes out of that, with a basis to move forward.'' Powell is expected to discuss the proposals next week with visiting Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat has endorsed the ideas, which include an end to violence, confidence-building measures and the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian talks.

An Israeli government source said Israel had at least two reservations about the proposals: It would not accept a call for a blanket freeze on settlement building in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, or for peace talks to resume at the point where they left off under the previous Israeli government.



Intifada: the stark choices for both sides


Sharon says he plans to expand West Bank settlements, while his troops repeatedly strike into Palestinian-controlled areas. A large-scale incursion into the Gaza Strip on April 17 finally drew a sharp rebuke from the Bush administration that led to a hasty Israeli withdrawal the following day. But it remains to be seen whether Washington will continue to keep Sharon in check. Despite the daily bloodshed, it is Israel’s economic blockade that has become the most crippling of its multi-faceted countermeasures. The United Nations says that the Palestinians have lost more than $1.15 billion since the intifada began and that their fragile economy is near collapse. Peter Hansen, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency in the Gaza Strip, estimates that up to 80 percent of the 1 million people there now depend on food from his agency and more than 2 million have been plunged into poverty, existing on around $2 a day. Unemployment in the West Bank is around 40 percent, 60 percent in Gaza, the highest level since the PA took over in 1994. Before then the jobless rate was around 11 percent. The Israeli blockade has kept some 250,000 Palestinians from jobs in Israel. But Hansen says a large part of the problem is the systematic destruction of thousands of hectares of Palestinian agricultural land, a scorched-earth tactic designed to intensify the Palestinians’ misery to the point that they will demand abandoning the intifada.


The election of Sharon, a former general notorious for his ultra-hawkish views and held responsible for the massacre of Palestinians in Beirut refugee camps in 1982, dismayed many foreign governments. His actions over the last few weeks have done little to dispel the distrust in which he is held. But there are those, even in Israel, who believe that if suicide bombings by Palestinians and other attacks intensify, with heavy loss of civilian lives, foreign powers would be inclined to be less critical of Israeli retaliatory operations, allowing Sharon to concentrate even more on using Israel’s military power to crush the Palestinians into accepting Israeli terms for their future. It must be said that nearly eight months into the intifada, the Palestinians have made no visible political gains.

Economic losses aside, they have suffered nearly 400 dead, with another 12,000 wounded, many of them maimed, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society. Thousands of homes have been destroyed. Arafat’s administration, since its inception, has been corrupt, inefficient and repressive, and the intifada has only made things worse. Local government has virtually ceased to function as administration funds have dried up. For all the Arabs’ lip service to the Palestinian cause, only a trickle of the more than $1 billion promised in financial aid has reached the PA. Arafat’s administrative infrastructure, along with his security apparatus and militant leaders, has been heavily targeted by the Israelis in an effort to force him to call off the intifada. Arafat periodically issues calls to rein in the militants, but the violence continues. Indeed, it is questionable whether Arafat is able to halt the uprising. Just as the 1987-93 intifada erupted spontaneously, as much because of the failure of the exiled Arafat to bring about any change as it was against Israeli occupation, the so-called Al-Aqsa intifada was triggered as much by frustration at Arafat’s leadership as it was by Israeli intransigence.




Palestinians Wound Israelis in Mortar Attack (Saturday April 28)

Mideast peace process must resume (Friday, April 27, 2001) at:

Bush is paying more attention to the Mideast at:

Full Coverage BBC Middle East Crisis at:

Full Coverage also at

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