Colombia

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.  

COLOMBIA ANALYSIS: Other nations deserve to live strong and free as well

 On 1 July Canadians celebrate the 1967 creation of an independent nation.   Their national anthem refers to, “The True North strong and free.”  The United Nations often names Canada is as one of the best countries in the world to live in because of its public healthcare, public education, good infrastructure, friendly and welcoming people—everything a healthy society needs to develop and flourish.  If only Colombians could enjoy the same thing.


San Pedro Frio

From 27-29 June 2013 San Pedro Frio, a mining town in the hilly southern region of the province of Bolivar hosted approximately three hundred people from local communities and fifty people from the provinces of Nariño, Cauca, Chocó, Huila and Antioquia for the second preparatory hearing of the “Ethical and Political Trial against Dispossession.” They gathered to share and document their stories about how multinational mining company AngloGold Ashanti has committed or supported grave human rights violations to acquire mining rights in these different territories. The community of Bolivar talked about the Exodo Campesino (Farmers Exodus) of 1998 where a mass mobilization of farming and mining communities from the south of Bolivar rose up, demanding their rights of access to healthcare, education, potable water, roads and the right to work the land or mines without the threat from right wing paramilitary groups. This mobilization led to agreements signed with then President Andres Pastrana.  Unfortunately instead of fulfilling the agreements, the army and paramilitary groups began a harsh campaign of repression against the communities and the now identified leaders who had negotiated the agreements.

COLOMBIA: New acts of terrorism against the community of Las Pavas

 

Following the recent attacks on the community of Las Pavas, ASOCAB, the farmers’ association released the following denunciation: 

THE FARMERS ASSOCIATION OF BUENOS AIRES "ASOCAB" denounces, before the national and international community, the acts of terrorism to which we are victims, which we add to our previous complaints of assaults by the private security department of the palm company APORTES SAN ISIDRO S.A.S.

On Thursday 27 June 2013, in the presence of members of the international organization CPT (Christian Peacemaker Teams), at around 11:10 a.m., a fireball was thrown, made out of socks tied with wire and soaked in diesel fuel, at the settlement of our community located in Las Pavas…

A week later, on Thursday, 4 July 2013 at 12:15 a.m., when all the families living in the settlement were asleep, three fireballs were launched—using the same material [as was used on 27 June]—at the community housing and the two communal ranches…

Prayers for Peacemakers, 3 July 2013

Prayers for Peacemakers, 3 July 2013

 Epixel* for 3 July 2013
 
 

 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me.

-Psalm 30:1

 


Ask that God grant protection to the people of Las Pavas, who were once again the targets of violent harassment when a fireball was launched from amidst the the palm tree crops of the Aportes San Isidro Corporation on 27 June 2013 at the community's ranch house.  Give thanks no one was hurt, but pray that the hearts of the corporation executives, the henchmen they are paying to attack the Las Pavas community, and the police officers they have paid to look the other way will be transformed and that the impunity for their actions will end

Related story: COLOMBIA: Aportes San Isidro increases violent harassment of Las Pavas community, including attempted arson



COLOMBIA: Aportes San Isidro increases violent harassment of Las Pavas community, including attempted arson

On Monday 24 June 2013, as two CPTers arrived in Las Pavas, four armed security guards on horses appeared and prevented them from traveling by motorcycle the rest of the way to the settlement of campesinos.  The guards claimed that the land they were traveling on was private property of the palm company Aportes San Isidro despite government rulings that the land of Las Pavas is state land to be titled to the small farmers who have been working the land for decades.  After engaging in conversation about the illegality of this restriction of movement, the CPTers dismounted the motorcycles and walked the remaining fifty meters to the settlement.




Community members carry
supplies along the road the
company's security guards
are patrolling.

The next morning, 25 June, three Las Pavas community members were arriving to the farm with their farming tools when five armed guards stopped them on the main road and would not allow them to continue.  Two CPTers arrived with other community members. The guards were adamant that the men could not pass with farm implements regardless of international presence.  They insulted the CPTers and accused them of being guerillas who had brainwashed the community.  The three men had to return home and lost a day’s work in their fields.

A couple of hours later, community members asked CPTers to accompany their people arriving from town, carrying supplies for their homes.  CPTers carried baskets along the road under the watchful eye of the security guards who looked inside to see what they were carrying but let them pass.  While passing through, Mario Marmol the head security guard, unsuccessfully tried to steal a CPTer’s personal camera from the hands of a campesino. 

CPT INTERNATIONAL: Urgent invitations from Colombia, Elsipogtog and the Owe Aku--Can you help us respond?


A week ago, on 30 May 2013, we got word from Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) Colombia that Tito, one of the members of Las Pavas community in Colombia, had been attacked with machetes by workers for Aportes San Isidro, the palm oil company that has been trying to push the community of Las Pavas off their land for many years…



Tito (yellow and green shirt) taking
picture of security guard who had
ordered his men to shoot out tires of
Las Pavas's tractor.
 

This attack is an escalation of the pressure on this community that is deeply committed to nonviolence.  The Las Pavas leadership asked CPT to provide increased accompaniment for community members as they walk to and from their fields.  Our team on the ground is already stretched thin and they have made an appeal to CPT reservists to support them.  We have people ready to go to Colombia if we can raise the funds. Can you contribute $10 now to make this possible?

This request is just one of four that CPT has received in the two weeks.  On 8 June 2013, our Aboriginal Justice team sent a group of reservists to New Brunswick, Canada in response to an invitation 48 hours earlier from Elsipogtog First Nation. Mi'kmaq and Maliseet peoples have been using creative Nonviolent Direct Action to stop shale gas exploration on their traditional lands, including peacefully blockading a truck hired by the exploration company, SWN Resources Canada.

COLOMBIA: When victory brings disaster—Las Pavas and Garzal/Nueva Experanza need your help now

Victories are for celebrating.  They are moments that give us the satisfaction of a job well done.  That the fight we undertook was worth it.  Why then in Colombia does a victory for so many communities who struggle for something as basic as a piece of land to farm to provide food for their families, become a nightmare and for some a death sentence? 

This sounds sad and discouraging and I wish I didn’t have to paint such a bleak picture but to hide the truth would be worse.  In fact for the past months, we as a team have (not intentionally) hidden the truth by announcing several victories.  We did it because in fact there have been several victories that fully deserve a celebration.  Also for our own emotional health we needed to enjoy these moments.  Communities affected by the violence of the ongoing economic, political, and armed conflict of Colombia don’t often have victories, tangible successes to grab on to.   We even used them as a fundraising strategy because hey, everyone wants to support a winning team.

Great victories happened for Garzal/Nueva Esperanza and Las Pavas, two communities that CPT Colombia accompanies and under normal circumstances we would all still be celebrating.  But as I said earlier these victories have become hard-to-imagine tragedies that could dishearten the happiest soul.