Colombia: inspector general removes Senator Córdoba
On Sept. 27 Colombian inspector general Alejandro Ordóñez Maldonado announced that he was removing Senator Piedad Córdoba from her position and barring her from public office for 18 years because of what he said were her links to the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Córdoba, a member of the centrist Liberal Party, has mediated in negotiations which led to the release of 14 prisoners held by the FARC. She is also a member of Colombians for Peace, formed in 2008 by politicians, intellectuals, artists, journalists and former FARC prisoners to seek solutions to the armed conflicts in the country.
The move against Córdoba came four days after a leading FARC commander, Jorge Briceño Suárez ("Mono Jojoy"), was killed along with 20 other rebels in a bombing operation by the Colombian military.
Inspector General Ordóñez, who has the authority to remove elected officials, claimed that Córdoba had gone beyond her role as a negotiator by advising FARC commanders on how to handle hostage releases. The Colombian authorities said the charges against Córdoba are based on information found in computers used by FARC spokesperson and negotiator Raúl Reyes. The computers were seized in March 2008, when the Colombian military bombed and raided a FARC camp in Ecuador, killing Reyes and about 20 other people, and the Colombian government has been using information allegedly from the computers to attack its opponents on the left.
In response to her dismissal, Córdoba wrote that Ordóñez has been "seriously questioned for his activities against the rights of women and the LGBT population [and for] the illegal operations of the DAS"—the Administrative Department of Security, the political police—and is being "investigated by the Supreme Court of Justice." She called her removal "one more instance of the political persecution that has been carried out against me in the last 12 years," including a kidnapping by rightwing paramilitaries. For a time she and her family had to live in exile to assure their safety. She said she was filing an appeal, but it has to be with the same office that removed her; there is no higher authority in these cases. (La Jornada, Mexico, Sept. 28, from Reuters, DPA, AFP; Caracol Radio, Colombia, Sept. 28)
In an opinion piece published on Oct. 1, former Cuba president Fidel Castro Ruz praised Córdoba, mentioning that she and several others had met with him in Cuba a few weeks earlier. He noted their "profound desire to seek peace for their country." "However, I'm not surprised by the decision taken by the inspector general, which follows the official policy of a country virtually occupied by Yankee troops." (LJ, Oct. 1)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct. 3.