From: North American Committee to Free David Ravelo
To: Anyone for social justice and/or solidarity with political prisoners
This communication has four parts:
ÂWhy we are contacting you
ÂWho we are
ÂTwo letters we hope you will endorse
David Ravelo needs your help and solidarity. This political prisoner in Colombia must be freed. Please add your name to a letter making that demand that we will be sending to the Colombian Attorney General, and to other officials there.
We ask you also to sign on to a letter to President Barack Obama demanding that the United States support peace with justice in Colombia. Because David Ravelo’s appeal process is underway, the priority now is the first letter. That’s the one for you to endorse if only one is possible.
To add your name as endorsing the letter for David Ravelo, please reply to us at email@example.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org. The same goes with the letter to President Obama. You may prefer, of course, to design your own letter or letters. Again, let us know.
The North American Committee is part of a worldwide movement directed at securing David Ravelo’s release from prison. Members of the Committee traveled to Colombia recently to express solidarity with Ravelo. In Barrancabermeja our nine Â person delegation met with David Ravelo’s family and his co-workers involved in the human rights struggle there. We visited a small farmers’ settlement in a remote area afflicted by armed violence. In Bogota, the group met with activists, political leaders, and lawyers. Two delegation members visited David Ravelo in La Picota prison in Bogota where he is held.
Dr. Eduardo Montealegre Lynett,
Fiscal General de la NaciÃ³n,
FiscalÃa General,Dg. 22B No. 52-01 (Ciudad Salitre)
Edf. C P.4,
Dear Dr. Montealegre,
This letter concerns David Ravelo (cÃ©dula de ciudadanÃa 13.887.558) who was arrested on September 14, 2010. He is presently wrongly held by your government at La Picota Prison in Bogota. It was announced on December 11, 2012 that he had been convicted of "aggravated homicide" and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Those of us signing this letter regard the judicial process delivering Mr. Ravelo to a long prison term as unjust and erroneous.
The pretext for David Ravelo’s arrest and conviction is the allegation he participated in the murder in 1991 of David NÃºÃ±ez Cala, Secretary of Public Works in Barrancabermeja. That charge is false. David Ravelo is innocent. He must be released from prison.
Both Mr. Ravelo’s family and his colleagues at the CREDHOS human rights organization in Barrancabermeja have long been subjected to death threats. The Colombian government must guarantee their safety.
Your government’s purpose in inflicting a long prison sentence on David Ravelo, we suspect, was to silence a recognized defender of human rights. David Ravelo was instrumental in publicizing abuses and violence in Barrancabermeja at the hands of murderous paramilitary criminals.
Conduct of Mr. Ravelo’s trial was scandalous. The case against him rested on accusations from two jailed paramilitary murderers who, by testifying, gained reductions in their sentences. Witness Orlando Noguera testified that the accusers tried to bribe him to corroborate their story. Over 30 witnesses prepared to defend David Ravelo were prevented from testifying at his trial.
Corruption and fakery marking David Ravelo’s trial is epitomized in the role played by prosecutor William Pacheco Granados. In 1991, Granados was a police lieutenant in Armenia. There, he helped arrange for the forced disappearance of Guillermo Hurtado Parra.
Colombian law bans perpetrators of such crimes from service as a public official. Yet the Colombian state used Pacheco Granados, designated as "Prosecutor 22 of the National Anti-Terrorist Unit," as its agent in putting David Ravelo in prison.
Prosecutor Pacheco Granados is a criminal. David Ravelo is neither a criminal nor a terrorist. He must be freed.
The world is watching. United Nations human rights specialists and the Inter- American Commission of Human Rights have come to David Ravelo’s defense.
In December, 2012, British parliamentarians denounced his trial and conviction.
Dozens of European and U. S. human rights, labor and lawyers’ groups have done likewise.
We join these international human rights advocates. We call for justice to be done, now.
(name, address, email, affiliation)
(Copies go to: Maria Ãngela Holguin Cuellar, Colombian Foriegn Minister; Carlos Urrutia Valenzuela, Colombian Ambassador in Washington;Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, President of Colombia; P. Michael McKinley, U.S. Ambassador in Colombia.)
Spanish version of this letter:
Sr. Eduardo Montealegre Lynett,
Fiscal General de la NaciÃ³n,
FiscalÃa General,Dg. 22B No. 52-01 (Ciudad Salitre)
Edf. C P.4,
Estimado Sr. Montealegre,
Esta carta se trata de David Ravelo (cÃ©dula de ciudadanÃa 13.887.558) quien fue detenido el 14 Septiembre de 2010 y estÃ¡ encarcelado de manera injusta por su gobierno en la cÃ¡rcel La Picota en BogotÃ¡. Desde el 11 de Diciembre de 2012 fue convicto de Â¨homicidio agravadoÂ¨ y sentenciado por 18 aÃ±os de cÃ¡rcel. Los firmantes a esta carta considera el proceso judicial del caso del Sr. Ravelo injusto y errÃ³neo.
El pretexto por apresar a David Ravelo fue la alegaciÃ³n que el participÃ³ en el asesinato de David NÃºÃ±ez Cala en 1991, el entonces Secretario de Obras PÃºblicas de Barrancabermeja. Esta acusaciÃ³n es falsa. David Ravelo es inocente y debe ser liberado de la cÃ¡rcel.
La familia del Sr. Ravelo y sus colegas de la organizaciÃ³n de derechos humanos CREDHOS en Barrancabermeja han recibido amenazas de muerte. El gobierno Colombiano debe asegurar su seguridad.
El motivo de su gobierno de apresar a David Ravelo, sospechamos, es para silenciar un defensor de los derechos humanos. David Ravelo fue instrumental en diseminar informaciÃ³n sobre los abusos y la violencia en Barrancabermeja por parte de los criminales paramilitares asesinos.
El juicio del Sr. Ravelo fue escandaloso. El caso en su contra fue basado en testimonios de dos asesinos paramilitares presos, quienes, por medio de su testimonios, ganaron reducciones dramÃ¡ticas en sus sentencias. El testigo Orlando Noguera dio testimonio de que estos intentaron sobornarlo para confirmar sus historias. MÃ¡s de 30 testigos listos para defender a David Ravelo fueron prohibidos dar testimonio en su juicio.
La corrupciÃ³n y falsedades del juicio de David Ravelo fue revelado mÃ¡s claramente en el papel que jugÃ³ el prosecutor William Pacheco Granados. En 1991 Granados fue un cabo de policia en Armenia. Alli, ayudÃ³ a desaparecer a Guillermo Hurtado Parra. La ley Colombiana prohibe a personas que perpetraron tales crimenes servir en puestos pÃºblicos. Sin embargo, el Estado de Colombia usaron a Pacheco Granados, designados Â¨prosecutor 22 de la unidad anti-terroristaÂ¨ para enjuiciar a David Ravelo.
El prosecutor Pacheco Granados es un criminal. David Ravelo no es ni criminal ni terrorista. A el le deben de liberar.
El mundo estÃ¡ mirando. Unos especialistas de la ONU y de la ComisiÃ³n Inter-Americana de Derechos Humanos han defendido a David Ravelo. En Diciembre de 2012, parlamentarios BritÃ¡nicos criticaron el juicio y su convicciÃ³n. (http://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article9850) Y docenas de grupos europeos y estadounidenses de derechos humanos, laborales y de abogados han hecho igual. (http://www.fidh.org/Colombia-International-12579 y http://www.colectivodeabogados.org/IMG/pdf/Carta_al_Fiscal_caso_David_Rabelo.pdf) Nosotros nos sumamos a estos defensores de los derechos humanos internacionales.
Llamamos por la justicia, ahora.
Here’s the other letter:
Dear President Obama,
We, the undersigned, are concerned about the U. S. government’s role in killings and humanitarian disaster in Colombia.
Under U. S. Plan Colombia, the Colombian military, police, and prisons have received $8 billion in U.S. funding over the past decade. Some of the money and military equipment provided by the United States ends up in the hands of paramilitary forces.
The Colombian Armed Forces and para-military groups allied to them are implicated in killings and "disappearances" of hundreds of thousands of Colombian people over the past 40 years. Through killings, massacres, and the climate of fear thus evoked, such armed actors been instrumental in clearing rural areas in Colombia of small landowners. The purpose, analysts say, has been to open up the countryside to mining, oil and natural gas extraction, hydroelectric projects, and industrial agriculture.
As a result, rural areas in Colombia are in chaos: rural poverty exceeds 60 percent, 30 percent of children are chronically malnourished, and five million Colombians are displaced from their land. Our concerns mounted with the release in December, 2012 of a report from Colombia’s "Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement," a respected human rights group.
So far in 2012, according to the report, the number of displaced persons is up 46 percent compared with 2011, up 300 percent compared with 2010. Referring to "indigenous and black populations," the report states that their "territories continue to be invaded by both legal and illegal armies that clandestinely work to further the interests of extractive industries and their territorial consolidation." http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/19208-90000-colombians-displaced-so-far-this-year-ngo.html
We protest U.S. funding going to paramilitaries and the Colombian military. The United States becomes complicit in human rights violations and disaster for many Colombians. We ask that your administration end Plan Colombia. Presently the Colombian government and FARC insurgents are negotiating an end to war in that country.
We want the U.S. government, no innocent bystander, to announce its support for this process and take a stand for peace in Colombia, with justice. Sincerely yours
(Copies to U. S. Secretary of State, U.S. Ambassador in Colombia, Colombian Ambassador in Washington.)
Summary of David Ravelo’s case – Brief historical look at conflict in Colombia – Observations on U.S. Role.
1. In Barrancabermeja, his home city, David Ravelo is recognized as a leader in the struggle for human rights. He has led several high Â visibility human rights groups and served as a municipal and departmental official. He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Colombian Communist Party and in 2008 was honored by the Catholic Diocese of Barrancabermeja for 35 years of human rights work. His efforts were crucial to building popular awareness of participation by paramilitaries and government troops in violent crimes and human rights abuses. In response to pressure he helped generate, the government prosecuted and convicted several of them.
2. On September 14 2010, David Ravelo was arrested. On December 11, 2012, more than two years later, he was convicted of "aggravated homicide" in the case of a Barrancabermeja city official murdered in 1991. Ravelo’s conviction rested on the testimony of two jailed paramilitaries whose crimes Ravelo had publicized. In return for their testimony, the witnesses gained reduced sentences. One, Mario Jaimes MejÃa – alias "El Panadero," had his sentence reduced from 40 to no more than eight years. At Ravelo’s trial, more than 30 defense witnesses were prevented from testifying. In November, 2012, it came to light that the prosecutor in Ravelo’s case, William Pacheco Granados, had been removed from his police lieutenant’s post in 1992 because he had participated in the forced disappearance of one individual. Under Colombian law, such criminal behavior precludes him from serving as a public official, such as, for example, public prosecutor. David Ravelo’s case is being appealed.
2. David Ravelo has faced political persecution for more than two decades. He was imprisoned in 1993 -1995 on charges later shown to be false. Beginning in the late 1990’s, paramilitaries took control of Barrancabermeja. Ravelo responded. Since then, he and his family members, particularly his son David Ravelo GutiÃ©rrez, have regularly experienced death threats.
3. International support for David Ravelo is growing. British Parliamentarians in 2010 denounced his imprisonment and in December 2012, his conviction. http://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article9850 In March 2011, United Nations rapporteurs on judicial processes and on victimization of human rights defenders denounced "criminalization of David Ravelo."
On December 5, 2012 the Inter- American Commission of Human Rights condemned repression against human rights defenders in Colombia including Mr. Ravelo. In early December, 2012, 13 European human rights groups issued a critique of David Ravelo’s conviction, http://www.fidh.org/Colombia-International-12579 and two weeks later 21 other human rights, labor, and lawyers’ groups from Europe and the United States denounced his conviction in a letter to the Colombian Attorney General.
Also during that month, 30 British and Irish parliamentarians, lawyers, and labor leaders released yet another condemnatory statement.
4. Colombia’s prison population has increased by 30 percent during the current presidency of Juan Manuel Santos. Davis Ravelo is one of 10,000 political prisoners. Recent reports highlight abysmal prison conditions: foul sanitary facilities, limited availability of potable water, inadequate medical services, and overcrowding. Many political prisoners serve two to three years without charges and are then released.
5. Prisons in Colombia are part of a repressive apparatus that includes the army (with almost half a million troops), resurgent paramilitaries, intelligence services, and police. War on leftist insurgents, labeled terrorists, propels harassment and round-ups of unionists, journalists, teachers, indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, and leftists. They are part of Colombia’s political opposition, yet are often cast as allies of the guerrillas, even as "terrorists."
6. The internal state of siege within which David Ravelo is a victim is largely directed at clearing rural areas for exploitation of natural resources and industrial-scale agriculture, projects funded by foreign investment. Humanitarian disaster is palpable: rural poverty exceeds 60 percent, 30 percent of children are chronically malnourished, five million Colombians are displaced from their land, and hundreds of thousands have been murdered or "disappeared" over 40 years. With a Gini coefficient of 0.587, Colombia’s income inequality in 2009 was the greatest in Latin America.
7. The U.S. government, leery of leftward drift in Latin America, regards Colombia as its chief regional ally. With its Plan Colombia initiated in 2001, the U. S. government increased backing for the Colombian military that has been ongoing for half a century. The United States has supplied over $8 billion to expand the Colombian army, police, and prisons. Some falls into paramilitary hands. U.S. troops and military contractors, armed with sophisticated intelligence technology, join national forces in anti-insurgent operations. The U. S. government controls seven Colombian air bases.
8. The time now is crucial. The Patriotic March, a new and peaceful popular mobilization, is growing in size and vigor. Violent attacks aimed at repression have begun. And negotiations are underway between the Colombian government and FARC insurgents. The U.S. government’s position is highly uncertain.
January 14, 2013