This July, the Colombian Communist Party (PCC) marked its 79th anniversary. Its newsweekly Voz – the "only national opposition newspaper in the country," according to a U.K. solidarity web site – published a 2500th issue in July and observed its 52nd anniversary.
The price paid for political opposition in Colombia is clear from the appeal last week on the Party web site on behalf of PCC secretary general Jaime Caicedo. Translated excerpts follow.
"As part of stepped-up persecution of opposition leaders manifesting open differences with the regime of Colombian president Ãlvaro Uribe VÃ©lez unjust and lying accusations have cropped up against the person of Jaime Caicedo Turriago. An academician, social investigator, and long time university professor, Caicedo is a member of the Bogota City Council, Secretary General of the PCC, and a national leader of the Alternative Democratic Pole." (The latter is a leftist electoral coalition.)
"To be fingered thus is an attempt to identify him as a political ‘collaborator’ at the margin of the law, when all llong we have known of his support for civil law, his ethical stance, his constant and decisive contributions to the struggle for a democratic peace for Colombia Â and his tireless and intransigent denunciation of enormous social, political, cultural, and economic inequalities that are destroying Colombian society.
"We completely back his right to dissent and formulate various departures away from the difficult crossroads Colombians face. This seems to represent a new threat against him and against public liberties. Many others have been directed at innumerable political and popular leaders and artists, union activists, journalists, and intellectuals that have stood in opposition to harm done by the government head by Uribe and his protÃ©gÃ©s.
"In Jaime Caicedo’s personal case, this situation unfolding now represents a new stage in the shameful and determined persecution that already has led to several attempts on his life, illegal interception of his telephone calls by DAS (state security services), and secret monitoring of his activities and movements … and every kind of physical and political maneuvers directed at erasing his presence and his critical capacity. Colombian authorities have never identified those responsible for this high-handedness and for crimes committed against him.
"On this account we call for solidarity with Jaime Caicedo and with what he represents in terms of democratic spaces for the full exercise of rights and civil liberties in Colombia. His voice can not be drowned out through tricks fixed up with judicial proceedings concocted for the occasion, nor his legal political activity covered up with blanket unproved accusations without any foundation.
"Please communicate your name or letter of solidarity to the following email address: email@example.com."
IvÃ¡n Cepeda Castro, writing for El Spectador, elaborated. DAS, he suggested, is monitoring lawyers, leftist activists, and dissident journalists. Without specifying sources, Cepeda describes 103 files held by the G-3 intelligence agency, each with "hundreds of documents, recordings, photos, computer disks, and reports on spying missions… against persons tied to human rights organization and political leaders." Contained in the material are "life charts on these persons documenting their "weaknesses and strengths." Their activities have been monitored continuously and their communications intercepted. Intelligence operatives "have bought off neighbors, hung around their homes and work places…. and scrutinized their financial situation." These "multiple illegal actions" take place "without judicial orders."
Cepeda asks, "How many of the social and political leaders that have been murdered through state criminality could have been the object of these intelligence methods?" In 1994, Ivan Cepeda’s father Manuel Cepeda Vargas, PCC Secretary General at the time was assassinated. Jaime Caicedo succeeded him as PCC leader. Repression mounts despite constitutional guarantees.
According to a press release from the Ombudsman’s office, under "constitutional precepts and rules of international law on civil and political rights, nobody should be the object of arbitrary or illegal interference in his private life, family, home, or correspondence – or of illegal attacks on his honor and reputation." Under Article 15 of the Constitution, "Any intervention, restriction, or harm done these rights, guarantees, and individual liberties requires a previous written order by the authorities of the Republic for reasons authorized in the law."
The Ombudsman acknowledged "illegal investigations and monitoring presumably by functionaries of the DAS."
In 2002, Carlos Lozano director of Voz and congressional candidate this year for the Alternative Democratic Pole, discovered an unexploded car bomb in front of the Voz offices. An ominous looking package was tossed onto his house roof in 2007. Last year antinarcotics police roughed him up at the Bogota airport. Prosecutors have been investigating him, along with eight others, for alleged ties to FARC guerrillas. The government used now discredited email communications supposedly found in the computer files of murdered FARC Commander Raul Reyes to implicate him.