Recent CPTnet stories

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: A Christmas Vigil in El Garzal

Vigil at El Garzal

It was a Christmas perhaps more akin to that first one in Bethlehem than the ones I am used to in Canada. No fancy lights—no electricity except for a diesel generator that gets used occasionally at night. No Christmas tree, nor gifts under it. No alcohol. No turkey. And, thankfully, without the cacophony of extremely loud music around our house here in Barrancabermeja, where neighbours set up humongous competing sound systems in front of their houses to celebrate the season.

Our main reason for visiting was to accompany Garzal's twice-displaced leader and pastor, Reverend Salvador Alcántara and his family, so they could spend Christmas with family and loved ones in Garzal. Salvador and his family had to leave the area again last May because of death threats. They miss Garzal very very much! Salvador described the feeling of being back, albeit for only three days, as like being re-born.

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: Something Beautiful in Barranca

CPTnet
13 December 2013
COLOMBIA REFLECTION: Something Beautiful in Barranca

by Hannah Redekop

 

  

CPTers Pierre Shantz, Vania and Hannah Redekop cheering at the Women's World Futsal Championships in Barrancabermaja. 

Barrancabermeja (or Barranca, as the locals call it) perches on the banks of the Magdalena River, one more port along the journey north from the mountains of Neiva to the Caribbean Sea.  She is a small, sleepy oil town that sizzles with tropical sunbeams and an uncivil war tied to the petroleum that pumps under her skin.  

There isn’t much excitement here most days. The city lacks cultural attractions, good entertainment, pulsing night-life—anything at all, really, to warrant a stroll downtown.  But the first week of November proved otherwise.

COLOMBIA: El Guayabo Celebrates!


The small Colombian community of El Guayabo, supported by neighboring communities, resisted an eviction on Tuesday 19 November that Police Inspector Leonel Gutierrez Lagares ordered.  Had it succeeded, the eviction would have displaced the community’s teacher from land that has served as his livelihood for the past twenty-five years.

The 19 November eviction order is the third in a series of attempts to evict the El Guayabo community from the contested land on claims that the community belongs to the guerilla movement.  Regional courts postponed the first two eviction orders that occurred in October, hours after the community filed injunctions.

The community celebrated with tears of joy as the police decided not carry through with the eviction because large numbers of community members were present, including families with children, and a cadre of community lawyers.  However, El Guayabo remains quite anxious about the possible intervention of illegal armed actors.  A community leader referenced the paramilitary presence in the town in 2002 as a source of their fear.  When CPT visited El Guayabo, the leaders spoke of the history of violence in their community and signaled across the street from the church to the place where the paramilitaries had assassinated community members.

CPT Colombia has been following the situation in El Guayabo for the past couple of months through a connection with one of our partners.  We pray for a just outcome from the legal process and for peace in the hearts of the community as they endure a difficult time of uncertainty and threat.

With more volunteers, CPT’s Colombia team could expand its accompaniment work to include other communities like El Guayabo that are choosing to resist economic and political interests trying to drive them off their lands and paramilitary death threats.  You, too, can accompany communities like El Guayabo by giving generously.

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COLOMBIA: Las Pavas wins Colombia's National Peace Prize

Last night, members from the Las Pavas community stood in the spotlight at the National Museum in Bogotá where they won the National Peace Prize. Holding the prize, community leader Misael Payeres, announced, “Our primary hope is in God—that one day we would see justice. We hope is that this prize will continue to plant seeds of peace and reconciliation for all Colombians. That is the biggest prize I ask for all Colombians.”

The three thousand hectares of land on which the farm of Las Pavas is located has been in legal contention for seven years. The community has experienced displacement, eviction, victimization, and today continues to face threats and violent attacks from armed private “security” guards of palm oil company, Aportes San Isisdro.

#GIVINGTUESDAY In 2009, when CPT Colombia first began accompanying the community of Las Pavas, the team had no idea whether the families would ever be able to return to their land, or whether it would ever be able to produce good food again.  Probably no CPTers or Las Pavas community members imagined that they would be standing on a stage receiving the Colombia National Peace Prize in 2013.  In addition to the families' courage and perseverance, international support made huge difference to their struggle.  Internationals picketed the Body Shop, asking that it stop buying palm oil from the corporation that had driven Las Pavas off its land.  Internationals prayed for the people of Las Pavas.  And internationals made generous donations, to help CPT provide accompaniment for the families, who faced continuous violent assaults from thugs hired by the palm oil corporation.  Even with the winning of the prize, this harrassment has not ended.  Please continue to support Las Pavas and the hope and courage that its families represent.

 

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Colombia Reflection: On Going Home

The small farmers of Colombia have been on strike for the past six weeks. This meant that thousands of families and hundreds of communities took to the streets of Colombia, blocking major arteries along national highways and demanding change.  The mobilization took place as a result of empty promises from the Santos government, who have failed to provide agricultural subsidies, create the appropriate economic and social infrastructure, and facilitate a land reform process where Colombian farmers will be favoured over multinational investors.  Their demands also include an end to the Free Trade Agreements with Canada, the United States and the EU which have made it impossible for Colombian farmers to compete in their own national market.

So they shut the country down. Farmers traveled for days and camped out for weeks trying to negotiate with a government who refuses to recognize their human rights. After six weeks of striking, where five people were killed and many more were wounded, the government has agreed to work with various geographical areas individually to tailor resolutions for specific regions.