Mar. 20, 2003 – Vol. 22 No. 12

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    Conference to address Colombian crisis

    By Josh Schonwald
    News Office

    Since 9/11, the U.S. government has focused on the war on terrorism, the conflict in the Middle East and the prospect of war in Iraq: the American media have equally given these stories much attention–so much attention that many of the world’s other trouble spots may be going unnoticed.

    One such place is the South American country of Colombia, which during the past several years has had an average of 3,500 people die annually in its bloody civil war. And Colombia’s economy, long controlled by warring drug cartels, is in free-fall.

    To address some of the issues of the conflict in Colombia, members of the student organization the Chicago Society, the University’s Human Rights Program and the Center for Latin American Studies will sponsor a one-day conference Saturday, April 5, titled “Colombia: Confronting Conflict, Striving Toward Peace.” Some of the world’s leading voices on this conflict, including Anne Patterson, the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, and Rafael Pardo-Rueda, a Senator of Colombia and one of the country’s most influential politicians, will gather at International House, 1414 E. 59th St.

    “There have been many conferences on the Colombian conflict,” said Diana Lucas, a third-year in the College and a conference organizer, “but this conference will provide a unique opportunity for leading policy-makers and academic researchers to engage peace activists, civil society practitioners and students on this pressing issue.”

    Ray Suarez, senior correspondent for the NewsHour and former host of Talk of the Nation, will introduce the conference with a talk on the topic “Is the United States Media Paying Enough Attention to Latin America Post-9/11?”

    Three panels, featuring policy-makers, civil society practitioners, academic researchers and students, will follow Suarez’s talk and will offer a variety of perspectives on the Colombian crisis.

    The first panel, titled “Colombian Perspectives,” will begin at 10:30 a.m. and will feature Sen. Pardo Rueda; Daniel Garcia-Pena Jaramillo, the former High Commissioner for Peace in Colombia and director of Planeta Paz; the University’s Luis Fernando Medina, Assistant Professor in Political Science; Herbert Tico Braun, the University of Virginia; and Alfredo Molano, a sociologist and weekly columnist for the newspaper La Expectador.

    The second panel will begin at 1:45 p.m., and panelists will discuss U.S. perspectives on Colombia. Alfredo Lanier of the Chicago Tribune will moderate a conversation with Patterson, the U.S. Ambassador to Colombia; Horacio Serpa, a former Colombian presidential candidate and the current Colombian Ambassador to the Organization of American States; Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue, a policy analysis center in Washington, D.C.; and Robin Kirk, a senior researcher for the Human Rights Watch.

    The third panel, titled “International Perspectives,” will begin at 4:15 p.m. As moderator, Friedrich Katz, the Morton D. Hull Distinguished Service Professor in History, will solicit the views of former Mexico City Mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, who will be a Visiting Professor at Chicago during the Spring Quarter, and Robert Goldman, a professor at the American University law school and a member of the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights.

    The conference will conclude with a closing address by Alma Clara Garcia, a Colombian activist, at 5:45 p.m. More information may be obtained from Lucas at diana@uchicago.edu.