The Alliance for Global Justice is calling on all supporters of a just peace in Colombia and Puerto Rico to take action in defense of political prisoners in both these nations. Truly, they are Prisoners of Empire, imprisoned for their opposition to US policies that advance the interests of the wealthy and powerful, but hurt the people of Colombia and Puerto Rico as well as others around the world.
AFGJ recently put out an alert asking for phone calls and faxes to the Parole Board advocating for the release of Oscar Lopez Rivera. We have just gotten news that the time for making a decision on the case has been extended until this Friday, Feb. 11th.
AFGJ also has received information from our Colombian partners, Traspasa los Muros, about various new arrests and abuses of Colombian political prisoners–especially during the month of January. AFGJ is part of the International Network in Solidarity with Colombia’s Political Prisoners, which has put out a call for the Organization of American States and the United Nations to investigate conditions in Colombia’s prisons, especially for political prisoners. Please read and act on this important statement.
Included below you will find two alerts. We urge you to take a couple of moments to act on behalf of these Prisoners of Empire.
1) FREEDOM FOR OSCAR LOPEZ RIVERA–Alert from our friends at the National Boricua Human Rights Network
Oscar Lopez Rivera’s attorney, Jan Susler, spoke to a representative of the US Parole Board today, February 2. She was informed that the Commission has indicated that Oscar’s case has been designated a “Original Jurisdiction” case, and because of that, they have been reviewing the case and expect to make a decision by Friday, February 11. We estimate that the US Parole Board received between 250-300 calls from Puerto Rico, Mexico and various cities across the US. The phone lines, as well as the fax line, have been busy for 20-25 minutes at a time and sometimes seems to be permanently busy. PLEASE DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED. KEEP TRYING.
CALL the Parole Board in support of Oscar Lopez Rivera from 9:00am until 5:00 PM (EST). CALL and have others call. It only takes 5 minutes. THE NUMBER IS: 301-492-5990 hit 0 to speak to the operator. They will tell you that you must send your opinion in writing. That is fine. KEEP CALLING ONCE A DAY UNTIL FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 11. PLEASE DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED. Sample script is below.
Hi, I’m calling for the release of Oscar Lopez and I live in XXX The Parole Commission should parole Oscar López # 87651-024 immediately, in spite of the hearing examiner’s recommendation to deny parole. Oscar has the broad support of Puerto Rico’s civil society; he was not accused or convicted of causing injury or taking a life nor of taking part in the Fraunces Tavern bombing; he was determined by former President Clinton to have received a disproportionately lengthy sentence.
YOU CAN ALSO COPY AND SEND THE SAMPLE SCRIPT AS A FAX: (FAX NO: 301/492-5543, ALTERNATE FAX NO: 202/492-5307)
Please keep close track of the letters sent/faxed to the Parole Board and let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) INSPP STATEMENT AND CALL TO ACTION CONCERNING RECENT ARRESTS AND ABUSES OF COLOMBIAN PRISONERS
Click here for a more in depth article about recent events in Colombian prisons. Please copy and send the following sample email and the entire INSPP statement to:
The Interamerican Commission for Human Rights at- email@example.com ;
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Colombia at- firstname.lastname@example.org ;
The Colombian President, Minister of Justice, Comptroller and Director of the Colombian Bureau of Prisons at the following emails- email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
I am writing your organization because I am alarmed at reports of prisoner abuses and arbitrary arrests of political dissidents in Colombia. I call on the Organization of American States and the United Nations to investigate conditions in Colombian prisons, especially for political prisoners. I call on the Colombian government to take immediate action to end these abuses and to stop the arrests of political dissidents and, rather, to pursue a legitimate peace process based on dialogue among all major concerned parties. Please read the following report I have included from the International Network in Solidarity with Colombia’s Political Prisoners ((INSPP) detailing recent incidents of concern.
INSPP STATEMENT ON ESCALATION OF POLITICAL ARRESTS AND PRISONER ABUSES IN COLOMBIAN PRISONS
The International Network in Solidarity with Colombia’s Political Prisoners (INSPP) is deeply troubled by a recent series of political arrests and fatalities under questionable circumstances in Colombian prisons. Already in the first month of 2011, there have been at least two such fatalities and four arrests of student and labor activists. The administration of President Juan Manuel Santos speaks about improvements in the human rights situation in the country, but the indications are otherwise.
On January 13th, the poet, university student and cultural activist Angye Gaona was arrested in Bucaramanga with no explanation nor formal charges filed. On January 17th, student activists Julian Andoni Dominguez and William Rivera Rueda, also a member of the Informal Workers union, were arrested in Bucaramanga. Again, no explanation was given and no charges filed. Another arrest that occurred on the 17th, in the city of Medellin, was that of Aracely Cañaveral Velez. For the past twenty years, she has been a leader in labor organizing for the Garment Workers, Textile and Informal Workers unions. Cañaveral is the sole provider for a minor-age child and elderly mother. The day following her arrest, she was moved to a prison 703 kilometers from her family and charged with conspiracy to commit assault and drug trafficking.
On January 18th, the INSPP learned of the death of political prisoner Jose Albeiro Manjarres Cupitre due to terminal cancer of the stomach. Manjarres was an inmate of the US funded and designed Palogordo prison in Girón–part of the “New Penitentiary Culture”, a US-Colombian project to redesign maximum and medium security prisons. Despite legal petitions and a hunger strike by fellow prisoners to get Manjarres adequate treatment, the circumstances of his illness and death are tantamount to torture. The prison refused to provide adequate diagnosis and treatment for Manjarres, although he began suffering severe abdominal pains in July, 2009. Instead, prison health contractors told him he had “acute gastritis”. He did not learn the full extent of his condition until December 17th. Even then, he was not taken to a prison equipped with proper hospice facilities and treatment for pain, dying instead in the hospital wing of La Modelo prison.
The INSPP also learned of the suicide by hanging of Leandro Salcedo on January 21st. Salcedo was being held at La Tramacúa prison, the first of the prisons built as a part of the “New Penitentiary Culture”. La Tramacúa is infamous for its terrible conditions, including limiting of inmate access to running water for only ten minutes a day and repeated findings of fecal contamination of prison food. Salcedo had been held in solitary confinement for nine months, 24 hours a day, with no access to sunlight and in temperatures regularly reaching 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit). Some inmates in La Tramacúa have been held in solitary confinement for as long as two years.
With more than 7,500 political prisoners, Colombian prisons are increasingly functioning to crush political dissent and to serve as a theater of war. Political prisoners are being moved from special units into the general population where they are singled out for violence by paramilitary gangs and prison guards. Since the beginning of the “New Penitentiary Culture”, prison capacity has been increased by 40%. At the same time, the number of provably arbitrary political arrests has risen by 300%–cases later thrown out of court for lack of evidence, usually after an average three years of incarceration.
The INSPP calls on the UN Human Rights Commission to investigate conditions in Colombian prisons and the treatment of political prisoners. We call on the Colombian government to:
1) Stop the torture, abuse and neglect of political–and all–prisoners.
2) Segregate political prisoners into separate units for their protection.
3) Stop all politically motivated arrests.
4) Negotiate for a humanitarian exchange of prisoners of war as a first step toward dialogue for peace.
5) Free all Prisoners of Conscience and Political Frame-ups immediately.