Colombia: 'Narco state' illegally uses Red Cross, Telesur logos

Issue 

Colombia is a "narco-state that applies and puts into practice state terrorism that affects the region", insisted Nicaragua's ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Denis Moncada, on July 24.

The statement comes as criticism grows over Colombia's illegal use of Red Cross insignias and logo of Latin-America-wide TV broadcaster Telesur during its operation to free 15 prisoners held by the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

According to the July 25 AFP dispatch, Camilo Ospina, the Colombian ambassador to the OAS, had accused Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega of "protecting terrorists" by providing "direct support" to the FARC. Moncada's comments were in response during a heated debate at the OAS meeting in Washington.

At the centre of the dispute were recent statements by Ortega, who declared his "brothers" in FARC to be "a movement of national liberation", adding that he did "not need to ask anyone for permission" to establish contact with the FARC because Colombia's internal conflict "put at risk the security of the region", AFP reported.

In a June 26 public letter, the FARC congratulated Ortega's position in the face of Colombia's warmongering in the region, asking him to act as facilitator in the search for peace. Ortega announced that he was willing to meet with the FARC.

In response to claims that he had met with FARC leaders on July 19, Ortega denied any such encounter stating that "the day that the meeting occurs, it will not be clandestine, it will be a public meeting".

According to a July 26 BBC report, Nicaraguan foreign minister Samuel Santos stated, "we do not need to ask permission of anyone to struggle for peace", in reference to Colombian president Alvaro Uribe's statement that he would not authorise any meeting between Ortega and the FARC.

The dispute is a continuation of the rift created by Colombia's illegal March 1 massacre on Ecuadorian soil of more than 20 FARC soldiers and civilians. In response Ecuador, Venezuela and Nicaragua broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia. While the latter two have re-established relations, tensions continue to exist.

Colombia has also raised concerns about the fact that Nicaragua has provided asylum to two Colombian women and a Mexican woman who survived the Colombian military attack in Ecuadorian territory.

On July 31, EFE reported that Ortega would not attend an anti-drug summit inside Colombia because he did not believe that conditions existed for him to travel there.

The Colombian government is also in hot water over its illegal use of Red Cross symbols and Telesur symbols during its freeing of FARC-held prisoners.

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) issued a public letter to Uribe on July 29 attacking the use of Telesur's logo and expressing their "fear that such impersonations could endanger the work of the already beleaguered Colombian media".

They explained that "the impersonation of journalists increases the risks for all journalists … It affects the media's position as an independent body, especially those journalists working in conflict zones who rely on their civilian status, as established by the Geneva Conventions."

CPJ also pointed out that Colombia remains one of the most murderous countries for the press worldwide.

The International Committee of the Red Cross also condemned as "abusive" the use of its symbol, according to a July 16 AFP report. "The emblem of the Red Cross needs to be respected in all circumstances … so the ICRC can bring help to people affected by the conflicts in Colombia or elsewhere", an ICRC representative stated.

On July 24, the FARC released eight prisoners to the Red Cross, in a further step towards finding a humanitarian solution to Colombia's decades-long civil war.