The situation in Colombia is worsening with every passing day, and is most dramatically illustrated by the increase of massacres in Colombia. Local activists from the Peace In Colombia Action Group (PICAG) have stepped up their efforts to inform Oregonians about the recent US military intervention in Colombia.
- This Friday two Colombians from Putumayo will be speaking at the SEIU Hall. An indigenous woman and a Catholic priest will be giving testimony to the devastation and violence that US sponsored aerial fumigation has caused.
- A Tax Day Vigil was held in Pioneer Square 16 of April to protest US Tax dollars supporting the US militarization of the Andean region.
- Two PICAG members attended a US Colombia organizing conference in Chicago, April 6th thru 8th, learning of the recent political forces changing Colombia.
- Petria Malone from Catholic Worker House of Portland returned from Colombia April 4th on a Witness for Peace Delegation.
- Dignity Village is currently seeking assistance in establishing a sister city relationship with the most infamous and feared homeless camp in Bogota, Colombia.
- Women In Black are holding a Weekly Vigil protesting US intervention in Colombia.
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[NOTE: Stop U.S. aid to Colombia now! Over $1 billion of the money for "Plan Colombia" that is funded by the U.S. goes to the Colombian military. The Colombian military has been implicated
time and time again in paramilitary massacres such as the one in Naya. The U.S. and U.S. taxpayers are accessories to what happened in Naya. Contact your elected representatives and demand that U.S. get out of Colombia now! - Dennis Grammenos at firstname.lastname@example.org]
EFE NEWS [Spain]
Tuesday, 24 April 2001
Another death-squad massacre in Cauca
BOGOTA -- Alleged Colombian paramilitaries killed six people in two separate attacks in Mondomo, a small village in the southwestern Cauca province, officials said on Monday.
A group of armed men, dressed in military uniforms, initially killed four peasants in a rural area known as La Alita and then later killed two more in a nearby village, officials said.
During Holy Week in the Naya region, the border between the Valle and Cauca provinces, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a paramilitary group that has unleashed a war to the death against the guerrillas, killed 40 peasants and settlers, officials said.
The massacres in Naya caused more than 3,000 people to abandon their plots of land and relocate in urban areas.
Copyright 2001 EFE News
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Nizkor Int. Human Rights Team, Derechos Human Rights, Serpaj Europe Information
19 Apr 01
THE NUMBER OF VICTIMS OF THE NAYA MASSACRE AMOUNTS TO MORE THAN 130, THOUGH THE METHOD USED BY THE PARAMILITARIES MAKES IT POSSIBLE FOR THE MILITARY TO AFFIRM THAT ONLY 17 CORPSES HAVE BEEN RECOVERED.
After their sinister rampage of twelve localities over Easter, the paramilitaries were toasting with champagne. There were people who were miraculously saved. In Timba (Cauca), widows and orphans are waiting for someone to go to look for the bodies of those that didn't survive.
The dusty streets of Timba are in mourning. The people wander with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness. Widows and orphans from the 'caravan of death' rampage that took place in the municipalities of the region of El Naya weep with anger over the brutal way in which the paramilitaries killed the residents, tearing them apart, and at their inability to return to their lands.
Rufina Yule came from Suarez (Cauca) to find out on the death of her husband, Jorge Valencia, a day labourer with whom she had six children. She knows that he was killed in Rio Mina, one of the twelve municipalities where the Bloque Farallones of the Autodefensas [United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia] arrived brandishing knives and firing rifles Galil type at anyone they came across. Doris does not want to know anything, she does not want to hear from anyone. She and her stick to one of the army vehicles in Timba and she barrages an official with questions; he also feels impotent before this drama. "When are they going to collect what remains of my husband? Who do I tell to bring him? Why don't they send helicopters and get them?"
The two women are part of a group of 130 people that were forcibly displaced last Thursday; they have come to Timba where they are living in the town's school and surviving off of the solidarity of the town and the moral support of Father Jorge Lopez. Another 370 displaced people have found themselves in Santander de Quilichao (Cauca), Buenaventura and Jamundi, in the valley of Cauca.
ACROSS 25 LOCALITIES.
In the school, the drama continues. Everyone relates a different story, but all agree that more than 200 paramilitaries burst in on the Monday of Easter week, that there are more than 100 dead and that the assassins announced that they had come to stay in the 25 localities of the Cauca and the valley.
Jose Leandro Guetio, 37 years old, remembers that on the Tuesday of Easter week in the locality of El Sedal, they killed a young woman. "Then, they went on spilling blood in Patio Bonito, La Mina, Rio Mina, Altoserena, Aguapanela, La Paz, El Placer, El Porvenir, La Silvia, Palosolo, El Saltillo and El Playon, among other localities. "I saw them when I came down from La Silvia. They asked if we had seen guerrillas and we said no. Then they let us go on and now we are waiting for the government to help us." Added Jose Leandro, an indigenous paez that is organising the rest of the victims, Afrocolombians and settlers.
Leocadio Dagua, one of the 30 members of the evangelical church Missionaries of the New Jerusalem, also encountered the paramilitaries that same Tuesday. They interrogated him in La Fatigosa. They made him sit on the floor and sentenced him: "All that is left is to shoot you. You look like a guerrilla man."
Leocadio took a deep breath upon hearing the sentence to death. He stood up from the floor to wait bravely for his death and, before the shot was to be fired, prayed aloud from the Bible so that they would hear: "In this moment I cover myself with the blood of Christ." He was lucky. One of the paramilitaries who detained the rest of the evangelicals gave the order to move on.
MAN HACKED TO PIECES
Pedro Diaz, another that managed to escape the bloodshed, also remembers the incident vividly. "A neighbour attacked a paramilitary man that was going to shoot him and grabbed the weapon, with such bad luck that he took the gun and didn't know how to fire it. They took him, tied him, cut him open with a mechanical saw and chopped him up." On Wednesday, when the 'caravan of death' finally concluded, they returned to El Playon, near the house of Saul Dagua, and raised a toast saying "Tell the guerrilla that Bocanegra passed by here". But they didn't stop at Buenaventura. They returned to the mountains of the Western Cordillera, along the same route as the terrified fishermen fled. There are 4,500 people trapped in the zone. They run the risk of death in the crossfire between the AUC and the guerrillas. The others swell the river of displaced people that have taken over the school in Timba, while waiting for someone to go and collect the pieces of the bodies that remain in the region.
OMBUDSMAN BLAMES THE STATE
The National Ombusman, Eduardo Cifuentes, placed responsibility for the massacre that took place during Easter week by paramilitary forces in El Cauca on the state. "The massacre was announced," he stated, and pointed out that the peasants of Alto Naya had been clamouring for official protection since December. "When one is presented with a situation of this nature, a massacre of people who have been displaced, obviously there is a serious shortcoming in the action of the state and for this reason we demand a permanent and active presence of all the institutions of El Cauca." On his part, the Attorney Alfonso Gomez said that there still is no exact figure for the dead after the massacre in El Naya "because we have not been able to reach the area"; he demanded that indifference in the face of such facts cease.
[Source: El Espectador - By: Enrique Rivas Gordillo - 18Apr01.
Documentation Note: Text translated into English from its original Spanish version by Equipo Nizkor, 19Apr01]
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Peace In Colombia Action Group
"Current US plans risk providing a tragic and bitter ending to years of dangerous, dedicated efforts to persuade Colombia's entrenched opponents to start talking to each other. For there must not be any mistaken ideas about the consequences for Colombia if US military assistance ... tips Colombia over the edge into full-scale civil war. Once unleashed, that war will lead to a humanitarian disaster on a scale not yet seen on this continent."
-Ana Carrigan, The Irish Times
Why Colombia ?
Colombia is the site of a 50- year-old civil war between the government and leftist guerilla groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). The war has taken a devastating toll, with an estimated 35,000 dead and 2 million displaced in the last decade. There were 402 reported massacres in 1999--more than one massacre per day. Over 80% of the killings and human rights abuses are committed by Paramilitary forces allied with the Colombian army. The vast majority of victims are not combatants but civilians.
Although the government and rebels are negotiating, the peace process is continually undermined by military and paramilitaries. There will be no peace until the underlying causes of the war--poverty and oppression--are addressed. Just 3% of Colombia's population controls 70% of the arable land.
"Plan Colombia" is a US-sponsored plan to end the fighting through a militarized "solution" to the drug trade. In July 2000, the Congress approved $1.3 billion in military aid to Colombia over the next biennium, making Colombia the 3rd recipient of US military aid world-wide. This aid comes largely in the form of US advisors and US-made equipment, adding nothing to Colombia's economy.
The Congress placed "human rights conditions" on aid to the Colombian military-well-known to have the worst human rights record in the hemisphere--but gave the President the ability to waive those conditions, which President Clinton did.
Although both governments officially deny this, the paramilitary death squads have close ties to both the Colombian military and US "advisors." The 1997 torture and massacre of 49 people in the village of Mararipan was planned by a Colombian Army colonel who was trained by American Green Berets.
The "War on Drugs"
Military aid to Colombia passed under the pretext of the "war on drugs." In fact, there is not war on drugs in Colombia-the rebel groups, the army, and especially the paramilitaries are heavily involved in drug trafficking to finance their operations. US government propaganda has whipped up hysteria about "narco-guerillas," without mentioning Colombia's "narco-paramilitaries," who will actually be receiving aid from the US.
During 25 years of American "drug eradication" efforts, Colombian drug production has increased more than five-fold. Colombia now supplies virtually all of the cocaine coming into this country, and is a major source of heroin as well. It is becoming increasingly clear that the "war on drugs" is a pretext for all-out US involvement in a counter-insurgency campaign of the type that failed so spectacularly in Vietnam.
Labor is a major target in Colombia's "dirty war." More than half of all union leaders assassinated in the world over the past year were Colombians; almost all of these murders were committed by the paramilitaries. With new "free trade" agreements being planned for South America, unions will remain a target for the death squads.
The centerpiece of the US "drug eradication" program in Colombia has been aerial fumigation of coca fields, using US-supplied Sikorsky Blackhawk helicopters and herbicides manufactured by Monsanto. Colombian peasant's' food crops are sprayed and killed along with the coca, leaving them even more dependent on drug cultivation for their survival. Among the US "assistance" to Colombian are plans to develop a genetically-engineered strain of the fusarium fungus that will attack coca plants; it is already known that this same strain will kill yams, a staple food crop. Fumigation kills soil organisms and threatens the survival of Colombia's rainforest ecosystem, one of the most diverse in the world.
Indigenous Survival on the Line
Indigenous Colombians and Afro-Colombians are bearing the brunt of the conflict in their homeland. It is estimated that nearly 80 percent of the internal refugees in Colombia are Afro-Colombians. Western corporations seeking to exploit indigenous land are among the biggest supporters of "Plan Colombia." Occidental Petroleum, which plans to drill for oil on the ancestral land of the U'wa people, testified to Congress that they could not operate without the protection of the Colombian military.
Our Mission Statement
The purpose of Peace In Colombia Action Group is to promote a lasting peace for Colombia, founded on respect for human rights and social, economic and environmental justice. Peace In Colombia Action Group will campaign to align US policy with these goals. Peace in Colombia Action Group opposes US military support for any party in the conflict, whether by aid, training or intervention.
Join Us !
PICAG meets on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of each month, at PSU. (Call to confirm meeting room and time.)
Peace In Colombia Action Group
c/o Portland Central America Solidarity Committee
3536 SE 26th Avenue
Portland, OR 97202
PCASC, our financial sponsor, is a 501?(4) Corporation--Donations are not tax-exempt.
Resources on Colombia
Amnesty International USA http://www.amnestyusa.org/campaigns/colombia
Colombia Report http://ww.colombiareprot.org
Colombia Support Network http://www.colombiasupport.net
Colombina Labor Monitor http://www.prairienet.org/clm
Human Rights Watch http://ww.hrw.ort/campaigns/colombia
Rainforest Action Network http://ww.ran.org
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Portlanders Hold Downtown Vigil to Protest Taxes for War
April 18, 2001
By Shannon Floyd
At 5:00 p.m. on Tax Day, April 16th, the Peace in Colombia Action Group joined with other peace activist groups on the sidewalks near Pioneer Courthouse Square to protest the use of U.S. tax dollars for military intervention in Colombia. About 80 participants turned out, ranging in age from 4 to 64 years old, and all agreed that tax money from U.S. citizens should be spent on education, drug treatment, and health care, and not on Plan Colombia. The $1.3 billion military aid package to the government of Colombia works out to an unprecedented $2 million a day, money that makes possible environmentally destructive aerial fumigation and to support a government which has been documented as having large numbers of human rights violations.
Speakers at the event included Shannon Floyd, a steering committee member of the nationwide Colombia Action Network and member of the Portland-based Peace in Colombia Action Group, who spoke about the groups' reasons for opposition to Plan Colombia. "The war in Colombia has been ongoing for decades and will not be improved by the addition of more money for guns, soldiers and aerial fumigation," Floyd said. "We also feel that the method of aerial fumigation to destroy coca fields in Colombia is a form of chemical warfare that is killing all kinds of plants, leaving people sick, and causing long-lasting scars to the region's soil and water supply. We ask Congress to oppose U.S. military intervention in Colombia and to oppose the additional $730 million that President Bush has included for this war in his 2002 budget."
Petria Malone, who traveled to Colombia in March as part of a 100-member Witness for Peace Delegation, spoke of her travels through rural Colombia, where political violence is a constant danger, and where 1 in 4 people has known the terror of displacement, kidnapping or murder. Despite the war, she found the people warm and positive about their country. "I have done quite a bit of work with teenagers and I know it is not unusual for them to dream about traveling, moving somewhere new. I was so amazed, that of all the teenagers I spoke to in Colombia, not one said they wanted to leave their home. What they wish for is to be able to live and work their land in peace," said Malone.
J.P. Cupp spoke on behalf of Dignity Village, the Portland homeless community, about the shared difficulties of those without homes or resources in Colombia and in the U.S. Dignity Village is investigating ways to connect with and support the residents of El Cartucho, a refugee camp in Bogota, and may create a sister-city relationship with them.
Martin Gonzales, a long-time activist and member of the American Friends Service Committee, spoke about the harassment and violence undergone by labor leaders in Colombia. Over half of the murders of labor leaders in the world occur in Colombia, a country with 40 million inhabitants.
The final speaker was Joanna of the Oregon Community for War Tax Resistance. She explained why members of her group withhold some or all of their federal taxes, saying: "Almost half of our tax monies go to fund military actions such as Plan Colombia and that's way too much. We are making the choice to spend this money on constructive social action instead of on war." The group then presented checks to Dignity Village and to the Peace in Colombia Action Group.
Other participating groups included Peace and Justice Works, who gave the public a chance to vote their governmental priorities with a Penny Poll, ten pennies and 5 jars representing services they wished to fund. As it has in past years, the poll showed heavy public support for human services and environmental protections, and little support for military spending. The November Coalition and Mothers Against Mandatory Minimums offered materials about the growth of for-profit prisons, the destruction of families, and other abuses of the Drug War. Finally, the group watched a short street theater piece in which armed soldiers, paid by an American General, rounded up Colombian campesinos (dressed in robes of red, yellow and blue, the colors of the Colombian flag) at the point of cardboard rifles, marked with U.S. dollar signs.
Following the downtown event, the activist group marched with signs and costumes around Pioneer Courthouse Square and down the bus mall to the main post office, where they continued to pass out flyers and gather petition signatures until sundown. The Peace in Colombia Action Group plans more actions hoping to raise public consciousness regarding U.S. military intervention in Colombia.
Plan Colombia (which is now being called the Andean Initiative to include other countries in the region) was passed in July 2000, when the U.S. Congress and President Clinton agreed to
send $1.3 billion over the next two years to the Colombian government. Approximately 80 percent of this money will go directly to military aid, or is being provided as military equipment, such as Blackhawk helicopters and the herbicides that are sprayed from them. Over 70,000 acres of coca and other, legal, crops have been destroyed so far, leaving campesinos to starve. As of yet, the 20 percent of the money destined for non-military use, such as alternative crop development, has not arrived.
Despite widespread concern in the Andean region, in the European Union (which voted almost unanimously against the implementation of Plan Colombia), and here in the U.S. about the unprecedented amount of money already being sent and about the military uses to which the money will be put, the Bush administration hopes to increase this package by $730 million. Opponents of Plan Colombia include four of Oregon's U.S. Representatives, who voted against Plan Colombia (only Rep. Greg Walden voted in favor); and Senator Paul Wellstone of Minnesota, who was accidentally sprayed with herbicide on a fact-finding trip to Colombia.
The Peace in Colombia Action Group, which was successful in turning out 400 people in February of this year for a Portland Teach-In on the situation in Colombia, is working to halt U.S. military intervention in Colombia and the Andean region. PICAG joins with national groups such as the Colombia Action Network and the Colombia Human Rights Network to promote long-lasting peace in Colombia, founded on respect for human rights, and social, environmental and economic justice.
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Nothing is more practical than finding God.
That is, falling in love in a quite absolute and final way.
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
What you will do with your mornings,
How you will spend your weekends,
What you will read,
Who you will know,
What breaks your heart,
What amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love,
Stay in love, and
It will decide everything.
~Pedro Arrupe, S.J.
This is an appeal. It is an appeal to your heart and to your financial resources. I write this to request your support as I journey to Colombia with Witness for Peace, March 11-23rd, 2001. I appeal to you for prayer, financial support, speaking opportunities upon my return, and in applying pressure on our elected government officials.
In my growing commitment to nonviolence, I have found the eighteen-inch gap between head and heart to be the longest, most powerful, and arduous journey. In this, I have found peace which passes all understanding, a peace which brings healing and wholeness. It is my work for the past tree years in becoming educated on the reality of the U.S. Army School of Americas (SOA) and in attempts to close down this school that I was introduced to the civil struggles in Colombia. Many of the officers trained at the SOA since 1947 are from Colombia. I wish to go to Colombia to listen deeply, to feel passionately, and to repent for the ways in which the U.S. government has given priority to profits over people and care of our earth.
Colombia has endured almost four decades of brutal armed conflict between the national army, leftist guerrilla movements, and right-wing paramilitary forces. Overwhelmingly, the victims of the conflict have been civilians. Into this situation, under the guise of fighting the "war on drugs," the U.S. government in July of 2000 voted to send over $1.3 billion in primarily military aid to Colombia. Thus far, this money has gone directly into the hands of U.S. war machine corporations in the provision of 30 Blackhawk helicopters ($360 million to Connecticut based Sikorsky Aircraft Industries) and 22 Hue helicopters ($66 million to Texas based Bell Helicopter) and into the hiring of retired U.S. military advisors. Money has also gone into efforts to fumigate coca crops and has resulted on most occasions in completely destroying meager food crops, gardens, medicinal and sacred plants, fish hatcheries, and water reserves.
This delegation is a response to the U.S. aid package. On this delegation one hundred U.S. citizens will meet with a wide range of experts and activists to hear their analysis of U.S. policy in Colombia. (Five of us are from Oregon!) We will learn about the economic roots of Colombia's conflict and hear testimonies of displaced people and others directly affected by the conflict. We will travel to areas outside of Bogota to see first-hand the impact of U.S. military assistance and gather the tools and skills needed to work on changing U.S. policy upon our return to the U.S. Mostly, we will stand, sit, and pray in solidarity with the people. Our presence will hopefully give strength to the people and remind them that there are people of the world concerned.
Colombia is enduring the worst human rights crisis in the hemisphere today. Some 3,000 civilians die of actions related to political violence every year; one out of four Colombian families has lost a member due to violence. Since 1985, 1.5 million people have been displaced, approximately 288,000 last year alone.
I ask for your prayer for the people of Colombia. I ask for prayer especially from March 11-23 for the delegation and for the work this will enable us to do upon our return. I ask for prayer for the American people, that we may look more deeply into our communion with people of foreign lands, seek alternative news sources, and become critical of U.S. foreign policy.
We will host a night of blessing on March 9th from 7-8 p.m. at our home. Please come to be with me as I prepare for this journey. Truly, it is the community of care that I wish to carry with me.
Donations may be sent to the Portland Catholic Worker, 2434 N. Farragut, Portland, OR 97217 (made out to the "Portland Catholic Worker"). I have already been humbled by financial response. Cost of the delegation will be $2000.
I would very much like to begin a schedule of speaking opportunities upon my return please call if you have speaking engagement ideas. (503-285-1842)
Thank-you & I will carry your blessings with me,
"Here the people are very poor, there is no employment and the paramilitaries are offering wages starting at $200 a month and then giving out $1500 for every guerrilla killed, $2500 if he is a guerrilla commander", Commandante Jorge Maldonado, Self Defense Forces of Colombia.
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"Women in Black" are holding a Weekly Vigil on Wednesday at Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland from 12:00 Noon until 1:00 p.m.
Weekly Vigil to Protest US Military Aid for Colombia
We will stand in Silent Vigil to protest US military aid for Colombia whether by supplying weapons, military training or intervention; to protest "Plan Colombia", a plan to fight a drug war which has the U.S. government sending $1.3 billion in military aid to Colombia - aid which has already caused an escalation in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands and created over 2 million refugees; to protest the additional $730 million dollars of funding currently before Congress; to protest Plan Colombia's crop-eradication program that is spraying hundreds of square miles in Colombia with tons of herbicide causing disastrous effects on the Amazon basin, its people, food crops, livestock and fish. The United States should help Colombians in their hour of need not with military aid, but by calling an immediate end to aerial fumigation, offering treatment for drug addiction in the U.S., and providing humanitarian assistance for the displaced.
Women in Black is an international peace network. Women in Black is not an organization, but a means of mobilization and a formula for action. Women in Black vigils were started in Israel in 1988 by women protesting against Israel's Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It was they who established the characteristic form of action, of mainly silent vigils, by women standing alone as women, wearing black, in public places, at regularly repeated times. There are Women in Black groups now in the United States, England, Italy, Spain, Azerbaijan and in FR Yugoslavia, where women in Belgrade have stood in weekly vigils since 1991 to protest war and the Serbian regime's policies of nationalist aggression.
The Women in Black stand in silent vigil to protest war, rape as a tool of war, ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses all over the world. We are silent because mere words cannot express the tragedy that wars and hatred bring. We refuse to add to the cacophony of empty statements that are spoken with the best intentions yet may be erased or go unheard under a passing ambulance or the wound of a bomb exploding nearby. Our silence is visible. We invite women to stand with us, reflect about themselves and women who have been raped, tortured or killed, women who have disappeared, whose loved ones have disappeared or have been killed, who were violently forced to leave their homes and loose everything. We wear black as a symbol to mourn for all victims of war, to mourn the destruction of people, nature and the fabric of life.
This vigil began on March 21, 2001. For more information contact Women's International League For Peace and Freedom (WILPF) at 503-224-5190 or 503-230-2835.
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The Portland Alliance, May Issue, 2001
The Forces Changing Colombia
By Kim Alphandary
The founding Conference for the Colombian Action Network took place in Chicago this weekend, establishing a new alliance of organizations working to change US policy toward Colombia. Foremost, they will strive to provide an answer to an urgent plea given by their keynote speaker Jose Fernando Ramirez, who is asking for help in the form of accompaniment.
Jose Fernando Ramirez is a member of the Patriotic Union (UP)*, a member of the Federation of Oil Workers (USO), the Central Organization of Colombian Workers (CUT) and very active in many of the struggles around the country. In this story I will attempt to present the many ideas that Fernando shared during the conference. His story is one of deep dedication, of a struggle for social change with a vision for peace and justice for Colombia.
In his opening statements Fernando communicated the passion of the new social movement that is sweeping Latin America, the Bolivarian Movement, named after the South American independence hero, Simon Bolivar.
"As a Colombian, a Latin American, and as a Bolivarian, I feel that it is necessary to say that the spirit of Simon Bolivar is not only with us in this room today, but in the fields and in the countryside of Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Latin America. Simon Bolivar's horse is running on, carrying with it the spirit of peace."
Simon Bolivar was one of South America's greatest generals. Commanding all the armies against the Spaniards, he won independence for 'Greater Colombia', a union of today's Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Panama. He became Greater Colombia's first president in 1819 and is referred to as The Liberator, 'the George Washington of South America'.
The Bolivarian dream of maintaining a United Greater Colombia has existed for some 200 years, passing through times of revival and times of obscurity. This dream represents the collective history and ideology of many South American Nations.
The largest and most powerful resurgence has taken place recently in Venezuela, now officially renamed the 'Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela'. President Hugo Chavez Frias founded the Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement in 1982 and ten years later led two unsuccessful coups. Running on the Bolivarian Platform, Chavez went on to win the November 1998 Presidential Elections by the largest majority in four decades. He has been outspoken about the need to redirect benefits earned from the vast oil fields away from the multinationals towards the 80% of Venezuelans who live in poverty. He has recently revitalized OPEC and cooperation between member nations, successfully raising the cost of oil dramatically.
At a recent conference of Andean Pact nations, Chavez pushed for the development of a united Latin America. Fernando supports Chavez's call for Latin Americans to work together to protect their fragile economies and to limit the harmful impact of multinationals in the region.
"Venezuelan President Chavez has made a very important proposal: to unite Greater Colombia and create a Bolivarian Union. A powerful Union that will enable us to negotiate with international powers on a level playing field", explains Fernando, "allowing us to confront the violent military assault that has been declared upon the people of Latin America."
"We are going to create a country where social justice exists, with a political economy that takes the interests of the Colombian people into account. A political economy where the peasants of Colombia will never again be forced to cultivate illicit crops."
The escalation of US intervention into Colombia marks a new phase in the crisis in Latin America. Colombia's mammoth anti-drug campaign, backed by more than $1 billion in US military aid, is killing fields of coca as well as the legal crops of farmers. Since December, three fumigation flights have occurred almost daily over farming communities in the Putumayo region destroying hundreds of acres of coca.
"The military plans developed by Plan Colombia are a counter-insurgency strategy. The fact that coca cultivation has not diminished but increased illustrates this. All this fumigating has been for nothing. Millions and millions of dollars have been spent, money that could have been invested in agrarian development, social projects, hospitals and schools, but instead it has served to broaden the war."
Coca farmers and other civilians have fled the advance of army troops backed by attack helicopters, herbicide-spewing planes, and a new death squad incursion, placing the lives of thousands at risk.
"Some peasants have fled, but most have decided to stay, to defend their lives and fight for their land," Fernando explains. "This is what you call the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which is a popular army. In the 1960's the FARC consisted of eighty families, and now they have become a very powerful army. They have a presence throughout Colombia. They have their own economy and are treated like a State. They are respected and loved! Many sectors of society sympathize with their struggle."
The struggle to build a genuine independent alternative that can promote national sovereignty, social justice, and establish a Latin American federation, is more urgent than ever; Bolivar's dream is awakening. The FARC has traditionally aligned themselves with Soviet philosophies. But on April 30, 2000 they held an inauguration, officially adopting the Bolivarian Movement, choosing to join a new political party that can potentially unite very diverse factors of the Colombian society.
The depth and influence of the Bolivarian Moment in Colombia is unknown because the party must function on a completely clandestine level. In the 1980's the FARC signed a peace agreement, laid down their arms and created the UP, which was then totally destroyed because death squads systematically assassinated over 2,000 of their members.
"Venezuela has proposed that plans be laid to hold a meeting where Colombians can consider joining a Bolivarian Union. The Insurgency, the FARC, the ELN and many urban movements would bring proposals with the purpose of outlining the basic principles that unite the various factions."
The Bolivarian Movement presents an ideology that is neither left nor right but rooted in the concept of national sovereignty: arisen largely in reaction to US economic and military domination of the region. This model of democracy is based on tolerance and respect for the opinions of others, one that guarantees social justice, ethical management of the public domain, the peaceful resolution of conflicts and a government where all of civil society participates. For the exploited masses this represents an end to hunger and political exclusion.
Northern Colombia is another part of the country acutely affected by the escalation of violence. Union leaders and labor activists, in particular, have been targets of violence. The oil industry is apparently the force behind the violence in this region.
"The petroleum industry is controlled by multinationals, as is the violence," Fernando explains. "The Colombian representative for the Multinational Petroleum Industries, Alejandro Martinez, officially announced to the Colombian government that multi-nationals were ready to bankroll two counter-insurgency battalions in Colombia, 10,000 men in each battalion."
Fernando asks rhetorically, "Why is the oil infrastructure a target of the insurgency?" He continues, "It is a military objective because Ecopetroleum and British Petroleum finance the war."
In the midst of the most serious human rights crisis in the Western Hemisphere, Union workers in the oil industry have continually sought to develop avenues for establishing peace in the region.
"We as oil workers sponsored an 'Assembly for Peace' event in 1996, where we presented a proposal to the government and insurgency movements, that the oil infrastructure be removed from the war. A proposal that would protect our natural resources and the environment," Fernando says. "A video was taken during this meeting by British Petroleum and handed over to the Colombian Army. And then, one by one, every leader that attended that meeting was assassinated."
Barrancabermeja, the petrol capital, is now known as Colombia's Sarajevo. Last year the Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), an 8,000 strong right-wing paramilitary army has surrounded the city and threatens to completely take it over.
"Between January and April of this year, Barrancabermeja experienced more than 170 murders, committed with the complete complicity of the Colombian government. This is a place where Colombian military personnel climb out of their tanks, forgetting to take off the insignia of the AUC. The population sees this, and for this reason the Colombian Police and Military have no credibility, no respect. These are the conditions of impunity that they operate in, and in which we live."
The CUT is the largest federation of Unions in Colombia with more than 800,000 affiliate organizations. Since 1986 CUT members have suffered some 3,000 assassinations, with the most recent member being killed was 15 days ago. As a member of this Union, Fernando believes that the only reason he and others are still alive is because of the accompaniment offered by Peace Brigades International, JustaPaz and others.
"This is why we are asking you for immediate assistance in bringing a larger international presence to Colombia. We don't belong to an armed organization. We are honest workers, committed to building the country of our dreams. And we hope that in the not too distant future we will be able to say that Colombia has found a solution to the armed and social conflict that we have been surviving in."
"This is only the first step in a thousand-mile journey, where we will continue to struggle for peace in Colombia."
* All acronyms are giving in Spanish.
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** ANNOUNCING Speakers from the Colombian Amazon **
"COLOMBIA: Indigenous Rights, Fumigations & Violence"
Friday, April 27, 2001
7:30pm to 9:00pm
3536 SE 26th Avenue
(Just South of Powell)
** Peace in Colombia Action Group is honored to present two speakers from the Colombian Amazon, who will be informing us about the tremendous threat that aerial fumigations have posed to indigenous communities and their environment. Communities are being displaced, experiencing adverse health problems and food sources are being destroyed.
Please keep in mind that the people coming to speak here do so at the risk of being targeted by armed actors. The degree to which their identities can remain anonymous during this tour will reduce the risk of reprisals upon their return to Colombia.
- An indigenous leader of the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon (OPIAC). Ms. ? represents 58 indigenous peoples from six states in the Colombian Amazon. Aerial fumigation efforts to eradicate coca are primarily focused in the Amazon region. Since fumigation began in earnest in southern Colombia, indigenous communities have been forcefully displaced from their territories, suffered increased human rights violations, experienced adverse health effects, and endured the contamination of their water supplies and destruction of their food sources and traditional medicinal gardens. Ms. ? will speak of these abuses and OPIAC's efforts to protect affected communities and to work with the government and civil society towards peace and sustainable alternative economic development.
- A Pastor and local Catholic Relief Services partner. Father ? is the director of PROPIC (Integral Community Development Program), and a CRS local partner addressing the needs of the marginalized community in this besieged diocese of Mocoa-Sibundoy. Putumayo is one of the more violent regions of the country and a region targeted for Plan Colombia. Fr. ? and his parish have experienced first hand the effect of fumigation and the increasing tension associated with the Colombian government's southern initiative.
** Sponsored by
Speakers will be accompained by Betsy Boatner from Amazon Alliance For Indigenous and Traditional Peoples of the Amazon Basin and Carlos Julio Sanchez, US Coordinator: In Solidarity with Colombia, Catholic Relief Services.
** Presented by
Peace In Colombia Action Group
3536 SE 26th Avenue
Portland, OR 97202
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TO THE RESIDENTS OF EL CARTUCHO, AND FOR ALL WHO HAVE DECENT SYMPATHY
A PROPOSAL TO CONSIDER:
Camp Dignity of Portland, Oregon can find Soldarity with it's Sister City - EL CARTUCHO in Bogota, Colombia, south America.
This would be a symbol of support from all our homeless brothers and sisters in the north, many of which have to sleep outside in the cold every night - to their homeless CARTUCHERO brothers and sisters down south, people that face starvation, disease without any medical care death, rape, and torture at the hands of the United States Military's sponsored death squads. There are 40 million people in Columbia, South America, and 36 million of them live in poverty. EL CARTUCHO is just one example of the terrible repression of the poor, made possible by the United States "Plan Colombia". There may be enough congressmen and congresswomen in the US House of Representatives to block additional aid for Plan Colombia. We all need to lobby the congress to do just that.
The CARTUCHEROS are dressed in rags, blankets, and torn clothes. Their lot in life is that of a homeless person here, only many times worse. But they do live in a homeless camp just like Camp Dignity, and we can honor their struggle, and make it our struggle, to block Plan Columbia and to block making war on the poorest 36 million Colombians.
CAMP DIGNITY IS EL CARTUCHO! TO BE POOR AND HOMELESS MUST NOT BE MADE A CRIME! HUMAN RIGHTS MUST BE ASSURED DOWN THERE AND UP HERE! THE STRUGGLE OF THE POOR AND DISENFRANCHISED IS EVERYWHERE! FROM A HUMBLE START AT CAMP DIGNITY, WE CAN START THE FIGHT FOR CLASS EQUALITY AND TRUE DEMOCRACY! ALL FROM JUST A SIMPLE CONCEPT -
EL CARTUCHO, COLUMBIA, SOUTH AMERICA
SISTER CITY OF
CAMP DIGNITY, PORTLAND, OREGON, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
THE HOMELESS OF OREGON AND COLUMBIA MUST BE TREATED WITH RESPECT. CAMP DIGNITY RESIDENTS MUST NOT BE EVICTED BY THE CITY OF PORTLAND, RATHER, MUST BE ALLOWED TO PROSPER. THE UNITED STATES MUST NOT MAKE WAR ON THE HOMELESS OF COLUMBIA, SOUTH AMERICA. THESE EVENTS ARE CONNECTED, AS ALL OF THE POOR AND DISENFRANCHISED PEOPLES OF THE WORLD SHARE OPRESSION BY THOSE WHO WOULD TAKE ALL.
PLEASE TAKE TIME TO READ THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE ON EL CARTUCHO, A HOMELESS CAMP IN BOGOTA, COLUMBIA, SOUTH AMERICA.
Wednesday, 1 March 2000
Ragged Beggars Riot Over Bogota Neighborhood Plan
BOGOTA -- Hundreds of beggars clad in rags clashed with riot police on Wednesday night to try to stave off their eviction from a dilapidated neighborhood in downtown Bogota near the presidential palace, police said. At least 15 police officers, journalists and passersby were injured as the mob of homeless people and garbage recyclers, wrapped in blankets and torn clothes, blocked one of the capital's main streets, torched a passing car, and began hurling rocks and gasoline bombs. Some 500 police, armed with plastic shields, fired tear gas and high-pressure jets from water cannon as they fought running battles with the protesters for more than two hours. Dramatic television images showed flames and smoke billowing from piles of tires scattered across the four-lane highway that runs north and south through the capital. The area where the clashes took place is about three blocks from the ornate Casa de Narino presidential palace. Many of the buildings in the dirt-poor neighborhood are colonial homes fallen into disrepair. Hundreds of the homeless have flocked to the neighborhood for years in search of shelter. They use the area for recycling trash. Bogota City Hall has vowed to evict the beggars from the area so the houses can be demolished to make way for modern apartment buildings and businesses.
Copyright 2000 Reuters
[NOTE: What this article neglects to mention is that the neighborhood, El Cartucho, is a refuge for thousands of Bogota's homeless and marginalized. These people are treated like rats by the police and they are subjected to "social cleansing". This involves off-duty police-officers earning extra money from local businessmen to kidnap and execute Cartucheros. Thousands of Cartucheros have perished, victims of this practice. Especially vulnerable are the children, some as young as six that are often sexually abused by their tormentors before being beheaded and buried in mass graves. - Dennis Grammenos at email@example.com]
CAMP DIGNITY, PORTLAND, OREGON, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Located in Northwest Portland. Under the 405 bridge, on the corner of NW 17th and NW Savier.
They have an info phone line 503-223-3790.
Camp Dignity email: firstname.lastname@example.org and web-site: www.outofthedoorways.org
Jack Tafari email@example.com
Tim Brown firstname.lastname@example.org