|December 2006 - Delegation to Colombia|
"We have always said, and in that we are clear, that until this very day we are resisting. And our work is to continue resisting and defending our rights. We don't know until when, because the truth we've lived in our story is this: today we are here talking; tomorrow we may be dead. Today we are here in San José de Apartadó; tomorrow the majority of people here could be displaced because of a massacre."
~ Luis Eduardo Guerra, co-founder of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, Colombia -- murdered 2/22/05
When 40 armed men came to the Colombian Peace Community of San José de Apartadó on September 25, they came with a list of community leaders they were prepared to kill. The people of Apartadó took the threat seriously -- just a year and a half earlier, the Colombian military, under the leadership of an officer trained at the U.S. Army's School of the Americas, had massacred eight community members, including three young children and one of the community's founders, Luis Eduardo Guerra, who some of you may have met when he came to the United States to talk about the struggle for peace. Because they refuse to cooperate with any of the armed factions in Colombia's civil war or to give their land over to logging, mining, or oil palm companies, the people of the peace community live under constant death threats.
One thing stopped the gunmen, members of a right wing death squad connected to the Colombian army, from carrying out another massacre in San José de Apartadó this September -- the presence of watchful eyes from the outside world. When the death squad found out that "gringo" human rights activists were in the area, they left, threatening to come back again when the people were alone.
This December I hope to co-lead a School of the Americas Watch/Witness for Peace delegation to San José de Apartadó and another threatened community nearby -- we want to let the brave people of these communities know that they do not stand alone, and let the people who threaten them know that the world is watching. We will document their dreams, their work, their suffering, and bring those stories home to help people in North America understand the human dimensions of Colombia's brutal war.
We need YOUR help to make this delegation happen. What can you do?
Thank you for your compassion and solidarity.
peace and light,
School of the Americas Watch/Witness for Peace New England Delegation to ...
December 1-13, 2006
Economic violence and military violence in Colombia are closely linked. Countless small farmers have been forced off their land to make way for industrial farming, mining, logging, oil drilling, and hydro-electric dams. A new Free Trade Agreement between the U.S. and Colombia is likely to increase the economic pressures that drive Colombia's civil war by making it harder for small farmers to make a living and increasing the involvement of foreign corporations in exploiting the country's resources.
The Urabá region which straddles the border of the departments of Antioquia and Choco have been hit especially hard. The expansion of palm oil plantations, mining, and hydroelectric projects have created strong economic pressures which have contributed to horrific violence and the displacement of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities that have called the region their home for centuries. But people have been resisting this violence, and peace communities have formed to try to present a sustainable, democratic, nonviolent alternative to the model of war and exploitation.
The peace community of San José de Apartadó in Antioquia and the newly formed humanitarian zone in the Curvaradó river basin of the Chocó department need our support as they confront continued economic and military violence. Both communities continue to develop and implement new strategies to reclaim their rights as civilian population in the war torn region, thus giving delegates the opportunity to witness and support local campesino initiatives. 2005 was a difficult year in the Urabá region for these communities with the assassination of multiple campesino leaders,including Luis Eduardo Guerra and Orlando Valencia and these communities need the solidarity of the international community to continue their struggle for truth, dignity,land rights and recognition as a legitimate nonviolent proposal.
We will visit these communities to learn about their dreams and their struggles, and the competing visions for the future of Uraba and all of Colombia.
Cost: The price of the delegation is $1590 USD. The delegation fee covers all set-up, preparation, meals, lodging, interpreters, and transportation within Colombia, but does not include transportation to and from Colombia. The fee also covers extensive reading and activist tools both before and after the delegation
Deadline: ASAP. Application with a non-refundable deposit of $150 due November 1.
Contact: Sean Donahue,
5525 Illinois Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20011