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FALSE POSITIVE: The Punk Rock Musician on Dialysis That Colombian Police Cant Silence

in Citizen Journalism/Corruption & Transparency/Guerilla Journalism by

This is Luís Alberto Velásquez Molina and he knows something that the Colombian Police do not want you to find out.

Luís is from Medellin, a city famous for beautiful women, plastic surgery, and Pablo Escobar.

It’s also the heartland of Latin American Punk Rock.

medellin-skyriseLuis lives in the hills above Medellin in a comuna called Villatina.
Villatina is no stranger to police violence.

This man lives a few blocks away from Luis. He was 12 when his 17 year old brother was executed by police along with 7 other children in the Villatina Massacre.

The police accused of orchestrating the massacre were never sentenced.
The victims families are still seeking justice 21 years later.

Luis is a role model for the youth of Villatina. They remember seeing his band Sonido Libertario or Libertarian Sound play for them in the comuna.

Luis wants to teach the youth of Villatina that music, not crime and violence, is the best outlet for anger against an extremely unjust society.

Luis has lived with a terminal illness for 14 years and needs a strict diet and dialysis to stay alive. “When I drink too much water my legs swell up.”

luis-veins-dialysis14 years of dialysis at 3 times a week for 4 hours a session equals 8,736 hours of a metal tube pumping and filtering blood through his arm.

Luis waited 10 years to receive a kidney transplant in 2009 but his body rejected it a year later. He almost died.

punk-medellinThat’s when 28 punk bands from Medellin organized a concert they called “Punk to help a Friend” and raised enough money to buy Luis a small home in Villatina. He made a slow and painful recovery.

Besides from suffering a terminal illness, “Luchito” or “our Little Fighter” as the Punkeros call him, was in a car accident that permanently damaged his right ankle making movement difficult.

false-positive-luis-camelBut that doesn’t mean Luis can stop being a Camel, or Camellar as they say in Colombia, when you work without food or breaks to scrape enough spare change together to survive.

luis-camellandoLuis created a D.I.Y. mobile shop out of a child’s pram with speakers to blast Punk Rock. After dialysis he wheels his shop carrying sweets and cigarettes to the same park he has worked 6 nights a week for the last 8 years.

At 42 years old Luis is nowhere near as strong as his youth. But that’s not gonna stop him screaming Punk whenever Sonido Libertario gets together.

He’s exhausted after the performance but its worth it. Punk fires him up to get out of bed every morning so his 10 year old son wont become an orphan.

On the 29th of December 2012, Police discovered a military grenade in a black sealed bag placed on top of the lollypops and bubblegum in Luis’ cart.

The night before last weeks court date Luis got home from work at Park Periodista at midnight, woke up at 3:30am, took 2 buses 1.5 hours to the hospital for his 5am-9am dialysis session, then another bus to court.
He was exhausted.

A witness sitting in Periodista Park with his grandson the night of the incident swore under oath he saw a third party place a black sealed bag on top of Luis’ cart moments before police arrived.

The prosecutor used the cocaine found inside the black sealed bag to paint Luis as a user of vicio or vice. The only chemicals Luis can consume without becoming extremely sick are an aggressive dose of medication.

Neither Luis nor his defense lawyer were permitted access to the evidence being used against him. The evidence had been destroyed on the pretext it was “too dangerous” and Luis was taken away in handcuffs.

Medellin’s Punk Rockers Are Pissed.

Punk-MedalloThey believe the charges against Luís Velásquez were fabricated in a common practice called “False Positive” when police and military frame innocent civilians to earn commissions.

Victims of False Positives are primarily poor people because they cannot afford legal defense. They are easily forgotten.

Leaked reports show armed forces can earn up to $3,000,000 COP ($1,565 USD) commissions for weapons they discover when an arrest is made.

If the defense were permitted to examine the evidence against Luis before it was destroyed they may have been able to verify if the grenade was missing from a police warehouse.

Medellin’s Punkeros believe everyone, irrespective of where they come from or what level of society they belong, deserve fair trials.

They set up a
petition on CHANGE.ORG and every signature sends an email to the judge they say condemned an innocent man to his death inside a Maximum Security Prison. 1,095 emails and counting…

The Punkeros of Medellin saved the life of Luís Alberto Velásquez before. This Sunday they’ll do it again as Medellin’s best punk bands and their fans get together to raise money and awareness for his cause.

They want to scream a message that False Positives and Police Impunity are not welcome in Periodista Park – home of the memorial statues of 8 children executed by police in the Villatina Massacre.

Johana Mazo Ramírez (8 years),
Johny Alexander Cardona Ramírez (17 years),
Ricardo Alexander Hernández (17 years),
Giovanny Alberto Vallejo Restrepo (15 years),
Oscar Andrés Ortiz Toro (17 years),
Ángel Alberto Barón Miranda (16 years),
Marlon Alberto Álvarez (17 years),
Nelson Duban Flórez Villa (17 years),
Mauricio Antonio Higuita Ramírez (22 years).

You can help Luís Alberto Velásquez Molina too by sharing this page and signing the petition on CHANGE.ORG

Also all money raised from purchases of the “Police Bastard” EP by UK punk band DOOM are being sent to Luis Alberto Velasquez so he can afford to buy healthy food inside the atrocious conditions of Medellin’s Bellavista Prison.


Luis Alberto Velasquez Molina was granted house arrest after seven months in Bellavista Prison. The following photo shows Luis in his house in Villatina, a few hours after being released from prison, writing on the bottom of my article on Colombia Reports the following thanks:

“I am Luis Alberto Velasquez Molina and I am innocent. Thank you to all the people around the world for helping me with your signatures and to DOOM, Jake, the Doctor Marialena, Doctor Muñoz and all the energy of punks of the world.”



How Boyaca’s Farmers Sparked a Movement that Brought the Colombian Government to its Knees

in Citizen Journalism/Food & Water Security/Guerilla Journalism by
Citizen Journalist Aida Castro at Tunja Cathedral in front of the hashtag she coined "Thankyou for believing in the #RevolutionOfTheRuanas"
Citizen Journalist Aida Castro in front of the hashtag she coined “Thankyou for believing in the #RevolutionOfTheRuanas”
Its not every Sunday that the priest of a rural Colombian city called Tunja begins his sermon with a story of an illiterate Indian girl who grew up in the shadow of the British Empire.

The 8th of September was not a normal Sunday.

For the three weeks previous farmers from the province of Boyaca and its capital Tunja had blocked the roads to strangle the food supply en route to Colombia’s biggest city Bogotá.

Boyaca is not only Bogotá’s backyard, its also the breadbasket for this city of 7 million mouths and has fed it since the time of the Spanish.

After decades of having their human rights ignored the National Agrarian Strike with its epicenter in Boyaca was a last resort to get urbanite Colombians to pay attention: the countryside is in crisis so consumers can save a few pesos at the supermarket.

The strike had abated the day before and Tunjas Cathedral was packed with people who came to see three of the movements leaders who fought against forces far greater than themselves: the Colombian government castrated by consecutive Free Trade Agreements with foreign powers, the United States that provides the country with billions of dollars in military aid (and expects its back scratched in return) as well as omnipotent multinationals like Monsanto.

Their names were Florentino Borda, Walter Benavides, and César Pachón and they spoke to the gathered mass in front of a banner stating, “Thankyou for believing in the #RevolutionOfTheRuanas”
The name of the Indian woman was Kasturba Mohandas Gandhi and the priest recounted a question once asked to her about the man she married who brought the British Empire to its knees.

Her reply: “I did not marry a man,
I married a cause.”

This is the story of Boyaca’s cause.


The Seeds of Discontent

pacho-boyacaBefore dawn 12 hours earlier a man they call Pacho from the nearby town of Paipa rigs his car with a speaker and microphone transforming it into a mobile soapbox.

Mist hangs heavily over the back roads that bend up the mountainside and visibility is limited but Pacho dodges the severed trees that had, up until a few days before, blocked all entries and exits to the town.

With steering wheel in one hand and a microphone in the other Pacho shouts out the first names of those who cut the trees and blocked the roads with aggressive threats of force – they are potato farmers and they are invited to a Town Hall Meeting that morning where farmers get to discuss the strikes resolution with Florentino Borda, Walter Benavides, and César Pachón.

Flour & Barley: Because Cocaine is not an Option

Pacho has gained a measure of success in his life and now runs a warehouse full of farming goods from fertilizer to cattle feed and tools both big and small to work the land. But sales have bottomlined, purchases are being made on credit, and customers he counts as friends are struggling to survive.

“This conflict comes from much further back than Santos or Uribe and the TLC” says Pacho referring to Colombia’s Free Trade Agreement with the United States in his history lesson of Boyaca.

In the 1970’s the crop of choice for the province was barley until big beer breweries with factories in the province began using imports from the US. The farmers switched to wheat which was used in bakeries across Boyaca but subsidized wheat and flour from the US undercut competition in the 80’s.

boyaca-valleyOver the following decades everything from contraband Ecuadorian potatoes to European imports of powdered milk made it harder for Boyacenses to do business.

In other parts of the country these Fair Trade Agreements that flooded the market with cheap foreign imports forced farmers into growing the one Colombian crop with insatiable international demand:
the Coca leaf.
Boyaca’s too cold for Coca.

“We don’t have politicians that protect the community, they are selling the country and the farmers are fed up.” Pacho says as the car climbs up above the mist for a view of Boyaca’s spectular valleys.

“The same state that forgot about the potato farmers is facilitating the multinationals so that they can sell more at subsidized prices.”

Potato Farmers Do Not Want Monsanto Seeds

boyaca-potato-farmersThree paperos or potato farmers come to greet us, “this land makes good potatoes but what kills us are the importations, they don’t let us compete and now we are broke” says community leader Alexander Camargo.

“You dont sell potatoes,” he says, “you give them away.”

Its not a lack of creativity or initiative that bankrupted the potato farmers of Paipa.

For years they have gone to the mayor with plans to help return their industry to profit but the municipal government ignored them. One such plan was a seed bank that Alexander Camargo and Luis Cipaguata dreamt of creating called Crops from a Cold Land.

After Colombia signed the TLC with the United States storing seeds became a criminal offence. Farmers that followed the tradition of their great grandfathers became criminals under new laws enforced with fines or imprisonment. Saving seeds threatened the bottomline of Monsanto.

[quote]”We need to buy foreign seeds but they are too expensive, we want to certify our own seeds” says Camargo, “if we cannot save our own seeds then they have us screwed.”[/quote]

Catastrophic Acts of God vs Government Pacts: MercoSur, TLC

The nearby town of Santa Teresa has felt the destructive nature of these Free Trade Agreements with the US and South American countries under the MercoSur umbrella as hard as 3 floods that devastated the area in 2.5 years.

boyaca-lake“When the government took the barley off us we had to look for a different crop, some went for potatos, others for milk or onions,” says Wilson Pulido a representative for the region.

“After the floods destroyed everything everyone’s in debt and then the government floods us with Peruvian onions, MercoSur, the TLC.” he says.

“Now it costs 55,000 pesos to get a load of onions but we have to sell that load at 20,000 pesos, we are losing 70 percent on every load”

Back in Paipa Pacho drives down the valley to ready himself for the Town Hall Meeting and tells me, “What other choice do the people here have? They are honest, they don’t know how to steal, they aren’t guerrillas, they only want to work with dignity to get a better quality of life for their families”

You can only step over peoples human rights for so long until they have nothing left to lose and the stoic Boyacenses had nothing left to lose. They took the roads.

How The Movement Spread

1. The Watercooler of Dissent: Fruit & Vegetable Markets

Colombia’s National Agrarian Strike started as grassroots as it gets: in fruit and veg markets across Boyaca where farmers and sellers had been swapping stories of dwindling profits and soaring losses for years.

It was here Pacho says: “farmers communicated and organized every single wednesday”

2. Protest Leaders Organize While President Santos Laughs

"Wearing the ruana gives me pride but it also makes me easily identifiable and I have made many enemies" César Pachon
“Wearing the Ruana gives me pride but it also makes me easily identifiable and I have made many enemies” says César Pachon
On May 7th 2013 representatives for farmers convened in Bogotá to alert the the government about the crisis in its agricultural sector. Speeches on Youtube by César Pachon and Florentino Borda show how their microphones are cut which was considered incredibly condescending by farmers.

The government gave them empty promises but the congregation served an important purpose to Pachón and Borda because they were able to network with other sidelined farmers from provinces across the country to coordinate the next strike.

In August 2013 when the National Agrarian Strike began comments by President Santos deliberately belittling the size of the protests infuriated Boyacenses long fed up with their rights being ignored.

“There were only 20 or 30 people blocking the roads” says Pacho, “but when Santos said ‘this so called national strike doesn’t exist‘ overnight we trippled in size.”

The Boyacenses wanted to send a message: YES WE EXIST.

3. Citizen Journalists Shoot Police Human Rights Abuses

“Read and Study or Look at the Consequences –>”
To beat Boyaca’s farmers into submission the Colombian government sent a largely undisciplined, downright violent, and universally feared force of ESMAD Riot Police to stop the protests.

What happened next would shock the western world but comes as no surprise to your average Colombian: these trigger-happy storm troopers dressed like Darth Vader vigilantes began looting and pillaging the countryside.

In the village of Barranco 10 minutes outside of Tunja a potato farmer named Ernesto Torres was selling black coffee to protestors blocking the via Bogotá a mere 100 meters from his home. When the ESMAD arrived protestors panicked and ran up past Torres’ house and into the hills but the police gave up chase and looted the potato farmers’ home instead.

That night the ESMAD broke Torres’ two motorbikes, tipped over a gallon bucket of honey, stole 3,000,000 pesos he had set aside to buy pesticide, smashed the windows and left spent teargass grenades on his childrens bunkbeds.

[quote]”We left the door unlocked because its safe in the countryside, we never thought something like this could happen in Boyaca,” says Ernesto Torres, “Thank god the children were with my father.”[/quote]

“I believe the ESMAD made us stronger” César Pachón told me explaining how the deluge of videos by Citizen Journalists documenting human rights abuses by the ESMAD caused public outrage and garnered the sympathy of Colombian’s from the city.

4. The Town Hall of the Future: Red Boyaca

Citizen Journalist Aida Castro filming César Pachon in Paipas Town Hall
In Paipa’s Town Hall the mood is a mix of elation and tense relief amongst the farmers gathered. Here Florentino Borda, Walter Benavides, and César Pachón give speeches about what Boyaca gained now the strike against the government had been resolved while citizen journalist Aida Castro films and tweets their points.

The sleepy town of Paipa, like many others in the province, have risen up in protest only once before in history: during the Battle of Boyacá in August 1819 that gained Colombia its independence from the Spanish.

This August 193 years later the Colombian elite are again facilitating foreign states as well as multinationals to plunder the countryside at the expense of the human rights of farmers and their families.

What has changed however is a phenomena mushrooming across South American cyberspace called the Town Hall of the Future – online meeting places like this brick and mortar Town Hall in Paipa were concerned citizens come to discuss important topics online.

Online Town Halls like Red Boyaca are the future in bringing people together to fight for their communities by holding human rights abuses accountable thanks to the courageous grassroots reporting by citizen journalists.

There is an old saying in this cold Colombian province: “Boyacenses don’t pray to God for good crops, they pray the neighbors crops will fail.” Now however for the second time in history the stoic Boyacenses are united but this time they are hyper-connected to each other and the rest of Colombia thanks to Citizen Journalism and the Town Halls of the Future.

Media Manipulation 102: The Viral Images That Shook Colombia’s Social Networks

in Guerilla Journalism by

On Colombia’s largest TV news source Caracol there is a segment called ASI SE MUEVE LOS REDES or THIS IS HOW NETWORKS MOVE which parades tweets that are trending and memes making rounds around social networks.

In the midst of the nation wide protests that gripped the country for three weeks this segment became a tool to whitewash what was really moving on social networks and manufacture consent to conform with claims deliberately belittling the size of the protests.

The most famous claim was when President Santos stated “this national strike does not exist.” which set off a tidal wave of memes and even youtube videos that rippled around social networks.

Despite getting thousands of shares none of them made the cut for Caracol TVs social media show so we decided to compare some with those that did.

Caracol News vs Chekhovs Kalashnikov

The following memes, tweets, and Facebook images were selected on September 2nd and compared with Caracol TVs selection for the same day. A more scientific comparative analysis would compare tweets with tweets and Facebook with Facebook but we believe the programs unprecedented focus on just twitter was because this network took second place to Facebook during the strikes.

CARACOLS CHOICE: The first pick on Caracols THIS IS HOW NETWORKS MOVE is a North American businessman who paid to promote various irate tweets in English against British Airways when they lost his fathers luggage.

CHEKHOVS CHOICE: With over a thousand more shares and likes that same day we have picked an image and quote of Cesar Pachon, a potato farmer from Boyaca who led the protests in the province and states: “We are capable of making a house, we dont need them to give us one, with our own work we are capable of buying it. Dont worry about food because we are capable of feeding this country”translation: we dont need welfare, we need just policies that don’t bankrupt farmers.

CARACOLS CHOICE: Next up on the program was a cameo from Caracols favorite post-Chavez-punching-bag, Nicolas Maduro, showcasing the Venezuelan Presidents announcement over twitter who is now tweeting English, French, and Portuguese to accompany his mother tongue.

Caracols social media team then scoured twitter to find a mildly popular meme taking the piss out of Maduro the Polyglot´s letter to Obama:

CHEKHOVS CHOICE: The same day an image with 1,266 likes 786 shares of President Santos looking like the psychopathic clown from Stephen Kings IT appeared.

Two days after September 2nd a Gallup poll put the approval rating of President Santos at 21 percent down 27 percentage points from the previous poll.

The Wall Street Journal called it “the lowest level recorded for a Colombian president for more than a decade” which may be worrying news for the editors at Caracol as Juan Manuel Santos enters an election year.

Kalashnikov Analysis: HOW NETWORKS REALLY MOVE

Analysing social networks inside Colombia during these strikes and its obvious that much of the citizen journalism documenting the police and ESMAD brutality originates on Facebook.

These photographs and videos are uploaded by individuals (students, youths, professionals) and make ripples around their respective social networks until they are picked up by larger Facebook groups like Young Revolutionaries in Action.

These larger Facebook groups are also becoming the first point of contact for many citizen journalists seeking a wider reach for their photos and videos of the protests.

That means Facebook groups like Soy Estudiante, Jovenes Revolucionarios, and Red Boyaca are becoming the primary source for unfiltered news for many Colombians irrespective of their demographic and location.

Given that the size of each of these platforms grew exponentially during the three week protests the Colombian government may already see them as a threat to controlling the narrative over the mainstream communication mediums.

Media Manipulation 101: The Injured Youth and the Rise of Citizen Journalism in Colombia

in Citizen Journalism/Guerilla Journalism by

injured-youth2 On the 29th of August hours after the protests in the Plaza de Bolivar in Bogota a video of a seriously injured youth known only as the “Joven Herido” started making waves around social networks.

The protests had turned violent and depending on which side of the barricade you stood the blame laid at the feet of either the disproportional force of the ESMED Riot Police or a “cartel of vandals” that had infiltrated the protests and caused the militarization of Bogota.

From that protest the story of the Injured Youth became one of the most viewed, commented, and shared videos to come out of the two week nation wide strikes that had engulfed the country. A closer look at the coverage of the Joven Herido is essential to understand the media war underway between the mainstream broadcast media and Colombia’s citizen journalists.

How to Direct the Narrative in News

As the video of the Injured Youth went viral concerned citizens across Colombia began asking who he was, what happened to him, and if he was okay.

El Espectador, the oldest newspaper in Colombia as well as one of its biggest and most influential, was the only big mainstream communication medium to publish the video. Here is a comparative analysis between the coverage between El Espectador and a small citizen media outlet called Reporteros24 which bills itself as “the social network of citizen journalism from latinos for latinos”

El Espectador published the video on the 29th at 6:55 pm and later tweeted it at 9:15 and 11:53. Reporteros24 on the other hand published the video on the 30th at 6:06pm and tweeted it at 7:13.

The difference between the language they used:

“Youth Injured During Bogota Protests”

“In Video: Youth Injured During Bogota Protests”

“Shocking images of a seriously injured youth during the Agrarian Protests in Bogotá”

If you add 27 + 19 + 23 for the amount of retweets each got above and divide by 3 you get number 23. This makes Reporteros24 tweet the mean. Now note that the twitter account of El Espectador has 1,220,417 followers while Reporteros24 has 1,803 and do the maths – In statistics tweets like El Espectadors are called Outliers.

[pullquote]out·li·er [out-lahy-er] noun:
an observation that is well outside of the expected range of values in a study or experiment, and which is often discarded from the data set.”

This is the power of using vague and ambigious language on twitter over its descriptive and contextual opposite – its designed to be discarded.

Now lets compare the landing pages for the Youtube video on both El Espectador and Reporteros24:
[quote]”El Espectador was unable to confirm this information independently, but decided to publish it for its news value. The content below may find upsetting.” El Espectador[/quote] [quote]This video circulating on social networks, shows the severity of injuries sustained while this young man participated in marches in support of agricultural strike in Bogota. Apparently tear gas exploded near the boy’s face. The images can hurt your sensitivity. Reporteros24 can not independently confirm the veracity, date or place of this material. Reporteros24[/quote]

Here we can give El Espectador the benefit of the doubt in that they published the video the night of the protests (a day before Reporteros24) and legitimately had no information about the boy. However for the most viewed, shared, and commented video that the newspaper published one might think its “news value” meant it deserved a follow up to find out what happened to the boy.

Colombia’s oldest newspaper however was too busy publishing article after article about the colourfully dubbed a “cartel of vandals” guilty of throwing rocks and wrecking public property and even included the video apology of a 15 year old boy whose “reprehensible action” was to graffiti “long live the strike” on a wall which was news worthy enough to get its own article.

Network Anomalies on El Espectador

Four days later and the view-count of the Injured Youth video was rapidly climbing everywhere except newspaper El Espectador where various network anomalies saw the piece fluctuate between 27,000 and 11,000 shares. A few days later still the view count started to fluctuate between 11,000 and 4,000 shares and now sits steady on 12,000.

Is this a glitch? Or is it part of a larger plan to censor and obfuscate all news related to violations of human rights perpetuated by the country’s feared ESMAD riot police? Lets look a little deeper.


Sex and Gore are the media industry’s two holy cash cows and “The nymphomaniac that proposes to have sex with 100,000 men” was El Espectadors best bet in making the masses forget the previous weeks protests and the Injured Youth. The piece became number 1 in the newspapers TOP 10 for the week of 2nd to 8th of September.

“Up this this moment Ania Lisewska has 284 men in her ´collection´”

Sex sells and the picture of the 21 year old Polish sex junky with her legs seductively bared on her bed no doubt helped the article skyrocket to number 1 for the week. Now lets look at the Injured Youth in the previous week:

Instead of showing the Injured Youths mutilated face haemorrhaging blood we get an image of a different youth, without a cut on him, seemingly antagonizing the ESMAD riot police that cower against the wall. El Espectador have an original photo of the youth but they decided to go against the cardinal rule in news media “if it bleeds it leads” which makes us wonder why don’t they want this story to lead?

Media Manipulation is everywhere and if citizen journalists do not hold news organizations accountable their flagrant abuse of the truth it will only become more outrageous.

To prove this point the day after the National Agrarian Strike ended, with hundreds of outstanding human rights violations by the ESMAD and half the countryside on the brink of bankruptcy, the front page of El Espectador has 12 articles about sport and one article hidden at the bottom from the “chief of state” Juan Manuel Santos acknowledging there’s a problem.

Casualty of a Media War: Photographer Federico Lennis

With 10,000 shares more than the consecutive weeks article (or 24,443 shares less depending on which view-count you believe) it is hard to fathom why the journalists at El Espectador haven’t looked further into the case of the Injured Youth.

The following message is part of news that has been spreading since the 30th of August, about the young Federico Lennis, who on the 29th of August was injured in the face by the ESMAD (original Post)
While the mainstream media was silent citizen journalists and Facebook groups were busy scouring the web for more information about the boy and posting pleas via leveraging the power of social networks.

In the image to the left the cousin of the injured youth, named Federico Lennis, states: [quote]Hello everybody, i am the cousin of Federico and I am infinitely grateful to you all for the great support you have given us over this Facebook page. I inform you that fortunately he is good in health and talking in general….

We are working on gathering information as a family, friends, and relatives, contacts of any kind to help improve his quality of life, its to say…. we want a smile on him like before…for that we need a dentist or various im not sure, those who are interested in the case he has already lost various teeth and we need someone urgently…[/quote]

On the citizen journalist site aptly named Mentiras Medios or “Lying Media” we get an even better idea who Federico Lennis is in their two articles that reconstruct the steps leading up to his injury.

They also found a quote on a Youtube video on Noticias Capital that devotes most of the time investigating the Cartel of Vandals but interviews a man at the end who tells us what happened to Federico Lennis: [quote]Yesterday we were first hand witnesses, of the police brutality that the ESMAD introduced and the force available from the National Police in Bogota, on the road 19 with avenue 7a a youth of approximately 18 years was hit by a tear gas grenade. This completely destroyed his lips, the police did nothing to help him.[/quote]

We also see that certain elements are attempting to defame Federico Lennis by claiming he was a “masked vandal” or Capucho. Fortunately we can thank the coming of age of Colombia’s citizen journalists for not settling for censorship and revealing the truth about this 18 year old photographer who may never smile again. But hell always be remembered as the martyr who fought for a cause he believed in.

"Here we have the youth that the ESMAD destroyed the Face...Federico Lennis. Here is the proof that he was not a "masked vandal" he was a photographer. That those responsible appear, the true vandals, the ESMAD that shot him."
“Here we have the youth that the ESMAD destroyed the Face…Federico Lennis.
Here is the proof that he was not a “masked vandal” he was a photographer.
That those responsible appear, the true vandals, the ESMAD that shot him.

Luis Xavier Solis on the 55,140 refugees in Ecuador less famous than Julian Assange

in Human Rights/Interviews/Rights of Refugees by

colombia_armyToday on Chekhov’s Kalashnikov we are going to talk with Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca who works for the Comittee of Human Rights of Orellana in the Ecuadorian Amazon. This organization which works closely with UNHCR is in charge of protecting and defending some of the worlds most vulnerable and forgotten people – refugees that have fled Colombians civil war in search for asylum and a better life in Ecuador.

Chekhov: Can you explain your work, the organization where you work, and what you specialize in?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: I work in two areas through a project with UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) 1.- Consulting and advocacy for people in need of international protection, in this case especially for Colombian refugees who are the majority of people who need international protection by the Colombian internal conflict. 2. – Counselling and Advocacy in cases where human rights have been violated, in recent cases we have have had were against human rights violations by the police.

[pullquote align=”right”]FOR REFUGEES:
if you come to Ecuador the first think you must do approach a human rights organizationor ACNUR in Ecuador, inform yourself about the request for asylum before you reach 15 days in the country otherwise the Ecuadorian government will not consider your request.

Refugees should contact the following organizations on the northern Ecuadorian border:
– Servivio Jesuita para refugiados
– Fundación Tarabita
– Asylum Access Ecuador
– Federación de mujeres de Sucumbios
– Oxfam
– Comité de Derechos Humanos de Orellana,
– Defensoría del Pueblo de Sucumbios y Orellana
– Cualquier otra sede, estas organizaciones trabajamos en refugio y podemos brindar asesoría.

Chekhov: What are the statistics, that is the number of Colombian refugees who are living in Ecuador and especially in the provinces of Sucumbios and Orellana?

Chekhov: What are the statistics, that is the number of Colombian refugees that are living in Ecuador especially in the provinces of Sucumbíos and Orellana?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: well in Ecuador there are around 56,000 refugees of which 90% are of Colombian nationality! The other nationalities are Palestinians, Haitians, Spanish, Cubans, etc.

Chekhov: and how does the Ecuadorian government treat the Colombian refugees in comparison with that of other nations?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: well you´ve got to remember the major part of Colombian refugees were recognised and registered in Ecuador in 2009-2010 after the Bombing of Angostura. Before 2012 Ecuadorian legislation was less rigorous until the issuance of Decree 1182 of May 30, 2012 which restricted access to asylum.

We´ve heard from different areas in the government its position that refugees are an expense to the country principally Colombians which are the majority however this does not take into account the contribution they have made to the Ecuadorian economy with their labour and microenterprises. The government with the issuance of this decree severely restricted access to the right to shelter, so much that of the 100% of requests for shelter only 4% are accepted when before the decree it was about 60%.

Chekhov: and they are rejected legitimate refugees now?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: the majority yes, people who have elements of refugees, as well with such small percentages almost all are left out.

Chekhov: and what happens when they reject one´s asylum, they have to return to Colombia or do they stay in Ecuador?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: that´s the problem, in lots of cases when there are refugee elements, the need for international protection, they cannot return.

[quote style=”1″]Suppose you are a refugee and your country does not protect you or does not want to protect you, therefore if he comes to seek refuge in another country there is a need for protection, either a regular or irregular armed group, that pursues them, threatens them, makes them fear for their lives or for their political expressions, social, racial, etc.

In lots of cases we have seen that the refugees stay in Ecuador without official documents which puts them in a vulnerable situation, they can be exploited laborally or sexually.[/quote]This is because the current government decree (1182) left off numbers to the right to be able to recognise victims of violence that the law had previously incorporated under the declaration of Cartegena, but it is no longer beholden in Ecuadorian law. That was part of the law and therefore should be applied.

Life For refugees in Ecuador less famous than Julian Assange

assange asilo
Julian Assange in Ecuador´s London Embassy

Chekhov: everybody has heard of the Ecuador´s most famous refugee, the Australian Julian Assange, can you tell us about some of the refugees that have fled violence in Colombia but have been forgotten by the Ecuadorian state and the rest of the world?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: …what you say is precisely the contradiction that has befallen the Ecuadorian state, already on a global level and in a principled way it gave asylum to Assange and a pass to Edward Snowden, however the life of Colombian refugees is not that easy.

The fact of fleeing from a conflict of over 50 years is very complicated, to get to a different albeit close country, finding a place to live, where to work, where to raise children… These issues are really sobering to think about.

[pullquote align=”right”] “Up to June 2013 the Ecuadorian government has recognized 55,141 refugees in the country. Since 2000, when there were 390 refugees, 168 525 people have applied for refugee status in Ecuador. About 23% of them are children and adolescents.”
ACNUR in Ecuador

Testimonials from Colombian Refugees

A lot of the refugees in Ecuador that have fled the Colombian conflict were only able to bring identification documents so there access to rights is very precarious. Generally the same authorities that are making systems where [refugees] are unable to register because of the number of refugee visas, is the one for social security and education.

Afterwards they also become vulnerable because when they start to perform jobs they are poorly paid, being characterized by cheap hard labour, in other cases they are not even paid for their labour…

This is the case for those who do find work, for the rest they have to look at finding more informal ways to earn a living, ways where they are exploited for their situation of always being on the move, which is to say the solutions aren’t comprehensive. There is still much to do in terms of providing refuge, while we agree that it is not just an Ecuadorian problem but an international one, but I think the government should deal with more attention to this sector.

Ejercito Ecuatoriano
Ejercito Ecuatoriano
[quote style=”1″]The problems are greatest in the zones by the border where the both the Ecuadorian and Colombian civilian populations live in a situation of uncertainty.

They are already violations of rights by the Ecuadorian military, the Colombian military, and armed groups, this is to say they are a population living in the line of fire.[/quote]

Women and Children Refugees from Colombia

refugiadas colombianas
The Federation of Women in Sucumbíos is a program that gives comprehensive care to women refugees from Colombia, where programa de atención integral a mujeres refugiadas de Colombia, which “promotes the end of impunity for cases of domestic violence against women.”
Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: Also you have to remember that 70% of Colombian refugees are women and children.

Chekhov: and what happened to the fathers and husbands?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: there are lots of motives, they were assasinated, they have been disappeared, or the women are on there own, or the husbands come afterwards…

For the part of ACNUR and other social organizations like us at the Committee of Human Rights of Orellana, we have tried to help, provide counselling so there rights are not violated, however the number that we meet is still small compared to the refugee population in total.

Chekhov: can you tell us about some of these recent cases where the human rights of refugees have been violated by police?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: There exists many occassions where because of the movement of people that need asylum do not have the correct documentation to travel throughout the country, whether thats because they havent sought asylum with the Ecuadorian state or because the authorities do not know how to identify a refugee and the rights they have.

There exists and continues to exist various detentions by police of people who need asylum, however this is to ignore the constitutional rights of refugees who are in parts 9, 40, 41 and others of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of movement, the right to asylum and refuge, universal citizenship.

The police have no power in their grading of if a person is a refugee or not so all you can do is apply the documentation and if the person does not have it says they are a refugee or is in need of international protection what needs to happen is to refer the case to the Department of Redwhat to do is to refer the case to the Directorate of Refugees with their facility to analyse and consider the case.

What we know is that there are still abuses principally when they detain refugees working in prostitution, starting first with that yes they are recognised as refugees and can work in whatever lawful activity such as prostitution, secondly you cannot be detained and have their documents withdrawn because the police do not have the power to do that.

The best way to end these abuses is to denounce them so that they do not repeat and to sanction those responsible for denying these human rights.

There also exists illegal detentions of refugees without respect due process, only because they are presumed to have commited a crime because of the stigma that much of the Ecuadorian authorities have of refugees from Colombia.

The World Refugee Crisis

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: The topic of the global refugee crisis as you know is a phenomenon that isn´t going to finish any time soon, rather the situation has worsened, principally in the Middle East with Syria, North Africa, and how things are going there will be added to by more climate refugees and by the adverse conditions in which the world is developing….

For this I believe the solution legal, social, but in the background is POLICY.

Chekhov: Right now in Australia there is an electoral campaign where the two main political parties are trying to demonstrate to a xenophobic and sometimes racist electorate who can create the toughest policies against refugees to send a message and stop them entering the country, what do you say to them?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: …what is happening on a global level is to believe that economic crises and lack of employment is due to refugees, that economic migrants are those who take away jobs, however this is only an appearance to hide the truth, which is that the crises, lack of employment is due to the accumulation of capital in a few hands, in the minority, less than 1% of the population.. these political speeches stick in times of global economic crises and sometimes ordinary people usually believe them.

It is therefore important to be more critical about where these speeches are coming from, speeches that are supported by the mainstream media that are repeated until they permeate in the minds of the population.

[quote style=”1″]You have to put yourself in teh shoes of the migrants and refugees and understand there reality, you cannot restrict the right for refuge, its a human right, and governments around the world need to respect that right[/quote]

Refugees under Juan Manuel Santos and Alvaro Uribe

santos y uribe Chekhov: I want to ask you of the armed groups: paramilitary, military, FARC Guerillas, who are causing the most violations against human rights?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: generally I believe the Colombian military and the paramilitary. But it seems like the guerrilla in Colombia have forgotten there founding principles and there exists many rural people that are persecuted and killed.

What happens is that it is a field of war, a civilian has to pay the armed groups without reason in many cases, if the armed groups see a frightened farmer, one that was forced to give water to the paramilitaries or the military, they are branded as an informant o vice versa.

Chekhov: what is the level of refugees under the former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe in comparison with the current President Juan Manuel Santos?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: Ive already mentioned that the majority of Colombian refugees were granted asylum between 2009-2010, during the government of Uribe after the bombing of Angostura, where the Colombian military bombed Ecuador.

But in reality there is not a big difference in the amount of people that are request asylum in Ecuador between the government of Uribe or Santos. The violence still continues to be common, armed groups of the state or non-state continue to displace people in Colombia, the number of displaced Colombians is the biggest in the world with almost 2.4 million people and the numbers have not fallen.

Luis Solis del ACNUR en Ecuador sobre los refugiados Colombianos buscando asilo en Ecuador

in Entrevistas by

colombia_armyHoy en Chekhov’s Kalashnikov vamos a hablar con Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca cuyo trabajo es proteger y defender a algunas de personas más vulnerables y olvidadas del mundo – refugiados que han huido de la guerra civil Colombiana en busca de asilo en la Amazonía Ecuatoriana.

Chekhov: Puedes explicarnos tu trabajo, el organizacion en donde trabajas, y en que especializas?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: Trabajo en dos áreas a través del proyecto un proyecto con ACNUR (Alto Comisionado de NN.UU para refugiados) 1.- Asesoría y defensa de persona con necesidad de protección internacional, en este caso especialmente para refugiados Colombianos que son la mayoría de personas que necesitan protección internacional por el conflicto interno Colombiano y 2.- En asesoría y defensa de casos donde se hayan violado los derechos humanos, los últimos casos que hemos tenido ha sido contra violaciones de derechos humanos por parte de la policía.

[pullquote align=”right”]PARA LOS REFUGIADOS:
si vienen a Ecuador lo primero que deben hacer es acercarse a alguna organización de Derechos Humanos o ACNUR en Ecuador,

informarse sobre el refugio y luego solicitarlo antes de que se cumplan los 15 días de llegado al país, caso contrario el gobierno Ecuatoriano no considerará su solicitud.

En la frontera norte de Ecuador pueden contactar:
– Servivio Jesuita para refugiados
– Fundación Tarabita
– Asylum Access Ecuador
– Federación de mujeres de Sucumbios
– Oxfam
– Comité de Derechos Humanos de Orellana,
– Defensoría del Pueblo de Sucumbios y Orellana
– Cualquier otra sede, estas organizaciones trabajamos en refugio y podemos brindar asesoría.
[/pullquote] Chekhov: Que son los estadísticos, pues el número de Colombianos refugiados que está viviendo en Ecuador y especialmente en las provincias de Sucumbíos y Orellana?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: bueno en Ecuador hay alrededor de 56.000 refugiados de los cuales el 90% son de nacionalidad Colombiana! Los otros nacionalidades son de diferentes nacionalidades! existen palestinos, haitianos, españoles, cubanos etc

Chekhov: y como el gobierno Ecuatoriano se trata los refugiados colombianos en comparison de refugiados de otras naciones

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: bueno hay que recordar que la mayor parte de los refugiados colombianos fue reconocida en Ecuador con el registro ampliado en 2009-2010, luego del bombardeo a Angostura. Hasta el 2012 la legislación ecuatoriana era menos rigurosa como la es desde la expedición del decreto 1182 de 30 de mayo de 2012 donde restringue mucho el acceso al refugio.

Ha escuchado en diferentes espacios la posición del gobierno de que los refugiados son un gasto para el país principalmente los Colombianos que son mayoría sin embargo no se ha tenido en cuenta el aporte que han realizado a la economía ecuatoriana con su fuerza de trabajo y microempresas en general el gobierno con la expedición de este decreto restringio mucho el acceso al derecho al refugio, tanto que del 100% de solicitudes de refugio apenas el 4% son aceptadas cuando antes del decreto se aceptaban cerca del 60%

Chekhov: y son refugiados legítimos que están rechazando ahora?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: en su mayoría si, las personas tienen elementos de refugio además con tan bajos porcentajes casi todos quedan fuera.

Chekhov: y que pasa si rechazan el asilo de uno, tienen que volver a Colombia o siguen en ecuador?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: ese es el problema, en muchos casos cuando hay elementos de refugio, necesidad de protección internacional, no pueden volver.

[quote style=”1″]Se supone que una persona refugiada es aquella a quien su país de origen no la protege o no quiere que la proteja, por lo tanto si se acerca a solicitar refugio en otro país es por la necesidad de protección, ya sea que un grupo armado regular o irregular, la persigue, la amenaza, teme por su vida por sus expresiones políticas, sociales, raciales etc.

En muchos casos hemos visto que la gente permanece en Ecuador de manera indocumentada lo que le coloca en una situación de vulneración, puede ser explotada laboralmente, sexualmente.[/quote]Esto debido a que el actual decreto del gobierno (1182) dejo fuera de sus numerales el derecho de poder reconocer a personas víctimas de violencia generalizada que lo tenía la ley anterior y fue una declaración que Ecuador la incorporó, esta se dió en Cartagena, se le conoce como la declaración de Cartagena, pero ya no esta contemplad en la legislación Ecuatoriana. Que era parte de la ley y por tanto se debía aplicar

La vida para refugiados menos famosa que Julian Assange

assange asilo
Julian Assange in Ecuador´s London Embassy
Chekhov: todo el mundo ha escuchado del refugiado más conocido de Ecuador, el Australiano Julian Assange, puedes contarnos de unos refugiados que han huido de violencia en Colombia pero son olvidados del estado Ecuatoriano y el resto del mundo?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: …lo que dices es justamente una contradicción en la que cae el estado ecuatoriano, ya que a nivel mundial y de forma fundamentada dió asilo a Assange y un pase para Snowden, sin embargo la vida de los refugiados colombianos no esta tan fácil.

El hecho de salir huyendo de un conflicto de más de 50 años es muy complicado, llegar a un país distinto aunque cercano, tener que buscar donde vivir, en que trabajar, donde educar a los hijos…Son cuestiones que realmente dan que pensar…

[pullquote align=”right”] “Hasta junio de 2013, el Estado ecuatoriano ha reconocido a 55.141 personas refugiadas en el país. Desde el año 2000, en que había 390 refugiados, 168.525 personas han solicitado la condición de refugiado en el Ecuador. Cerca del 23% de ellos son niños, niñas y adolescentes.” El ACNUR en Ecuador

Testimonios de Refugiados Colombianos en Ecuador

Mucha gente que es refugiada en Ecuador y que han huido del conflicto colombiano tan solo han podido traer sus documentos de identidad y su acceso a derechos aún es muy precario, generalmente son las mismas autoridades que crean sistemas donde no se registra por ejemplo el número de visa de refugio, eso sucede mucho en la seguridad social, o en la educación.

Luego también vienen a ser vulnerables ya que empiezan a realizar trabajos donde son mal remunerados, siendo caracterizados como mano de obra barata, en otras ocasiones no les cancelan sus derechos laborales..

Esto en el caso de quienes pueden trabajar, el resto tendrá que ver como se gana la vida en algún trabajo informal, más bien explotados por su situación de movilidad humana que es decir las soluciones no han podido ser integrales, existe mucho aún por hacer en materia de refugio, si bien estamos de acuerdo que no es solo un problema de Ecuador sino internacional, pero creo que el gobierno debe tratar con más atención a este sector.

Ejercito Ecuatoriano
Ejercito Ecuatoriano
[quote style=”1″]Los problemas más fuertes que se dan son en las zonas de frontera donde la población tanto Ecuatoriana como Colombiana vive aún situación de incertidumbre

Ya que hay vulneración de derechos por parte del ejército Ecuatoriano, ejército Colombiano, grupos armados, es decir una población en una línea de fuego.[/quote]

Mujeres y Niños Refugiados Colombianos

refugiadas colombianas
La Federación de Mujeres de Sucumbíos tiene programa de atención integral a mujeres refugiadas de Colombia, donde se promovemos el fin de la impunidad para los casos de violencia de género contra las mujeres.
Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: Además hay que recordar que casi el 70% de refugiados son mujeres y niños

Chekhov: y que paso con los padres y los maridos?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: han muchos motivos, fueron asesinados, están desaparecidos, o son mujeres solas, o vendrán después…

Por parte de ACNUR y otras organizaciones socias como nosotros el Comité de Derechos Humanos de Orellana, hemos tratado de ayudar, brindar asesoría para que los derechos no sean vulnerados, sin embargo el número que atendemos sigue siendo poco en comparación con la población refugiada.

La Crisis Mundial de Refugio

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: El tema de la crisis mundial de Refugio como bien sabes no es un fenómeno que ve acabarse en poco tiempo, más bien la situación a empeorado, principalmente en Medio Oriente, Siria, Norte de África y como van las cosas incluso habrá más refugiados climáticos por las condiciones adversas en las que se desarrolla el mundo….

Por eso creo que la solución no es tan solo jurídica, social, sino en el fondo es POLITICA.

Chekhov: En Australia ahora hay una campaña electoral en donde los dos partidos políticos están tratando de demostrar a un electorado xenófobo y a veces racista, “quien puede crear medidas políticas más duras contra los refugiados para mandar un mensaje?” que dices a estes politicos?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: …lo que pasa que a nivel mundial se trata de hacer creer que las crisis económicas, la falta de empleo se debe a que refugiados, migrantes económicos son los que quitan empleo, sin embargo esto es solo una apariencia para ocultar la verdad, que es que las crisis, falta de empleo es por la acumulación del capital en pocas manos, en la minoría, menos del 1% de la población…estos discurso tiene pegue en épocas de crisis mundiales, económicas, y la población común algunas veces suele creerles..

Por ello es importante hacer una crítica más profunda sobre de donde realmente viene estos discursos. Discursos apoyados por grandes medios que lo repiten hasta que calan en la mente de la población.

[quote style=”1″]Hay que ponerse en el lugar de los migrantes, refugiados y entender su realidad, no se puede restringir el derecho al refugio, ya que es un derecho humano, y los gobiernos en cualquier parte del mundo deben respetarlo…[/quote]

Los Refugiados de Santos y Uribe

santos y uribe Chekhov: quiero preguntarte de los grupos armados: paracos, militares, FARC, cuáles están causando más violaciones contra los derechos humanos?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: generalmente creo que el ejército y los paramilitares. Pero la guerrilla en Colombia parece que ya olvido sus orígenes, y existen muchos campesinos perseguidos, otros muertos.

Lo que sucede es que es un campo de guerra, una pagan por control donde los grupos armados no ven razones en muchos casos, si ven a un campesino atemorizado, amenazado dando agua a los paramilitares o ejército son tildados por la guerrilla de informantes o viceversa.

Chekhov: y el nivel de refugiados abajo del ex-presidente Alvaro Uribe en comparison con el nivel abajo de Juan Manuel Santos?

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca: te mencioné que la mayoría de refugiados colombianos en Ecuador se dieron en 2009-2010, gobierno de Uribe luego del bombardeo de Agostura, donde el ejército colombiano bombardeo en Ecuador.

En realidad no hay mayor diferencia entre el número de personas que solicita refugio en Ecuador en comparación de la época del gobierno de Uribe o Santos. La violencia sigue siendo común, los grupos armados estatales o no estatales siguen desplazando gente en Colombia, el número de desplazados Colombianos es el mayor del mundo con cerca de 2,4 millones de personas y las cifras no han descendido

Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca del ACNUR (Alto Comisionado de NN.UU para refugiados) en Ecuador
está a cargo de la “defensa de personas con necesidad de protección internacional, en este caso especialmente para refugiados Colombianos que son la mayoría de personas que necesitan protección internacional por el conflicto interno Colombiano”

Consejos para refugiados Colombianos buscando asilo en Ecuador:

“Para los refugiados principalmente les podría decir que: si vienen a Ecuador lo primero que deben hacer es acercarse a alguna organización de Derechos Humanos o ACNUR en Ecuador, informarse sobre el refugio y luego solicitarlo antes de que se cumplan los 15 días de llegado al país, caso contrario el gobierno ecuatoriano no considerará su solicitud.

En la frontera norte de Ecuador pueden contactar con: El servivio Jesuita para refugiados, ACNUR, Fundación Tarabita, Asylum Access Ecuador, Federación de mujeres de Sucumbios, Oxfam, Comité de Derechos Humanos de Orellana, Defensoría del Pueblo de Sucumbios y Orellana o cualquier otra sede, estas organizaciones trabajamos en refugio y podemos brindar asesoría.

Si vienen a Ecuador lo primero que deben hacer es acercarse a alguna organización de Derechos Humanos o ACNUR en Ecuador, informarse sobre el refugio y luego solicitarlo antes de que se cumplan los 15 días de llegado al país, caso contrario el gobierno Ecuatoriano no considerará su solicitud.”

En la frontera norte de Ecuador pueden contactar:

Servicio Jesuita en Ecuador:
Contacta el Servicio Jesuita en Ecuador

Dirección de Asylum Acces Ecuador en Sucumbios:
TELEFONO: 06-283-1353/0959983211

ACNUR Sucumbios:
calles guayaquil y loja
Federación de Mujeres de Sucumbíos.
Vía al Aguarico (diagonal al Colegio Pacífico Cembranos).
Nueva Loja. Sucumbíos. Ecuador.
Telefono: 06- 2366343

Federación de Mujeres de Sucumbios
Contact Federacion de Mujeres

“Nuestro trabajo es confidencial según el Código de Nairobi que es un documento internacional para asesores legales ne refugio y personas que trabajan la proteccion internacional.” Luis Xavier Solis Tenesaca

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