ACTION ALERT: Peace Strike for Colombia
November 7, 2017
Alliance for Global Justice & teleSUR
A National Strike for Peace in Colombia has been called in Colombia to demand steps to protect peace accords that are in danger of failure. The strike was called at the end of a particularly bloody October, with 23 activists killed in 23 days. We demand that Colombia's government end the violence and fulfill commitments to crop substitution programs in Tumaco. Demand that the White House support voluntary eradication and stop encouraging violence against rural Colombians.
National Strike for Peace in Colombia --
A Call for Solidarity
Alliance for Global Justice
(November 5, 2017) -- A National Strike for Peace in Colombia has been called in Colombia to demand steps to protect peace accords that are in danger of failure. The strike was called at the end of a particularly bloody October, with 23 activists killed in 23 days.
The death toll includes 11 peaceful protesters attacked on October 5 by the National Police Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squad (ESMAD). [See news report below.]
President Juan Manuel Santos and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- People's Army [FARC-EP] signed peace accords on November 24, 2016, ending more than 52 years of civil war. Since then, 130 social movement leaders and 35 ex-insurgents have been killed in political violence at the hands of private death squads and the Colombian Armed Forces.
In 2016, there were 116 political assassinations. 2017 has seen the highest rate of political killings in seven years.
The peace accords are also threatened by the Colombian government’s failure to meet its obligations. The government has not fulfilled agreements covering the release of political prisoners and prisoners of war, with 1,000 still languishing in Colombian jails.
Agreements to return land to displaced farming families and establish peasant zones are not proceeding according to schedule and, in fact, since the peace process began, 17,000 rural Colombians have been displaced each month.
The government is also not meeting commitments regarding infrastructure and crop substitution development in exchange for voluntary eradication of illicit crops. The US government is urging Colombia to forego these commitments altogether in favor of forced eradication, which has led to violent and deadly repression.
The National Strike for Peace in Colombia is called by FENSUAGRO (National Unitary Federation of Agricultural Unions), the Marcha Patriótica (Patriotic March), ANZORC (National Association of Peasant Reserve Zones), CONPI (National Coordination of Indigenous Peoples, CONAFRO (National Coordination of Afro-descendants), and COCCAM (National Coordination of Coca, Poppy, and Marijuana Growers).
The goals of the strike are:
* Implementation of the Havana Peace Accords;
* Support for local and territorial demands and fulfillment of governmental pacts with the communities;
* Guarantees of safety to rural communities as they exercise their rights to political organization and social protest.
What you and your organization can do to help
ACTION: The National Strike committee is asking grassroots groups, labor organizations, church committees, and NGOs to send declarations of solidarity with the strike. Statements can be in English or Spanish, although Spanish is best if possible. Please send to James@AFGJ.org and we will pass them immediately to the strike committee.
ACTION: Organize a demonstration, vigil, or other public event for the International Days of Solidarity with Colombia’s National Strike for Peace on November 15 and 16, 2017. These days of actions are called by the Observatorio por los Derechos Humanos del Pueblo, the Alliance for Global Justice, Marin Interfaith Task Force, International Action Center, Party for Socialism and Liberation, and Workers World.
New endorsements are still being added. To include your organization’s endorsement, or to announce your event, send an email to James@AFGJ.org .
ACTION: Send an email to the White House demanding it back the peace accords and stop pressuring Colombia to pursue forced eradication programs that result in state violence against rural communities.
ACTION: Participate in an urgent phone meeting to discuss solidarity with the National Strike. The meeting is Friday, November 3, at 5:30pm Eastern, 4:30pm Central, 3:30p Mountain, 2:30p Pacific. The call-in number is 1-218-844-1930, and the participant access code is 281035.
From the National Strike Committee's
Call for International Solidarity
"Knowing the kind of government and State that Colombia has, we call on social organizations, political parties, and the people of the world to . . . send greetings and solidarity declarations to the National Indefinite Strike . . . demanding guarantees for the right to social protest, soliciting the Colombian State to fulfill all the Final Accord signed between the government of Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC-EP . . . [and] helping us make visible in your respective countries the actions of mobilization that are advancing in Colombia."
Update about the Threat to Strikers in the Catatumbo Region
Many of you acted on our October 25, 2017 alert about the threat of assault by the Colombian National Police against strikers in the Catatumbo region. We are very happy to say that there were no casualties and that several of us received responses to emails we sent the authorities.
International outcry and pressure does matter and can prevent massacres from happening, such as what occurred in Tumaco, Nariño on October 5, 2017 in a very similar situation. Thank you so much for doing your part as a peace maker!
Massacre in Tumaco -- US Pushes for More Repression
James Jordan / Alliance for Global Justice
(October 9, 2017) -- The Colombian National Police massacred between 8 and 16 persons, wounding more than 50, in the municipality of Tumaco, Narino on Thursday afternoon, October 5, 2017. The attack was directed against protesting coca growing families demanding the government fulfill its commitments to voluntary eradication programs.
Additionally, on Sunday, October 8, 2017, the National Police attacked an international team sent to investigate the massacre. The police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse representatives from the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and a journalist from the Colombian weekly, Semana. The National Police and Colombia’s military are both under the direction of the Ministry of Defense.
Initially, the Colombian government claimed that the massacre was the result of an attack by dissident insurgents who oppose accords between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -- People's Army (FARC-EP). However, eyewitnesses from the community concur that the violence was perpetrated by the police.
Since the implementation of the accords, Tumaco has been the site of several assassinations of local leaders and attacks against protesters by the armed forces and paramilitaries.
Colombian peace accords were implemented as the law of the land in late November 2016. They include provisions for crop substitution and infrastructure development to create a viable alternative to illicit crops.
Under the National Comprehensive Program for Illicit Crop Substitution, the Colombian government has signed 105,000 crop substitution pacts with rural families and it is estimated that its goal of crop substitution programs for 50,000 hectares will be reached by the end of the year.
The government has also forcibly eradicated another 50,000 hectares during the same period, often in the same areas where it has signed substitution agreements.
Even when substitution pacts have been signed, they have been beset with delays in payments and infrastructure and road improvements. Some peasant families complain that they must travel through areas of paramilitary activity to access benefits. Another difficulty has been that some communities requesting to participate in the voluntary program have been ignored and subjected to forced eradication.
The Trump administration is pressuring Colombia to abandon the voluntary program in favor of forced eradication which frequently results in state violence.
The White House is also urging Colombia to return to aerial fumigation of illicit crops with Monsanto’s RoundUp Ultra. Vice President Mike Pence, Ambassador to Colombia Kevin Whitaker, and William Brownfield, the Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, have all declared that the US will not support voluntary eradication programs because they are the result of accords signed between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP.
The fact does not seem to matter that these accords have brought an end to a 52-year civil war that left more than 220,000 persons dead; 92,000 disappeared; and 6 million rural families displaced. Nor does it matter that the FARC-EP no longer exists and former insurgents have disarmed. The new FARC, the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, is a legal, nonviolent, and civilian political party that is integrated into civil society.
The White House justifies their position by repeating the myth that the now defunct FARC-EP have been and continue to be major narcotics traffickers. However, both Colombian and US government studies have debunked this assertion.
It is generally recognized that the FARC-EP had levied a tax on narco-traffickers, but had not been major producers or merchants of narcotics. A 2001 Colombian government study found right wing paramilitaries to be responsible for more than 40% of the cocaine trade and the FARC-EP for no more than 2.5%.
Donnie Marshall, the head of the Drug Enforcement Agency under Pres. George W. Bush has gone on record saying, ". . . there is no evidence that any FARC or ELN units have established international transportation, wholesale distribution or drug money-laundering networks in the United States or Europe."
According to Rafael Suarez, who was a military advisor to the Uribe administration, "if you reduce the FARC to just a drug cartel, you make the possibility of negotiating a political settlement more difficult." Of course, if the goal is not peace, but the consolidation of stolen lands, then the strategy works well of branding the FARC-EP as major drug traffickers and carrying out a "War on Drugs" that is really a War of Displacement and a War against Farmers.
On the other hand, Colombia’s former president Alvaro Uribe was on a Defense Intelligence Agency list in 1991 as one of Colombia’s top narco-traffickers. His administration received billions of dollars in US funding via Plan Colombia.
William Brownfield first came to the State Department in 1979, under the Carter Administration. He was promoted to his current position as an Assistant Secretary of State under Pres. Barak Obama and continues in the job under the Trump administration. Before that, he had served as Ambassador to Colombia during the Uribe administration, and as Ambassador to Chile and to Venezuela.
He has had assignments with the State Department and the Pentagon’s Southern Command in El Salvador, Argentina, Panama, and Honduras. He is accused of helping cover up an incident in which four Honduran community members, including two pregnant women, were killed with shots fired from a State Department helicopter in 2012. He has announced his imminent retirement.
But given his long background as a promoter of the US Empire, his pronouncements against voluntary eradication programs in Colombia are chilling. On August 2, 2017, Brownfield reported that, "The United States is not currently supporting the Colombian government’s voluntary eradication and crop substitution program because the FARC is involved . . . . In 2016, 675 attempted eradication operations were cancelled in the field due to restrictive rules of engagement that prevented security forces from engaging protestors."
We of the Alliance for Global Justice are intimately familiar with circumstances facing rural Colombian families who are forced to cultivate illicit crops such as coca, marijuana, and poppies. We have a close relationship with FENSUAGRO, Colombia’s federation of agricultural workers and peasant farmers unions.
We have traveled extensively with FENSUAGRO on barely passable roads to villages where families are trying to raise and sell legal crops, especially in coffee growing areas. They do so against incredible odds.
We have traveled roads that have required us to stop every 15 to 20 minutes to make repairs just so we could keep going. We have trampled in the rainy season to villages like Maracaibo, Tolima, where we were laboring through paths so muddy that we were covered up to and past our knees.
We have seen again and again rural villages that lack schools and teachers (or that have schools with virtually no supplies), health services, electricity, or any viable way to get crops to markets. In such cases, families turn to the cultivation of illicit crops because narcotraffickers are the only economic interests who will travel to these villages to make purchases.
For the United States government to demand forced eradication over voluntary programs constitutes nothing less than a cynical call for bloody repression of Colombian farming families. The Trump administration does not want peace in Colombia. It wants more death and displacement so that access to natural resources is cleared for transnational corporations. It wants Colombia to exist first and foremost as an outpost of Empire and a threat to the stability of the entire region.
We who love peace and justice want something very different. We know that a Colombia at peace and rooted in justice would be a major step towards peace, justice, and liberation from Empire throughout Latin America and, indeed, the world.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: May 19-29, 2018 Delegation to Colombia!
AfGJ will be leading a delegation of accompaniment to Colombia May 19 -- 29, 2018. We will accompany targeted campaigns and communities during the lead up to the first round of presidential elections on May 27, 2018. Our delegation will be based out of Cali, and we will travel through the region of Valle de Cauca, Cauca, and Nariño, where political violence has been particularly sharp. For more information, send an email to DELEGATIONS@AFGJ.ORG
Colombia: Right-Wing Paramilitaries Are
Flooding Zones Vacated by the FARC, Expert Says
(July 29, 2017) -- Right-wing paramilitary forces continue to operate throughout the country inflicting terror on social and political movements, as well as on the civilian population.
While the peace process in Colombia has been welcomed by broad sections of Colombian society, the demobilization of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia has brought with it the swarming of paramilitary groups to rural regions the rebels left behind.
According to Leon Valencia, director of the Foundation for Peace and Reconciliation, there are whole families who are currently at risk due to the expansion of right-wing military groups who had once been deterred by the presence of the left-wing guerrilla group.
A month ago, the FARC handed in the last of its weapons to United Nations officials effectively ending 53 years of military war with the state. Many expected the demobilization of the country's largest and most influential rebel group to mark the end of the devastating violence that has ravaged the country for decades.
However, the reality is that right-wing criminal bands continue to operate throughout the country inflicting terror on social and political movements, as well as on the civilian population in general.
According to Periodistas en Espanol, for example, paramilitary groups have only recently reentered San Jose de Apartado, a village that 10 years ago was the victim of one of Colombia's worst modern day massacres at the hands of armed right-wing groups. Their presence in the area has been attributed to the FARC's demobilization.
What's even more concerning is that local military forces have been seen acting in cooperation with the paramilitaries with local residents reporting "commonplace meetings" between the two forces.
At a press conference Monday, FARC leader Ivan Marquez warned that the government's lack of commitment to security protocols established in the peace accord was giving way to a resurgence of a "dirty war" by the ultra-right.
Since the demobilization process began, six demobilized rebels have been assassinated by paramilitary forces raising the concern of a repetition of the violence inflicted on the Patriotic Union party in the 1980s and 90s.
Juan Manuel Santos' government, which has previously denied the existence of paramilitary groups in the country, could eventually seriously dent or even lose the hard won peace agreement due to its failure to act to stop these increasingly destructive terrorist elements.
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