Monday, 14 December 2009

Colombia: Shame on O'Grady

Ah, Mary Anastasia O'Grady of the Wall Street Journal: the columnist Latin Americanists love to hate. We only read her for a laugh, right? Every time she says anything particularly outrageous, a small flurry of blog posts delight in ripping it to shreds. I don't know what we'd do for entertainment without her, although admittedly, I'm not convinced that giving her more attention is really the best move.

In this instance, though, I can only reiterate the words of the infinitely better-informed Adam Isacson at Plan Colombia and Beyond:
In today’s edition, columnist Mary O’Grady unquestioningly takes the testimony of a demobilized FARC fighter at face value. Her column not only fails to verify her source’s allegations: it gravely threatens the security of a community and the organizations working with it. This is shameful.
Among other things, she writes,
He also told me that the supposed peaceniks who ran the local NGO were his allies and an important FARC tool in the effort to discredit the military.
O'Grady bolsters the despicable behaviour of the Colombian government in smearing human rights activists at every turn, and every act like that only serves to further endanger those courageous, hard-working people. To put this into context,

Margaret Sekaggya, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, who visited Colombia in September, told the panel that she remained concerned over what she has called a "pattern of harassment and persecution against human rights defenders.''

Sekaggya challenged the government of President Alvaro Uribe to "genuinely address'' their concerns.

Rights activists and community organizers have long been among the primary targets of both right-wing paramilitary forces and leftist rebel armies in Colombia, with more than 60 murdered between 2002 and 2008. Violence has abated greatly with the demobilization of more than 30,000 paramilitary fighters and the routing of guerrillas from major urban areas.

But last year, 11 rights activists were murdered, according to the Colombian Commission of Jurists, and in the first nine months of this year, nine rights defenders have been reported killed. [emphasis mine]

Colombia rights defenders say they're under constant attack (Miami Herald)

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