Attorney General John Ashcroft on Tuesday announced indictments against Colombia’s leading leftist guerrilla group and six of its members in the “terrorist murders” of three Americans in 1999. The three murdered US activists were Lahe’ena’e Gay of Hawaii, and Terence Freitas and Ingrid Washinawatok of Brooklyn.
Ashcroft says the indictments against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, demonstrates the Bush administration’s determination to prosecute terrorists outside the Muslim world.
People close to those who were killed are outraged. They say the Bush administration is using the 3-year-old murders as a PR effort in the so-called war on terror, and to drum up support for increased US military aid to Colombia. Terence Freitas is one of those who was murdered. He worked with the indigenous U’wa people against the U.S.-based oil company Occidental Petroleum, which the U’wa have long alleged works hand-in-hand with the human rights-abusing Colombian military and paramilitaries. But US military aid is destined in part to help guard Occidental Petroleum’s pipeline in the area.
The same day that Ashcroft announced the indictments, Secretary of State General Colin Powell certified the Colombian military is complying with human rights requirements. That allowed the State Department to release more than 60 million dollars in military aid.
Meanwhile, the White House is currently seeking congressional support to allow U.S. military aid to Colombia to be used directly against leftwing rebels. Military aid is currently restricted to counter-narcotics operations.
- Abby Reyes, girlfriend of Terence Freitas, former co-director of the U’wa Defense Project and currently a law student at UC Berkeley.
- Julie Freitas, mother of Terence Freitas.
- Terence Freitas, US activist subsequently murdered in Colombia, and Steve Kretzman, activist with Project Underground, speaking on Democracy Now! October 6, 1997.
- Wasteland Of The Free–Iris DeMent, The Way I Should (Warner Bros. CD).