Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

David Ravelo’s Fight for Justice

by TOM WHITNEY

Colombian political prisoner David Ravelo, jailed since September 14, 2010, learned late in November, 2012, that he had been convicted and sentenced to 18 years in jail. His case, based on spurious evidence, reflects epic military, police, and judicial repression carried out under a regime of big landowners and the urban elite. After 50 years they are still intent upon military victory over insurgents defending agrarian rights. Ravelo’s case deserves attention: Colombia’s prison population has increased 30 percent during the tenure of President Juan Manuel Santos, Colombian jails now house 10,000 political prisoners, Ravelo’s human rights record is exemplary, and his case has taken on every sign of a judicial frame-up.

A delegation of mostly North American activists traveled to Bogota and Barrancabermeja, Ravelo’s home city, in late November. They were offering international solidarity with Ravelo and hoping to add to a worldwide campaign leading to his liberation. Conscious of U.S. support for Colombian militarization and police excesses, their bias was toward peace in Colombia achieved through negotiated settlement of those issues fueling internal war, social justice and land reform. That such a process was already underway in Cuba, they saw as a somehow meaningful coincidence.

Lawyer Diego Martinez of the Permanent Committee for Human Rights that hosted the delegation accompanied two of its members to Bogota’s La Picota prison for a meeting November 29 with David Ravelo. They soon were on the receiving end of a comprehensive case review.

According to the prisoner, two jailed paramilitaries testified that he helped murder Barrancabermeja mayoral candidate David Nuñez Cala in 1991. For that favor they gained reduced sentences as per Colombia’s 2005 Law of Justice and Peace. One of their sentences dropped from 40 to eight years. Ravelo told how, in judicial proceedings ending in May, 2012, his judge refused to hear the testimony of 30 defense witnesses. She lacks tenure, he said, and is thinking of ways to facilitate her contract being renewed.

David Ravelo takes new hope from information surfacing the week before. In 1991 prosecutor William Pacheco Granados arranged for the forced disappearance of a youth named Guillermo Hurtado Parra. As a result, Pacheco lost his police lieutenant’s post in Armenia,Quindío. This history of an offense disqualifying him under the law from serving as prosecutor will surely enter into Ravelo’s upcoming judicial appeal.

Ravelo talked about a previous frame-up in 1993 that led to two years in jail. Persecution unfolded then just as murderous repression of the leftist Patriotic Union (UP) electoral coalition was going on. Ravelo served in governmental positions under UP auspices. He went free after authorities were forced to acknowledge that evidence they used, a FARC group photo showing Ravelo together with the guerillas, was a fake.

Barrancabermeja’s Catholic Diocese in 2008 honored David Ravelo for his fight over many years on behalf of human rights.  Beginning as a student and labor union activist, Ravelo was a library aide at the local “Cooperative University” and later on, an economics professor there. Journalist Ravelo fought privatization of a state-owned distillery and fertilizer company. He was filling a municipal government post when he was arrested in 2010.

Over two decades Ravelo was a leader in organizations like the Municipal Peace Council of Barrancabermeja, the CREDHOES human rights organization, the Social Forum of Barrancabermeja, the Workers’ Space for Human Rights, and the regional section of MOVICE, the National Movement for Victims of State Crimes.  Ravelo provoked high-level animosity in 2007 by disseminating a video showing ex – President Uribe socializing with Barrancabermeja paramilitaries.

For 38 years, 56 – year old Ravelo has been a member of the Colombian Communist Party (PCC) and since 1991, a member of its Central Committee.

In Barrancabermeja, Ravelo’s wife Francia Elena Durán Ortega told delegation members, “He was dedicated to life, was there for everybody.” In tears, daughter Leydi Tatiana Rabelo Gutíerrez described him as “a model father… loyal and dedicated to the struggle for human rights. I have never seen him sad.”  David Ravelo Gutiérrez, who accompanied the delegation, described his father as “a political leader who defended poor people… In 1998-1999 paramilitaries wanted to take over the place. Everyone else was afraid [to show the video] but his father showed it.”

David Ravelo struggled for the right of his people to be free of criminal violence, and to survive. He took on the paramilitaries, also army and police forces backing them.  He began in the era of UP atrocities and continued during the late 1990’s when, by many reports, paramilitaries had free rein in Barrancabermeja and the surrounding countryside. Now, state frame – up of David Ravelo plays out amidst violent repression and arbitrary detentions of activists associated with the new Patriotic March resistance movement, a coalition of 2000 political and social groups launched in April 2012 with PCC help.

Ravelo is optimistic. Speaking to Bucaramanga’s Liberal Vanguard newspaper soon after learning of his conviction, he pointed out that, “[T]here are costs a defender of human rights must pay. I’m not going to be discouraged now…I am going to summon up energy to demonstrate my innocence and show this is all a montage.”

Juan Camilo Acevedo of the PCC National Commission on Political Prisoners, speaking to the delegation, underscored the role of prisons as tools for criminalizing peaceful protest. They are centers of torture, he stated, and are overcrowded and filthy. Drinkable water and live-saving medical care are often lacking. Many prisons are U. S. funded and designed.

And U.S. taxpayers’ money channeled to the Colombian army and police through U. S. Plan Colombia ends up, some of it, in the hands of paramilitaries, Ravelo’s nemesis. The effect, as explained by MOVICE lawyer Franklin Castañeda, was that Plan Colombia “changed the logic of the situation,” making it “more barbaric.”

David Ravelo’s fight for justice, therefore, extends far beyond local confines.  Communist Party Secretary General Jaime Caycedo Turriago implied that because the US Southern Command directs the war on the insurgency and Colombia’s upper classes are allied to the United States, Ravelo’s main adversaries sit in offices in the two national capitals.   Beyond that, said Caycedo, “We recognize deepening social clashes everywhere… [T]he world capitalist crisis has bred widespread discontent and will be worsening. Democratic forces must stand up against interventionists.”

To join the campaign to free David Ravelo contact organizers of the delegation at freedavidravelo@gmail.com or go towww.justiceforcolombia.org. For more information about Ravelo’s case, go to www.pacocol.org and/or www.davidravelolibre.org. For information on Colombian political prisoners, see www.afgj.orgwww.traspasolosmuro.net, and/or www.inspp.org.

Tom Whitney is a retired pediatrician living in Maine.   He just returned from a trip to Colombia where he met with David Ravelo in prison.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
Uri Avnery
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]