Professor in Colombia victim of repression

Miguel Ángel Beltrán, formerly a sociology professor at the National University and University of Antioquia, was extradited last May from Mexico City to Colombia. He’s been in jail since. Judicial proceedings began late last month on charges he recruited students for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Beltrán had been carrying out post-doctoral studies at the Autonomous University of Mexico, where he obtained his Ph.D.

In a widely-circulated open letter released Aug. 10, Beltrán accuses the government of Álvaro Uribe of persecuting him to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, useful as an adjunct to its U.S.-supported militarization program known as “Democratic Security.”

Beltrán’s jailing occurs in the midst of the regime’s campaign of tying leftist politicians, human rights activists, journalists and peace advocates to the FARC. Revelations that Colombia’s secret police, DAS by its Spanish initials, had launched widespread illegal monitoring of government opponents prompted the Attorney General last month to order the detention of 10 DAS officials.

Beltrán’s defenders pointed out that for almost two years security services have monitored lists of teachers and students at public universities. A review of Beltrán’s case appearing May 27 on rebelion.org cited university professors and students in jail now because of working for peace. Beltrán cites the cautionary tale of sociology Professor Alfredo Correa who was assassinated in the streets of Barranquilla in 2004 following acquittal on charges of being an “ideologue of the FARC.”

Union leader and sociology graduate student Liliany Obando goes to trial in August, a year after her incarceration.

As with similar accusations against dozens of other Colombians, state authorities base allegation of Beltrán’s ties with the FARC on e-mails supposedly found in the computers of Raul Reyes, killed in the Colombian military attack on a FARC encampment in Ecuador last year. The government persists in holding up the specter of computer files despite police testimony that no e-mails were actually found in the computers and despite refusal by the International Police Agency Interpol to authenticate the seized material.

Beltrán is accused of communicating with the FARC under the name “Jaime Cienfuegos.” His lawyer, Gustavo Gallardo, told judges that the prosecution has offered no information as to time, place and circumstances relating to contacts with the FARC.

In his letter, Beltrán writes, “I am accused of being a terrorist by defending in my writings and public appearances that the FARC is an historical response to multiple instances of state violence.” At issue is “the clear intention to criminalize teaching and investigative work uncomfortable for the establishment.”

He urges “universities, centers par excellence for the development and dissemination of critical thought, not to give in to this intimidation.” University colleagues have circulated a letter accusing the government of political persecution.

Juan Carlos Celis, professor at Antioquia University, told El Tiempo newspaper that the “government does not want divergent opinions” and that deportation, jailing and a trial are a way “to frighten teachers and students at the universities.”