Communist editor in danger after speaking out

Carlos Lozano’s life is in danger, thanks to the repressive government of Colombian president Alvaro Uribe. Last month Uribe designated Lozano, director of the Colombian Communist Party’s weekly newspaper, Voz, as a “military objective,” identifying him as “an accomplice of the FARC” and a “guerilla spokesperson.”

Uribe acted after Lozano denounced the president’s Feb. 23 claim that the FARC, Colombia’s largest leftist guerilla group, had rejected the government’s peaceful overtures for the bilateral release of hostages.

In response, Lozano obtained documentation from the FARC that the insurgents have been open to humanitarian accords all along. Lozano, a prominent advocate for peaceful resolution of the hostage impasse, renewed previous calls for peace.

Feb. 23 marked the fifth anniversary of the FARC’s kidnapping of former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt. Lozano’s actions fueled criticism of Uribe from Colombia’s elite, displeased because some of their family members remain sequestered along with Betancourt. Uribe is also mired in a scandal tying him to paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers.

In Colombian politics, condemnation similar to that handed Lozano often lands victims on a hit list. Manuel Cepeda, an earlier editor of Voz, was murdered Aug. 9, 1994. Other journalists writing for the 50-year old newspaper have been killed. Colombia ranks in the top three for the highest number of journalists killed in the world.

The Swedish writer Dick Emanuelsson claims that 150 Communists have been murdered since Uribe’s presidency began in 2002.

Hundreds of Communist members of the Patriotic Union were killed after 1985 during a rightwing onslaught against insurgents who laid down arms to participate in electoral politics. That alliance of left parties has parallels to the Alternative Democratic Pole (PDA), another coalition of left parties and unions that today forms the main electoral opposition to the Uribe government.

Wilson Borja, a Communist and a PDA member of Congress, was included in President Uribe’s outburst against Carlos Lozano. In December 2000, assassins trying to kill Borja ended up wounding him severely. He continues to receive death threats.

On Feb. 28, the Uribe government jailed Horacio Duque, who writes for both Voz and Telesur about Venezuela and about President Uribe’s ties with paramilitaries. Government security services recently incarcerated another Telesur correspondent, Freddy Munoz, for 50 days.

The heavyweight Bogota newspaper El Tiempo reported on Duque’s “presumed ties with drug traders and the FARC.” The Santos family, which includes Uribe’s defense minister and vice president, owns the newspaper.

Dick Emanuelsson has placed a letter of solidarity on behalf of Carlos Lozano on the Internet. “Ominous designs upon the most consequential periodical in the political struggle for a new Colombia demand a response,” he writes, adding that, “You and the staff of Voz, this legendary and heroic newspaper of the Communists and all progressive Colombians, have fallen under the purview of perpetrators of state terrorism.”

Emanuelsson suggests the accusations against Lozano come from desperation, observing that Uribe is “up to his neck in scandals relating to paramilitary and drug ties.” The web site invites Lozano supporters to sign Emanuelsson’s letter.

Symbolic of Carlos Lozano’s plight, and that of others fingered by Uribe, is the murders in February of two PDA members, Katherine Gonzalez, sister of a leader of an Afro-Colombian women’s group, and Carmen Cecelia Romana, a 28-year-old union leader. Their murders followed a speech by Uribe stigmatizing PDA leaders as “civil terrorists.”

The Bush administration’s financial and military support for the regime in Colombia lends special meaning to requests for U.S. solidarity. Last year 591 U.S. troops served in Colombia along with 400 civilian mercenaries. Washington has trained 28,200 Colombian soldiers since 1999.