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:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

January 23, 2017
John Wight
Trump’s Inauguration: Hail Caesar!
Mark Schuller
So What am I Doing Here? Reflections on the Inauguration Day Protests
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Trump and Isis Have More in Common Than You Might Think
Binoy Kampmark
Ignored Ironies: Women, Protest and Donald Trump
Gregory Barrett
Flag, Cap and Screen: Hollywood’s Propaganda Machine
Gareth Porter
US Intervention in Syria? Not Under Trump
L. Ali Khan
Trump’s Holy War against Islam
Gary Leupp
An Al-Qaeda Attack in Mali:  Just Another Ripple of the Endless, Bogus “War on Terror”
Norman Pollack
America: Banana Republic? Far Worse
Bob Fitrakis - Harvey Wasserman
We Mourn, But We March!
Kim Nicolini
Trump Dump: One Woman March and Personal Shit as Political
William Hawes
We Are on Our Own Now
Martin Billheimer
Last Tango in Moscow
Colin Todhunter
Development and India: Why GM Mustard Really Matters
Mel Gurtov
Trump’s America—and Ours
David Mattson
Fog of Science II: Apples, Oranges and Grizzly Bear Numbers
Clancy Sigal
Who’s Up for This Long War?
Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail