Thursday, December 26, 2013

tips for breaking in to interpreting

congrats to cross-cultural communications on their fabulous new community interpreter site!

I am particularly impressed by the fabulous weekly interpreTIPS videos - if you are new to or looking to break in to interpreting check out the one below

Thursday, December 19, 2013

guapa: strong woman (Colombia, colloquial)

I got alot of "que guapa"s recently for carrying around a heavy backpack in Cali.   Just goes to show words don't always mean what you think they mean!

Hoping to be guapa with my suitcases again tomorrow. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

tocaya: name sister

tocayo: name brother

Rather than call another Sara by her name, in Spanish I would often call her tocaya.

Since this concept doesn't exist in the Anglophone world, these terms don't really exist in English -  I made them up! But I've been using these terms for years and people seem to understand them.

I'm grateful to have so many fabulous tocaya compas.  Las quiero mujeres! Thanks for all your sistership.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

global care chains: cadenas globales de cuidados

Sometimes this is rendered as cuidado, but I like the plural version, since these chains involve so many forms of caring.  The s could also refer to how the caring happens daily. 

To quote the gender wiki:

"The term ‘global care chain’ was first used by Arlie Hochschild to refer to “a series of personal links between people across the globe based on the paid or unpaid work of caring”.[1]  This concept rephrases an earlier idea introduced by Rhacel Salazar Parrenas, which she called the international division of reproductive labor or the international transfer of caretaking.[2] [3] Hochschild first came across this idea when she read the dissertation of Parrenas, as she had been a member of her dissertation committee at UC Berkeley. [3]
In this pioneering work, a global care chain was seen to typically involve: “An older daughter from a poor family who cares for her siblings while her mother works as a nanny caring for the children of a migrating nanny who, in turn, cares for the child of a family in a rich country.” [1]

Monday, November 25, 2013

botín de guerra: war trophy

this is a repeat post, because I saw this term mistranslated several different ways today (including war bounty!) in tweets honoring today as international day against violence against women.  (by the way, I also learned today that the reason we focus on this on Nov. 25th of all days is because it was the day that the Mirabel sisters were killed in the DR in 1960.  It was proclaimed as a day of action by activists in '81 and recognized by the UN in '99).

botín de guerra: war trophy

"El cuerpo de la mujer no es botín de guerra" is a slogan of the Ruta Pacifica de Mujeres in Colombia. This photo is from their mobilization in Nov. 07 where they shut down the border between Colombia and Ecuador to highlight how many women are being forced to flee their homes and cross that border, and how war particularly affects women.

When I first heard this slogan the term that came to me in the moment was war booty, which not only sounds like pirates, but makes you think of women's butts! Clearly one to avoid. So my next thought was spoils of war, but that is a much higher register in English and sounds ridiculous in a chant. Women's bodies are not war trophies, now that seems to do it.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

plantón: protest camp (Mex), demonstration (Col)

In Mexico a plantón is a somewhat long term encampment, a protest camp occupy style. The Mexican teachers union (the largest union in the Americas) annually during contract negotiations does a plantón in the main plaza in Mexico city, and this year they were violently ousted by riot camps.

Thanks to my colleague Eric for pointing out to me that in Colombia the word is used quite differently, to refer simply to a short demonstration, often in front of a building.  Today a plantón in miniskirts is being held in front of the restaurant Andrés Carne de Res to protest rape culture and the comments by the owner that the young woman raped in his parking lot asked for it.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

sitdown strike: huelga de brazos cruzados (o brazos caidos)

according to wikipedia, "A sit-down strike is a form of civil disobedience in which an organized group of workers, usually employed at a factory or other centralized location, take possession of the workplace by "sitting down" at their stations, effectively preventing their employers from replacing them with strikebreakers or, in some cases, moving production to other locations."

(thanks to Jorge Lawton for the cruzados version, not sure exactly how it varies by country but both should be understandable)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

money belt: canguro invisible

a regular fanny pack is just a canguro, at least in Colombia

Saturday, October 12, 2013

vias de hecho (Col): nonviolent direct action

Many thanks to my fab compas Kath and Fiona who have had extended conversations with me about this.  The term is often used to refer to blockades/barricades in particular, but is also more widely used to refer to reclaiming land, etc.. 

It seems to mean different things outside of Colombia, so I'd be curious to hear - does this term get used in this way much in movement circles outside of Colombia?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

transversalizar: mainstream

As in, vamos a transversalizar género en esta conferencia - so as opposed to having break out sessions just on gender it's going to be discussed in all sessions (in theory).  In other contexts temas transversales I also render as croscutting themes. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

workshop at wayside on interpretation for social justice

Wayside (in Virginia) is doing another training led by fabulous colleagues of mine from October 25 - 27th.  It's aimed at bilingual activists who want to break into doing interpreting for the movement. Please please, if you know folks who would be a good fit, tell them about it.  Fee is on a sliding scale. 
bilingual social justice activists and workers who would like to learn more about interpreting and translating in a social justice context to empower immigrant communities and build alliances across communities. - See more at:
bilingual social justice activists and workers who would like to learn more about interpreting and translating in a social justice context to empower immigrant communities and build alliances across communities. - See more at:

Monday, September 23, 2013

volunteer terps needed to shut down the US army's School of the Americas!

I am yet again helping to organize the interpreting at the vigil to close the School of the Americas - a US army training camp for Latin American military officers. This protest is the longest ongoing protest against US empire happening in the United States.  It is also the longest ongoing act of civil disobedience.  But no CD required to participate! You can be an essential part of it all by helping us interpret.  It really is an amazing experience and a great way to be at the heart of a deeply inspiring weekend, where folks gather from across the US and the Americas and share experience and analysis. 

We're looking for volunteers with professional experience who are comfortable doing simul with equipment in a conference setting.  We cover the hotel and have a travel fund.  We pay you with boundless gratitude and appreciation from the crowd. 

The vigil is Nov 22 - 24 in Columbus Georgia - but you could come for just one or two of those days.  It's the 23rd that we most need folks.  If you can't come but know someone who might, please spread the word!  We're especially looking for folks who live in the South and don't have to travel so so far to get there.

If you're interested or have questions please be in touch.  I'm at sara (dot) koopman (at) gmail (dot) com

Friday, September 13, 2013

empresa fachada: front company

These are widely used by both paramilitaries and mining companies in Colombia.  Pacific Rubiales, for example, has responded to outrage and organizing against its mining practices by setting up a wide range of these, as I learned at the political and ethical trial against dispossession

Sunday, September 1, 2013

papas (Col): petard

well, actually petard would work fine with a British audience, but in the US you might do better with the unwieldy term "small homemade explosives known as "potato bombs"" that the AP used in describing Thursday's protests (see for photos) in Bogotá, and after that just use the term potato bomb.  But if you just used the term 'potato bomb' alone from the get go, my guess is that most US listeners would think a potato was involved in making the bomb.  Instead they look like a US style baked potato wrapped in tinfoil, but have gunpowder inside instead of a potato. Personally I think they are truly tragic strategy at protests, since they are used as an excuse for a brutal response from the police, as can be seen in this video of the papa throwing, and response, on August 21st at the Universidad Nacional.  I went in the other entrance trying to meet a prof in the Sociology department, and about half way across campus a stream of people came towards me with their eyes watering.  It was astounding how much of the campus they managed to fill with tear gas without being able to come in (cops are not allowed on campus).  Classes were cancelled.  Not exactly useful for building a broad based movement for justice and equality in my book.   

Friday, August 23, 2013

really California?!

Having gotten my medical interpreter certification from the state of Washington way back in 1994, I'm stunned to have learned that California is only just now getting around to considering certifying medical interpreters.  Really? California of all states?

I dream of a day when medical interpreters are not only required, widely used, and federally certified - but there are also fabulous federally subsidized training programs to prepare people to be great interps!

Friday, August 16, 2013

ordenamiento territorial: territorial zoning

Yes, it is something like land-use planning, but it is different enough that I like this rendition that sounds slightly odd in English, alerting the reader to something different at work. 

This is the translation used by Ojeda and Asher, two friends and fabulous geographers, in their great article:

(if you don't have academic access and would like a copy let me know)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

looking to improve your conference interp skills?

There is a new resource book out: Conference Interpreting: A Student’s Practice Book (Routledge, 2013) by Andrew Gillies.  

Check out this *glowing* review of it, which I was pointed to by the fabulous intersect newsletter.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

batidas (Col): arbitrary military street round-ups

In Colombia young men are required to do military service.  Batidas are military raids in poor neighborhoods that target youth who have avoided doing that service.   They look for young men without the card that proves that they have done, or somehow gotten out of, their military service.  Those who do not have a card on them are whisked away, not to be seen again my family or friends for months.  The city government of Bogota recently signed an agreement with the local batallion that they would stop doing these in the city - but it turns out that batallions from other areas have been coming in to the city to do this sort of forced recruitment. 

I'm not sure about this rendition in English for the term, but it's the one used by Emily Schmitz in this great article about batidas and the conscientious objectors who struggle against them.

The article begins:

Villavicencio, Colombia — Juan Carlos waits anxiously outside the army base, gazing beyond the chaos of the newly recruited soldiers surrounding him. In black jeans and a loose-fitting t-shirt, he stands quietly apart from them; he is one of the few without military fatigues. Recruited in an illegal street round-up and held for 45 days without seeing his family, today he will finally go home.
Dusk settles slowly, covering the soldiers in a soft purple light as they get in formation, lining up together side-by-side. Tomorrow they will leave the training base to begin their two-year military service. Conscription is mandatory in Colombia, with the exception of a few cases: victims of displacement, sole children and heads of households, physically or mentally disabled, indigenous people. And sometimes, even people like Juan Carlos – self-declared conscientious objectors – are released.

Colombian conscientious objectors uphold the right to refuse mandatory conscription through a constitutional provision (pdf) that details freedom of conscience, guaranteeing that: no one will be importuned on account of his or her convictions or beliefs […] or obligated to act against his or her conscience. But without legal parameters to regulate the law, cases of conscientious objection are confusing and time consuming. With the exception of one officially recognized case, the majority remains unrecognized. There are instead far easier, albeit illegal, ways out of military service: under the guise of mental instability, physical limitations, or simply by paying their way out, defiant youth successfully avoid conscription. But conscientious objectors, fighting to pave a legal path toward military exemption, see the difficulties of navigating the legal system as a means of silencing a public criticism of a practice that has helped perpetuate more than half a century of civil war.

read more ...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Basta Ya!: Enough Already!

Yesterday the Colombian National Centre of Historical Memory issued a major report on the Colombian conflict, entitled in Spanish, Basta Ya! This Guardian article in English about the report rendered it as Enough Already.  Not sure if the Center offered that as the official English translation, but I like it more than the more literal Stop now.  

(photo is from the report of the cover, taken by the fabulous Jesus Abad Colorado)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

amparo: amparo

I have blogged before about the term tutela, which is the Colombian version of what is more often
throughout Latin America called amparo.  I have been rendering tutela as writ for protection of constitutional rights, but I was surprised to see that the author chose to keep the term in Spanish in the book

I suppose the logic is that 'amparo' proceedings as such don't exist in the US, UK, or Canada.  Ojo, amparo cases generally don't establish precedent.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

finca variations

beware of the different connotations of words! 
in Guate this implies a plantation
in Col it can often mean a vacation home, with a little bit of ranch around it, or maybe just some gardens

Friday, June 28, 2013

Spanish camp for activists

if you're anywhere near Ithaca check this out! and if not, maybe you'll be inspired to set up something like this in your area next summer?

this one is sliding scale registration fee: $120-200.

Spanish for Activists Camp features Spanish and ESL English classes, workshops and panels on current social and political issues in U.S.-Latin American relations, as well as music, overnight camping and great food.

Learn songs in Spanish in a workshop with singer-songwriter Colleen Kattau on the "Nueva cancion" genre of social justice songs.

Panel on the Direction of Latin America Solidarity with:
Carol Delgado - Consul General of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in New York
Michael Fox - Former Editor of "NACLA Report on the Americas"
Gregory Wilpert - Author and Editor of

Panel on U.S. Immigration Reform with: Kathleen Sexsmith - Ph.D. student at Cornell University
Gonzalo Martinez de Vedia - Worker Justice Center of New York

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


chanta (Argentina): bullshitter

no comment on my week.  really.  

Friday, June 14, 2013

el derecho a la vida

If you interpreted this as the right to life, would your listeners think you meant an anti-abortion movement?

If the context doesn´t make it super clear, one option is to render it as the right to not be killed - not exact, but avoids cultural confusion since the phrase right-to-life has been coopted in the US and Canada at least. 

Saturday, June 8, 2013

ollas (Colombia): street drug market

there has been a lot of coverage of these in the media here lately because the government has been squeezing the water balloon and moving them around (see photos).

Insight Crime just put out an English language article about them that used the rendition "street level drug sale points".  as they put it "Drugs are mostly sold in ollas, which literally means saucepan. The olla, in this instance, can be a building, but also a locally known location such as a park or a street corner."

But the register of that English rendition is way higher than the Spanish, which is why I suggest street drug market. any other suggestions?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

tax loopholes: lagunas legales de la norma tributaria

thanks to Siobhan Ring for asking this one.  

this is for outreach work in the States, so can anyone think of a simpler and easier to understand version for folks with lower literacy? or do you think even low literacy folks will understand norma tributaria? lagunas en la ley de impuestos might be more widely understood but the loopholes are usually in the codes, not the actual laws.  maybe that's putting too fine a point on it. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

commodities: productos basicos

as I've posted before, commodities are often rendered as mercancía, yet in some contexts productos basicos works much better.

I was reminded of it by this fabulous article about the state of coffee in Colombia and the reasons behind the recent coffee growers strike. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Procurador General vs. Fiscal General (in Colombia)

procurador general: inspector general

There was recently a heated debate about the peace process between these two men, described here, and it reminded me of how tricky it can be to distinguish between the two in English.

(note, this entry is corrected, I had originally mistakenly posted it as solicitor general, but procurador is closest to the US position of Inspector General)

For written translations my friend Andrea Parra suggests a footnote, explaining that the procurador has plenary disciplinary power to sanction any public official and is mandated by the constitution to oversee implementation of judicial orders and the protection human rights. She also makes reference to art. 277 of the Colombian Constitution.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

judicializacion: malicious prosecution on trumped up charges

I've posted about this one before, but I was moved to repost this because I saw the cognate (judicialization) used again and want to emphasize that I believe this a FALSE cognate to be avoided - as can be seen by the English definition here and by googling it in English and seeing how it is used.

I am sad to say that these are still rampant in Colombia, the latest victim being human rights defender Sofia Lopez.  WOLA writes:

On April 12, 2013 Corporación Justicia y Dignidad was informed that one of its staff, Sofia Lopez, is currently under investigation by the Attorney General’s office for rebellion along with sixty other persons It is concerning is included in a list that includes persons who have already been arrested and sentenced. It is disturbing that this revelation comes after Lopez was harassed and intimidated in April. On April 4, 2013 a woman approached her calling her a “guerilla lawyer” and saying that “guerilla lawyers die here, they kill them here, so be careful.” The presence of two suspicious men in front of the lawyer’s office is frequent. These men spend three to four hours in the vicinity. Ms. Lopez does highly sensitive work advocating for victims and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has granted her organization several injunctions and security measures.

The Colombian Attorney General’s office should explain and clarify the charges against Lopez. The Protection Unit must provide protection to Lopez and fully enforce the injunctions and security measures recommended by the IACHR.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

certification issues

the fabulous newsletter sent out by Cross Cultural Communications (which I highly recommend subscribing to) pointed me this week to the latest issue of the (free) international journal of translation and interpretation research, which is all about certification.  If you're interested in getting certified, or thinking of getting a new one, or are frustrated with the process - check this out!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

performance anxiety: miedo escenico

yes, interpreters do get this. 
three deep breaths helps
(in through your nose, out through your mouth twice as long). 
wiggling my toes and feeling my feet also helps me. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

incidencia politica: advocacy

This is a broader term than really exists in English.  It encompasses formal lobbying, to grassroots lobbying, research, media work, to marches, and all other sorts of activism to change public policy.  Advocacy isn't my favorite term, but it does include the lobbying bit in a way that 'political action', or even just 'organizing' don't.  Any other suggestions out there? (Thanks to Fatimah for setting me off chewing on this ages ago - feel free to send your sticky terms my way!)

Wikipedia lo define como:
La incidencia política es un proceso llevado a cabo por un individuo o un grupo, que normalmente tiene como objetivo influir a las políticas públicas y las decisiones de asignación de recursos dentro de los sistemas políticos, económicos y sociales e instituciones, ya que puede ser motivada por principios morales, éticos o de la fe o, simplemente, proteger a un activo de interés. La incidencia política puede incluir muchas actividades que una persona u organización se compromete incluidas las campañas de los medios de comunicación, hablar en público, puesta en marcha y la publicación de la investigación o encuesta, o la "presentación de un amigo de los expedientes judiciales". Cabildeo (a menudo por los grupos de presión) es una forma de incidencia política que se realiza una aproximación directa a los legisladores sobre un tema que juega un papel importante en la política moderna.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

green grabs: despojos verdes

I learned this term from the fabulous Diana Ojeda, who recently published this great short article about green grabs in Bogotá.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

free online interpreter training

Cross Cultural Communications Seeks Beta Testers for Online Training

CCC is recruiting beta testers for one or more of their 10 6-hour online modules. These modules make up THE COMMUNITY INTERPRETER Online, and each module comes with four 90-minute lessons.

Beta testing will be available in May 2013. They are particularly keen on recruiting testers OUTSIDE THE US. This program is intended for community interpreters around the world.

The topic areas of the 6-hour modules are as follows:

THE COMMUNITY INTERPRETER Online: the 40-hour program
(designed for community interpreters in general and medical interpreters in particular)

  • Overview of Community Interpreting (including an Introduction to Medical Interpreting)
  • Ethics
  • Protocols
  • Skills
  • Intervention and Mediation
  • Cultural Mediation
  • Standards of Practice (this module includes a two-hour final assessment)

The 60-hour program

This longer program, designed especially for medical interpreters, includes all the modules above and three additional modules:
  • Medical Terminology for Interpreters (basic)
  • Medical Terminology for Interpreters (advanced)
  • Introduction to Legal Interpreting for Medical Interpreters

If you are interested in becoming a beta tester for THE COMMUNITY INTERPRETER Online, please contact Michelle Gallagher at +1 410-312-5599or

Monday, March 11, 2013

carbon sink: sumidero de carbono

As in, pay for your climate sins with a likely to be bogus offset indulgence.  Need I say palm oil plantations? If you don't know what I mean, read carbon sinks 101 over at sinkswatch.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

stalemate: punto muerto

lo que tenemos en Colombia, y la razon por la cual hay negociaciones de paz.

Como lo dice IPC: 

"Gobierno e insurgencia estarían llegando al aserto de que con la guerra se está en un punto muerto: la escalada de la seguridad democrática dio sus frutos pero la promesa de la derrota no llegó y la guerrilla sintió, como nunca, no sólo las  importantes derrotas militares sino el profundo desprestigio político, lo cual le podría haber obligado a reconsiderar su estrategia y táctica. Haber firmado el Acuerdo antes aludido, implica para las FARC admitir que su proyecto político se tramita dentro del marco de la lucha política legal y no con las armas."

Monday, February 25, 2013

autonomia alimentaria

autonomia alimentaria: food autonomy

As Arturo Escobar puts it "In Colombia for instance, movements prefer to use autonomia alimentaria (food autonomy) which is somewhat different to food sovereignty.  Food sovereignty tends to put the emphasis on the national level, so a county might say we basically produce food for the population blah blah blah, that’s not good enough. There has to be food autonomy locally, regionally, nationally." (from this great interview with Arturo about alternatives to development)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

greenwashing (rightswashing, causewashing ...)

greenwashing: lavado verde (as in, forget the other horrible things we do, we just put a figleaf of environmentalism over it all by saying it´s printed on recycled paper)

pinkwashing: lavado rosa (gay rights figleaf - think Israel)

rightwashing: lavado con derechos (usually refers to human rights, less common)

causewashing: lavado con causa (as in the pampers campaign where you buy one pack of disposable diapers and pampers gives a tiny donation to UNICEF for a vaccine)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

el aquelarre

aquelarre: coven

a term being reclaimed by feminists and used in Spanish to describe not just women who call themselves witches but more widely groups of women who get together to conspire for change.  in English listeneers might get the impression that it´s actually a group of neo-pagans who engage in rituals, but since it´s a term being reclaimed, it seems worth keeping the term and perhaps explaining that. or does any reader have a better suggestion?

the wikipedia entry in Spanish has a fascinating etymology - in spanish it can mean both the coven and where the coven meets, but it seems to be more widely just to describe the group. 

yet again thanks to my fabulous friend Andrea for this one.

Monday, February 4, 2013

book on activist translation

There is a book out about translation and social change, Translation, Resistance, Activism.  It came out in 2010 but I just discovered it, and haven't seen it yet, since I'm living in Bogotá at the moment.  I'm looking forward to it - particularly the last chapter, "the space and time of activist translation."  Has anyone out there read it? Any chance any of it is available digitally?

Here is the official blurb:

More than merely linguistic transposition, translation is a vector of power, resistance, rebellion, and even revolution. Exploring these facets of the ideology of translation, the contributors to this volume focus on the agency of translators and their activism. Spanning two centuries and reaching across the globe, the essays examine the varied activist strategies of key translators and translation movements. From silence to radical manipulation of texts, translation strategies are instrumental in significant historical interventions and cultural change. Translation plays a pivotal role in ideological dialogue and struggle, including resistance to oppression and cultural straitjackets of all types, from sexual puritanism to military dictatorships. Situated in their own space, time, history, and political contexts, translators promote ideological agendas by creating new cultural narratives, pragmatically adjusting tactics so as to maximize the social and political impact. The essays in this volume explore ways to read translations as records of cultural contestation and ideological struggle; as means of fighting censorship, physical coercion, cultural repression, and political dominance; and as texts that foster a wide variety of goals from cultural nationalism to armed confrontation. Translations are set in relief as central cultural documents rather than derivative, peripheral, or marginalized productions. They are seen as forms of ethical, political, and ideological activity rather than as mere communicative transactions or creative literary exercises. The contributors demonstrate that engaged and activist translations are performative acts within broader political and ideological contexts. The essays detail the initiative, resourcefulness, and courage of individual translators, whose willingness to put themselves on the line for social change can sometimes move the world. In addition to Maria Tymoczko, contributors include Pua'ala'okalani D. Aiu, Brian James Baer, Mona Baker, Paul F. Bandia, Georges L. Bastin, Nitsa Ben-Ari, angela Campo, Antonia Carcelen-Estrada, alvaro Echeverri, Denise Merkle, John Milton, and Else R.P. Vieira.

Monday, January 28, 2013


judicialización/ montaje judicial = malicious prosecution on trumped up charges

These have been increasingly used against human rights defenders in Colombia in the past few years.  The most notable case is that of David Ravelo, as described in the letter below.

North American Committee for the Defense of David Ravelo
10 de Enero 2013
                                                                            Sr. Eduardo Montealegre,
Fiscal General de Colombia, Fiscalía General,               
Bogotá, Colombia,

Estimado Sr. Montealegre,
We are members of a delegation of U.S, Canadian, and German citizens who visited
Colombiafor a week beginning November 25, 2012. Although our fundamental concern
in regard to your country is the war and terrible suffering there, our visit was
aimed at solidarity with David Ravelo, (cédula de ciudadanía 13.887.558),
currently held in La Picota prison in Bogota. Mr. Ravelo was convicted December
11, 2012of aggravated homicide in the case of Barrancabermejamayoral candidate
David Nuñez Cala, killed in 1991. He was sentenced to 18 years, three months in
Prompting this letter is our realization, indeed our certainty, that the
prosecution and judicial processes that led to Mr. Ravelo’s conviction do not
meet internationally recognized standards of fairness and justice. We base our
view on information gained before, during, and following our visit to Colombia.
Our reasoning is as follows:
1.       Mr. Ravelo was denied due judicial process. Prior to his conviction he
had already spent over two years in prison. At his trial there was no
opportunity for evidence on his behalf to be presented; 30 defense witnesses
were prevented from testifying.

2.       Testimony provided by two prosecution witnesses was self-serving. They
were two former paramilitary leaders convicted of massacres. The testimony they
offered against David Ravelo facilitated reductions of their sentences under
terms of Law 975, Law of Justice and Peace. The sentence of one of them, Mario
Jaimes Mejía, alias “El Panadero,” was reduced from 40 to no more than eight
years.  Another witness at Mr. Ravelo’s trial testified that the two principal
prosecution witnesses had tried to bribe him.

3.       We suspect that the principal motivation for prosecuting and convicting
David Ravelo was political retribution. Mr. Ravelo, a leader of the National
Movement of Victims of State Crimes (MOVICE, by its initials in Spanish), the
Regional Corporation for Defense of Human Rights (CREDHOS), and other human
rights organizations, is acknowledged and respected for his commitment to
defending human rights in the Barrancabermejaregion. In fact, his efforts
brought public attention to paramilitaries, police, and members of the national
army suspected of human rights abuses and thereby contributed to justice being
applied. Mario Jaimes Mejía had been convicted in part because of David Ravelo’s
efforts. Ravelo took the lead in publicizing ties between ex - President Alvaro
Uribe and paramilitary groups.

4.       The prosecutor in Mr. Ravelo’s case was WilliamPacheco Granados who had
served as police lieutenant in Armeniain 1992. He was dismissed from that post
because the year before he helped arrange for Guillermo Hurtado Parra’s forced
disappearance. Under Colombian law (Article 76 of Decree 261/2000), that crime
permanently disqualifies him from holding any public office, including, of
course, that of public prosecutor. We hold that David Ravelo’s conviction is
invalid because of this and other judicial and prosecutorial irregularities.

5.       Members of David Ravelo’s family have received multiple death threats
and been intimidated in other ways. His associates in the CREDHOS organization
have also been threatened.

6.       David Ravelo’s case is worrying on other accounts. The attorney general
in Barrancabermejain April 2009 determined not to prosecute David Ravelo. In
response, jurisdiction in his case was re-assigned to the national Attorney
General in Bogotawhere prosecution was resumed. Initial charges against Ravelo
of “rebellion” were dropped on discovery that in 1995 he had been absolved of
that charge (after two years in prison) and that reinstatement was impossible.
Conveniently enough, the charge against David Ravelo switched to “aggravated
homicide.” Six months elapsed between the end of David Ravelo’s trial
proceedings in May, 2012 and public notice of his conviction. Almost four weeks
elapsed between November 16, 2012, the date officially assigned to his
conviction, and December 11, 2012, the date when Mr. Ravelo and his legal
defenders officially learned of his conviction.

7.       We would remind your office that Colombia’s Constitutional Courtunder
its decision T-590/98 has ruled that because defenders of human rights are
vulnerable to attacks and abuse within the national context, the state must
assume responsibility for protecting them.

8.       We are encouraged by international calls for justice in David Ravelo’s

·         Since 2000, the Inter-American Human Rights Commission has extended
“precautionary measures” for the protection of members of CREDHOS and its
directors, including David Ravelo.

·         In November, 2010 British Parliamentarians called for his release from

·         In March 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the
Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, and the Special Rapporteur
on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, issued a joint
communication to the Colombian Government expressing their concern that
“criminalization of David Ravelo occurs in the context of increasing
prosecutions against human rights defenders in Colombia”.

·         Irish solidarity activists visited Ravelo in prison in November, 2012.
One of them, Northern Ireland Assembly member John McCallister, commented that,
“David Ravelo is an admirable man, dedicated to the defense of human rights. I
am horrified that a human rights defender can be convicted in a case led by a
prosecutor implicated in crimes against humanity.” McAllister joined 30 British
and Irish parliamentarians, lawyers, and labor leaders in issuing a statement
condemning David Rabelo’s conviction.

·         On 5 December 2012, the Inter- American Commission of Human Rights
condemned repression against human rights defenders in Colombiaincluding Mr.

·         On December 10, 2012, 13 European human rights groups sent a
communicationto your office denouncing David Ravelo’s conviction.   Later that month 21 other
human rights, labor, and lawyers’ groups based mainly in the United Statesand
the United Kingdomsent a similar letter to your office.

·         On December 10, 2012, your office received a letter from 80 members of
the British Parliament who judged his conviction to be a “serious injustice and
violation of his human rights.”

Mr. Montealegre, in view of these considerations we urge upon your office a turn
toward fairness and justice in the case of David Ravelo Crespo. We will be
content with nothing less than Mr. Ravelo’s immediate liberation. Additionally,
our group demands that effective protection be provided for members of Mr.
Ravelo’s family and members of the CREDHOS human rights organization.  Lastly,
we urge that, in accordance with Colombian law,WilliamPacheco Granadosbe removed
from his position as prosecutor within Colombia’s judicial system.

With respect and in hopes that David Ravelo will receive justice, we are,

Sincerely yours,
Tim Bood   (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
Mark Burton   (Denver, Colorado, USA)
John Lugo (New Haven, Connecticut, USA)
Jim Norris (Carson, California, USA)
Stan Smith (Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Joel Stangle  (Iphofen, Bavaria, Germany)
Kay Tillow (Louisville, Kentucky, USA)
Walter Tillow (Louisville, Kentucky, USA)
Tom Whitney (South Paris, Maine, USA)

Copies sent to:

María Ángela Holguín Cuéllar, Foreign Minister
Juan Manuel Santos Calderon, President of Colombia
Angelino Garzón, Vice President of Colombia
Volmar AntonioPérez Ortiz, Defensor of the People
Germán Vargas Lleras, Minister of Justice and Interior
María Paulina RiverosDueñas, Interior Ministry, Human Rights Program Dr.
Alejandro Ordoñez Maldonado, Procurador Generalde la Nación

Carlos Urrutia Valenzuela, Colombian Ambassador to United States
P. Michael McKinley, U. S. Ambassador to Colombia, 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

training manuals for community, medical and legal interps

Cross- cultural communications has a series of manuals for different types of interpreting.  They just released a new workbook with exercises and role plays for legal interpreting.  I haven't seen it, but it looks worth checking out.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


fracking = mineria por fracturación hidraulica
(and thereafter fracturación if doing simul)

As Mother Jones puts it, we are fracking our way to a toxic planet.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

from inside the belly of the beast

"desde las entrañas del monstruo" is a phrase famously first used by Jose Martí and now often used by US activists working against US imperialism from inside the US.  in this image Martí has el pueblo en sus entrañas!