Recent CPTnet stories

CPT INTERNATIONAL REFLECTION: Treasure in Ferguson, Colombia, Palestine, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Turtle Island

Since a St. Louis, Missouri prosecutor and Grand Jury have determined that Police Officer Darren Wilson killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown did not merit a trial, I have been busy tweeting #Ferguson on the Christian Peacemaker Team Twitter account.  Those tweets have been getting a lot of retweets.  We have no people working in Ferguson and I have asked myself why I am inundating the account. 

I think it has to do with the disposability of human life, with the contempt shown to Michael Brown when the authorities left his body in the street for four and a half hours and did not bother interviewing key witnesses to the shooting for weeks (until there was a public outcry.)  That contempt connected directly with our work in Colombia, Iraqi Kurdistan, Palestine, with indigenous communities in North America, and with migrants in Europe.  In all these cases, people in power have deemed the people we work with disposable. 

COLOMBIA: Communities around El Guayabo establish a “Space for Peace and Non-Violent Resistance against Dispossession.”

On 14 November, seventy community members of Guayabo established a space for peace.  The women led the march, flying banners and singing, setting up camp around the house currently occupied by Rodrigo López Henao’s men since the eviction of 29 October 2014.

Since the occupation of the property, López Henao’s  men have destroyed about 100 plantain trees.  The community began replanting the trees with recovered sees on 14 November.

The community intends to remain on the land surrounding the house until their situation is legally resolved and the authorities return their land to them.  Through the below declaration of a space for peace and their commitment to nonviolent acts of resistance they hope to make their situation more visible.

COLOMBIA REFLECTION: The Magdalena

 

 

 

Mary Magdalene is one of the most controversial and mysterious Biblical characters.  Unjustly pegged as a prostitute and temptress by Pope Gregory I, her reputation remained tarnished for around seven centuries before Biblical scholars redeemed her by untangling the three women whose stories Gregory had merged.  Though we know very little about her life, we do know that she was a person of importance to Jesus.  He used his gifts to cast seven demons out of her, and chose her to be one of the first people to see him after the resurrection.  Her story is an interesting one to contemplate as I travel along ‘El Rio Magdalena,’ a beautiful river named after her, that has a similarly tainted reputation.

 

The Magdalena is Colombia’s longest river, and stretches from the most southern tip of the Huila Department* in southern Colombia to the Caribbean Sea.  The river is CPT’s main mode of transportation between Barrancabermeja, the city where we live, and the communities that we accompany.  Its banks are peppered with trees, fishing canoes and water taxis traveling past each other lazily, and children swim in its murky water.  Outsiders may view the present tranquil atmosphere and have difficulty imagining anything else.  Those who have lived along the river’s banks for more than ten years, however, see it differently.

COLOMBIA: Municipal authorities continue to abet seizure of El Guayabo community land

CPTnet
13 November 2014
COLOMBIA: Municipal authorities continue to abet seizure of El Guayabo community land


Puerto Wilches municipal authorities carried out an illegal eviction on 29 October 2014 in El Guayabo, during which riot police accompanied Rodrigo Lopez Henao in seizing Henry Rincon’s house and property.

Within an hour of arriving, 164 riot police had taken control of the house and removed all community members from the property.  Shortly after, unidentified men began to move into the house with suitcases.

They have remained in the house since, accompanied by the police for three days.  On Thursday, 30 October, the men removed a fence and began to chop down trees on the neighbouring farm with police accompaniment.  The community confronted the police about their partiality to Lopez Henao’s men and their illegal actions, and upon orders from their colonel in Barrancabermeja, the police asked the men to rebuild the fence along the original borders.

On 4 November, the attorney general’s office summoned two community members to make a statement against claims from Lopez Henao that they had threatened him and invaded his land.

The community has now built three houses around the property limits of Rincon’s house as part of a self-protection plan in light of the unknown men living in the house.

COLOMBIA: Las Pavas questions collective reparation program. Will Santos government stand up for Las Pavas?

On Wednesday, 17 September the Victims Unit (Unidad de Victimas) and the Colombian Institute for Rural Development (INCODER) visited the Las Pavas community to move the Collective Reparation process forward.  They also investigated violations that the Aportes San Isidro (ASI) palm oil company has committed against the community.  The first was the reinstallation of a gate that prevents Las Pavas community members from traveling on the main road to their farms, forcing them to take a difficult detour through the jungle.  The second was the construction of a house and resettlement of a family on Las Pavas’ land.  The latter is an illegal invasion of state land.

 The Collective Reparation process is a government program offered to communities or organizations as part of its efforts to compensate victims of the civil war.  The Las Pavas case is high profile because they one the 2013 National Peace Prize, so the government chose the community to be one of the first for collective reparation.  In theory, the process is a good one where reparation involves making services available to the community such as psychosocial care, housing, and development projects.  In October 2010, Presidente Santos announced his Shock Plan for land restitution.  He said that for peace to be achieved there needed to be serious measures taken about land redistribution and restitution.  The Las Pavas community was named as a priority case.  

In November of 2012, INCODER declared ‘eminent domain’ on the land of Las Pavas declaring it state land.  If Aportes San Isidro had respected this order, INCODER would then have divided the land and titled it to the families of Las Pavas.  However, powerful economic and political allies of ASI prevented the enforcement of this declaration.  Las Pavas community members have witnessed and documented ASI employees burning down families’ homes, destroying crops, severely beating and firing shots at people, stealing tools and killing livestock.  They have done all of this with full impunity.  The local authorities have arrested no one from the company even though they have received reports of these crimes.

 Two community members putting up a new fence to keep cattle from the new Aportes San Isidro
house from destroying their crops.