Colombia

COLOMBIA: How you can support the participants in the Colombian National Strike

The Colombian national strike is now in its second week and has shut down three highways, but President Santos until two nights ago refused to acknowledge its existence.  Police brutality against the demonstrators has increased to the extent that the Director of National Police, General Rodolfo Palomino, has promised an inquiry.  Many voices have spoken; those in power have heard some and ignored others.  One voice we would like to highlight is that of Archbishop of Tunja, Msgr. Luis Augusto Castro, whose pastoral voice invited a calm and a just response to the strikers’ demands from the government.

An invitation to President Santos by Msgr. Luís Augusto Castro, Archbishop of Tunja
Click here to watch the Video
  photo: cambio.com.co

The government's choice to avoid negotiations and use violence to clamp down on the people’s right to protest is a cause for concern.  Support the farmers’ strike by this signing this petition urging President Santos to negotiate with an open mind, and urging those in power to lead this country from injustice to justice. 

Show your support of the farmers strike by making a sign "YO APOYO EL PARO AGARARIO" (I support the Farmers Strike).  Include your location and send it out on Facebook and Twitter using:

  1. Use #yoapoyoelparoagrario on twitter and facebook
  2. Tag on us facebook (use the name Christian Peacemaker Teams - Colombia in a comment or "Share" one of the team's posts on the strike)
  3. Tag us on twitter: @cptco

Or, email us your photo

Prayers for Peacemakers, 28 August 2013



Epixel* for 1 September 2013






Striking Colombian Farmers protesting
Free Trade Agreement
l. Firing Zone 918, r. Rajabi Building


The Lord overthrows the thrones of
rulers, and enthrones the lowly in their place
.

The Lord plucks up the roots of the
nations, and plants the humble
in their place.
Sirach 10:14-15




*epixel: a snapshot-epistle to the churches
related to and appearing with a text from the
upcoming Sunday's Revised Common Lectionary
readings.

Prayers for Peacemakers, 28 August 2013

Pray that the Israeli High Court will render just decisions on 2 September 2013 when it decides whether the Israeli military can evict hundreds of families from their homes in the South Hebron Hills, and whether settlers can take over the Rajabi building in Hebron.

Related Story: PALESTINE URGENT ACTION: 2 Campaigns, 2 Petitions, 2 September 2013

Pray also for the nation of Colombia as a strike by small farmers, miners, the indigenous, truckers, teachers, and healthcare workers demanding the rights guaranteed them under the Colombian constitution enters its second week.

Related Story: COLOMBIA: National Strike participants seek recognition as full citizens

COLOMBIA ANALYSIS: A short primer on the national strike

 

 
 Protests in Sincelejo (Photo: Marcha Patriotica)

 Beginning on Monday, 19 August, broad sectors of Colombian society rose up in a national strike.  The strike, which is now taking place in cities and rural areas across the country, includes coffee growers’ unions, truck drivers, small-scale miners, students, teachers, health workers, farmers, and fishermen.  CPT has had a presence at the strikes and roadblocks taking place in Segovia and Remedios, in northeastern Antioquia.  What follows is a short primer on why Colombians are striking, the historical context of these demonstrations, and what the demonstrators have demanded from the State.

 Colombia is a country deeply divided by economic inequality.  Almost half of all rural Colombians live in extreme poverty, defined as subsisting on less than $1.00 a day.  Colombia is also home to five million internally displaced people, a number on par globally only with the Sudan.  That adds up to one in ten Colombians, displaced within the last twelve years to refugee camps, shantytowns, and temporary shelters.  Women, Afro-descendants, and indigenous peoples are more likely than others to be displaced.

COLOMBIA: National Strike participants seek recognition as full citizens

On Sunday, 18 August, young men and women from rural areas in the department of Antioquia took to the streets of Segovia municipality to express their frustration at a system that has abandoned them to live in desperate conditions.

This action is part of a larger national protest.  All over Colombia, small farmers, miners, the indigenous, truckers, teachers, and healthcare workers are crying out that they are tired of the conditions the Colombian government has asked them to endure in order to join the wider world economy.




Segovia Coliseum

On 17 August, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) arrived in Segovia to accompany 2000 small farmers, miners and indigenous peoples joining the national strike set to start on the 19th.  Children, women, and men pitched their tents inside the local coliseum determined, despite close quarters, to remain there until the government agrees to negotiate with them.  CPT partner CAHUCOPANA and organizer of the Segovia strike, declared the coliseum a Humanitarian Refuge—an area protected under International Humanitarian Law (IHL) in which no arms are allowed and which guarantees the protection of those residing within.  The organizers set up the Humanitarian Refuge to prevent armed actors, particularly law enforcement, from laying siege to the encampment in order to shut down the demonstrations.

Prayers for Peacemakers, 16 August 2013

 Epixel* for 18 August 2013
 

 Therefore, since we are
surrounded by so great a
cloud of witnesses, let us
also
lay aside every weight,
and sin which clings so closely,
and let us run with endurance
the race that is set before us,
 looking
to Jesus, the founder
and perfecter of our faith.

Hebrews 12: 1-2a

 
  

Prayers for Peacemakers, 16 August 2013


Give thanks that Colombian authorities have revoked the right of Aportes San Isidro SA Security Guards to carry weapons because of their violent attacks on the people of Las Pavas. 

Pray that the local police, who have not protected the Las Pavas community in the past, will enforce the court’s decision

Related story:COLOMBIA: Good news for Las Pavas! Government revokes gun permits for Aportes San Isidro security guards.

COLOMBIA: Good news for Las Pavas! Government revokes gun permits for Aportes San Isidro security guards.

he Superintendencia de Vigilancia y Seguridad Privada (The Superintendent of Vigilance and Private Security), the government institution that regulates surveillance and grants firearms licenses for private security firms has revoked Aportes San Isidro SA’s license, stripping the right of the corporation’s private guards to bear arms.




Razed plantain field  

Since mid 2011, under the leadership of Mario Marmol, the head of security for palm company Aportes San Isidro SA and company lawyer Danilo Palacio, the campesino community of Las Pavas has suffered many incidents of harassment and injury by the company’s armed security.

The presence of armed men on the farm has created an overall insecure work environment for community members who spend much of their day in pairs or alone working the land.  The community’s animals and food crops have been destroyed and killed, their ranchos have been torn down, and members of the community have been shot at and attacked. These acts of intimidation and terrorism have not only threatened the community’s food security but have created a climate of forced displacement, an experience etched deep in the historical memory of the community.  The violence perpetrated by the company’s thugs has increased in proportion to the legal decisions ruled in favor of the community.

COLOMBIA URGENT ACTION: Secretary Kerry--Put human rights at the top of your agenda!

From our friends at Latin America Working Group:

You might get the impression from reading the news that everything is much better in Colombia. But what we hear from the ground is that human rights defenders, land rights leaders, union activists, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities all remain in danger. And justice is still in peril. 

So as Secretary Kerry makes his first trip to Colombia as head of the State Department this Sunday, let’s give him a piece of our minds and make sure peace, human rights and justice are brought to the forefront of his agenda.

Click here to ask Secretary Kerry to support peace and reinforce human rights in his visit to Colombia! 

CHICAGO: Public witness calls for protecting Las Pavas, Colombia farmers from corporate aggression

 

 Passersby watch dramatization of palm oil company pushing Colombian farmers off their land - Colombian Consulate, Chicago
 Passersby watch dramatization of palm oil
company pushing Colombian farmers off their
land - Colombian Consulate, Chicago

On Friday, 26 July, CPTers and supporters took to the streets of Chicago calling for an end to violence against the community of Las Pavas, Colombia. Donning cardboard palm trees and straw hats, participants dramatized palm oil producer Aportes San Isidro’s acts of aggression towards the subsistence farmers of Las Pavas.  

In recent months, the company’s armed security guards have destroyed crops, damaged farm equipment, fire bombed homes and buildings, killed animals, threatened people at gunpoint, and brutally attacked one community member with a machete.  Despite government orders granting the land to the Las Pavas community, Colombian police have done nothing to stop the company’s attacks and encroachment upon Las Pavas territory.

“We are calling on the Colombian government to protect the families of Las Pavas,” said Cass Bangay of Ontario, Canada in front of the Colombian Consulate in downtown Chicago.  She went on to read from a series of testimonies by Las Pavas community members: “Roberto Puerta Peña, father of six says, ‘I’m trying to make a good life for my family here on the farm, but I haven’t achieved that yet.  The violent harassment from the palm company is really hard.  One time they held a gun fifteen centimeters from my head.  Then they threatened to hurt my family.’”  A small delegation delivered a letter to the Consul General along with a small palm tree and images and testimonies from the Las Pavas community symbolizing the group’s concerns. 

Call to Action: Protect Colombian Subsistence Farmers of Las Pavas


CPT Chicago Training Group Public Witness

Protect subsistence farmers of  Las Pavas, Colombia from violent aggression by palm oil producer Aportes San Isidro


The Issue

•  The people of Las Pavas are a sustainable farming community in Colombia.  Colombian police and palm oil companies have repeatedly tried to force the community off their land. 

•  Most recently, the palm oil consortium Aportes San Isidro has expanded its operations into Las Pavas land. 

•  The Supreme Court of Colombia has ruled the Las Pavas community cannot be evicted from their lands. The Colombian Institute for Rural Development (INCODER) has ordered that all of the Las Pavas land be titled to the Las Pavas people. 

•  Aportes San Isidro employees have violently harassed Las Pavas families by destroying crops, stealing farm equipment, fire bombing homes and buildings, killing animals, and even threatening to kill people. These threatening actions have increased since the INCODER decision, culminating with a brutal machete attack on a community member.

What can you do? 

•  Contact your the closest Colombian Consul General and urge them to ask their government to uphold Colombian law by issuing the people of Las Pavas the title to their lands and protect-ing them from corporate intimidation

More Information

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: What it means to be a union member in Colombia and Chicago

CPTnet
26 July 2013
COLOMBIA REFLECTION: What it means to be a union member in Colombia and Chicago

by Ruth Fast

[Note: Fast was a member of the most recent Christian Peacemaker Team delegation to Colombia in May.]

 DSC_5484b
 William Mendoza speaks to CPT Colombia
delegation while CPT Colombia team member
translates.

Eleven years ago, company thugs attempted to kidnap William Mendoza’s four-year-old daughter. They were unable to take her because his wife simply refused to release her grip on the child.  This incident caused William’s marriage to break up because of his wife’s fear of further violence. His story is one of thousands that, when combined, have for decades put Colombia at the top of the list of most dangerous nations to be a member of a trade union.

Mendoza is President of the local Coca Cola ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) in Barrancabermeja, Colombia.  Because he was working for fair wages and decent working conditions for Coca Cola workers, paramilitary groups hired by the company to intimidate and threaten leaders of the union had targeted him.  This U.S. company operating in Colombia is keeping wages and benefits low so they can extract more profits for the company and we can drink soft drinks at lower prices.