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Come celebrate the movement for immigrant justice in Chicago at this 10th Anniversary El Pueblo Canta concert with special guests Jarochicanos, plus Voices, the Wellington Choir, and the “Dare 2 Dream” Centro Romero Youth Choir!

Date: Saturday, April 14, 2018

Location: Wellington Ave. UCC, 615 W. Wellington Ave.

Time:  5:30 pm — Come eat before the concert!  Doors open at 5:30 pm with traditional Latino food for purchase.

7:00 – 8:30 pm —  Concert

Parking: Complimentary parking passes are available thanks to Advocate IL Masonic Hospital. If you are a volunteer at the event, contact Kathy at waucc@sbcglobal.net to reserve a pass. If you plan to buy a ticket, the payment form below will also allow you to reserve a pass.

Childcare: On-site childcare is available. If you are a volunteer at the event, contact Kathy at waucc@sbcglobal.net with the number of children needing childcare. If you plan to buy a ticket, the payment form below will also allow you to indicate the number of children needing childcare.

Tickets: $25 general admission; $15 students/limited income; Children under 12 FREE

Buy your advance tickets, reserve parking, and indicate the number of children needing childcare below:


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On Wednesday, August 1, former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe again took to Twitter with a political announcement, this time reversing his decision to resign from the Colombian Senate.

Just last week Uribe announced via his Twitter page that he would be resigning from the Senate due to the ongoing investigation into allegations of procedural fraud and bribery.

Today he posted with a change of heart, asking Ernesto Macías, President of the Senate and fellow Democratic Center Party member, to “not take into consideration” his letter of resignation.

Uribe stated that it had not occurred to him that his resignation would mean that his case would be heard by a lower court, and his decision to remain in the Senate was spurred by a desire to have his case heard by the country’s highest judicial authorities.

Ever since Uribe announced his resignation last week, different coalitions in the Senate, including some of the opposition, expressed their desire for him to remain in the Senate.

The Democratic Center Party had been particularly strong about their desire for Uribe to remain, with continuous efforts throughout the week to urge Uribe to reconsider his resignation, especially since Uribe’s departure from the Senate would leave their coalition, the majority in the Senate and second largest in the House, without its leader just before the transfer of power to Ivan Duque’s new administration.

With Uribe remaining in the Senate, the new administration will retain its most powerful political ally, which should have a profound impact in aiding the passage of any legislation introduced by Duque and his administration in the coming weeks.

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On Tuesday, July 24, former Colombian president and influential Senator Álvaro Uribe announced his resignation from the Senate, following the Supreme Court’s announcement that he will be called to testify in an ongoing investigation into his possible involvement in witness tampering and bribery.

The Court stated that it would investigate Uribe and fellow Democratic Center Senator Álvaro Prada for the crimes of “bribery and procedural fraud” that the accusation claims took place this year and were related to other, previous allegations of witness tampering.

The case originates from an earlier attempt to investigate allegations brought forth by Senator Iván Cepeda, which claim that Uribe previously founded a death squad in his home province of Antioquia prior to becoming president in 2002.

Cepeda published a book concerning this matter and was accused by Uribe of witness tampering, claiming that the witnesses received money for their interviews that contributed to the book.

In February of this year, the Supreme Court dismissed the case against Cepeda and opened one against Uribe, claiming it was he who was at fault for allegations of witness tampering. On Tuesday, the Court issued a statement saying that these alleged activities continued after the ruling.

“As a reaction to that ruling and apparently with his consent, persons allied to the ex-president Uribe began new acts of witness manipulation,” the statement read.

Following the news of the resignation, which Uribe announced himself via his official Twitter page, claiming he felt “morally impeded” to remain in his position as Senator while the investigation proceeded, president-elect Ivan Duque expressed solidarity with Uribe and his family and asserted his belief that Uribe’s honor and innocence would prevail.

Jorge Restrepo, a Colombian economist and head of a think tank that monitors the nation’s conflict, identified Uribe’s resignation as “a seismic shift in Colombian politics.”

According to Pedro Medellín, a political scientist and columnist for Colombian newspapers, Uribe’s resignation and the issue of the investigation overall will affect the Democratic Center Party and their influence as a political coalition.

Uribe’s resignation could also offer a chance for Duque to govern outside of his mentor’s influence, allowing him to follow a more independent path. According to Adam Isacson, who works with the Washington Office on Latin America, “Duque is way more moderate than most of his party, including Uribe. Having Uribe out of the picture makes Duque less dependent on hard-liners in order to govern.”

Isacson also said that with Uribe out of the picture, “it makes it harder for Uribe and Duque’s party to move the new president’s legislative agenda through the Senate. Nobody else in that party’s bloc is enough of a political heavyweight to do the necessary arm-twisting.”

Without Uribe in the Senate, it will be interesting to see how Duque governs once he takes office on August 7. Despite his continued support for and allegiance to Uribe as a personal friend and mentor, Duque may now feel more confident in approaching his legislative agenda from a more moderate standpoint.

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JUSTAPAZ, a peacebuilding organization of the Mennonite Church of Colombia, learned recently that the illegal armed group “Aguilas Negras [Black Eagles]” has included them on a list of social leaders, human rights defenders, organizations and journalists they threaten to kill. Please ask the authorized representative of your congregation to sign the letter of support they have prepared, which they will use in advocating with the Colombian government to investigate and judge those responsible for the death threats and provide protection for their staff and the communities they accompany. You can sign onto the letter by sending an email to justapaz@justapaz.org.

JUSTAPAZ’s statement and the sign-on letter follow:

JUSTAPAZ CHRISTIAN MENNONITE ASSOCIATION FOR JUSTICE, PEACE AND NONVIOLENT ACTION
STATEMENT ON RECENT DEATH THREAT
A Call for Hope, for the Caring of Life and Continued Peacebuilding
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

JUSTAPAZ is an organization of the Mennonite Church of Colombia, with more than 26 years’ experience accompanying Christian churches, community organizations and victims of the armed conflict, strengthening nonviolent community peacebuilding processes, on which human rights and peace with justice are built.

We are pained by the increase in threats, aggressions, and systematic assassinations of social leaders from different regions of the country. Our prayer and commitment is, and will continue to be, with churches, victims of armed conflict, women, youth, conscientious objectors, and all who dream and long for a country reconciled and at peace. With hope, we proclaim that neither death, nor threats, nor wars can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:37).

In this biblical spirit and in solidarity with peacebuilders in Colombia, we write to let the public know that on Saturday, July 14, 2018, we learned of a communiqué in which an illegal armed group, self-identified as “Águilas Negras”, threatened to kill a group of social leaders, human rights defenders, organizations and journalists. JUSTAPAZ was included in the list.

Responding to this threat, which seeks to sow fear and dismantle citizen efforts to overcome the wounds caused by the armed conflict, we, as JUSTAPAZ:

  • CALL ON all illegal armed groups to cease all intimidating activity, to respect life and the dignity of every human being because we are all children of God. Life is sacred and we must care for it and defend human rights, peaceful coexistence and the well-being of all Colombian citizens. Therefore, we reject the use of any type of violence or intolerance that limits broad peacebuilding efforts.
  • WE BELIEVE that peace is the fruit of social justice (Isaiah 32:17). We need to overcome social exclusion, strengthen a culture of democracy and embrace the path of reconciliation, grounded in dialogue and in the peaceful solution of social conflicts. From our experience of faith, peacebuilding demands healing wounds, restoring lives and making a diverse participatory nation, founded on the respect for human dignity possible.
  • WE URGENTLY CALL FOR PRAYERS FOR PEACE IN COLOMBIA AND FOR ACTION on behalf of those of us who seek truth, justice, holistic reparations for victims and non-repetition of acts of violence. It is time for dialogue, for full implementation of the peace accords and to continue building social, cultural, political and environmental agreements to build true peace in all the regions of Colombia.
  • WE REAFFIRM THAT JUSTAPAZ, as an entity of the Mennonite Church of Colombia, has a pacifist calling inspired by the gospel of peace (Matthew 5:9), and we join the millions of citizens throughout the different regions of Colombia that promote human rights, citizen participation and the democratic values that inspire and give meaning to nation-building.

We encourage churches, faith-based communities, human rights defenders and social organizations to not falter and to join efforts for peacebuilding in our country. Please consider signing-on to the attached sign-on letter that will be used in advocacy efforts in Colombia.

Sincerely,
CHRISTIAN MENNONITE ASSOCIATION FOR JUSTICE, PEACE AND NONVIOLENT ACTION – JUSTAPAZ
Bogotá, Colombia
July 17, 2018.

 

Sign-On Letter for Churches and Faith-based Organizations in Response to Death Threats Against JUSTAPAZ

As churches and organizations from around the world, we know of and support the work of JUSTAPAZ. As an organization of the Mennonite Church of Colombia, JUSTAPAZ has acted to promote peacebuilding in the midst of armed conflict for many years in Colombia. JUSTAPAZ is characterized by applying principles of nonviolence, justice and holistic peace in Colombia.

On Saturday, July 14, 2018, we learned of a communiqué in which an illegal armed group, selfidentified as “Águilas Negras”, threatened to kill a group of social leaders, human rights defenders, organizations and journalists. JUSTAPAZ was included in the list.

Responding to these threats and as part of the international community:

WE EXPRESS our solidarity, support and accompaniment of JUSTAPAZ in face of this threat.

WE REJECT all forms of violence that could affect the staff of JUSTAPAZ and the communities that
they accompany in different regions of Colombia.

WE DEMAND that the government of Colombia act with celerity and efficacy in investigating and
judging those responsible for the death threats against JUSTAPAZ. Additionally, we demand they
provide appropriate protective measures for the staff of JUSTAPAZ and the communities they
accompany, with the goal of guaranteeing the continuity of the human rights and peacebuilding
efforts they accompany, as a faith-based organization in Colombia.

Signed,

**Please indicate your willingness to sign-on by emailing us at: justapaz@justapaz.org

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As someone who ran on a platform that was vehemently opposed to the Peace Accord agreed upon between Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC, Ivan Duque presents a challenge to the future of peace in Colombia.

It is unlikely that Duque will uphold or implement many of the aspects of the Peace Accord. The Constitutional Courts of Colombia have already reviewed the Peace Accord and made it clear that the Accord is law and must be upheld by the next three presidents, as the Accord envisions a 15-year implementation period. Despite this, it is still possible for Duque to take such slow measures in implementing the accord that there will be no progress at all during his presidency.

Although Duque has presented the Peace Accord as nothing more than a get-out-of-jail free card for ex-FARC members, in reality, the Accord offers a far-reaching opportunity for Colombia to develop into a more equitable and modern country. Many of the elements of the Accord focus on rural reform in the countryside and increasing educational opportunities and participation in government and politics among all Colombians.

While it is true that there are elements of the Accord that offer relatively lenient punishments to ex-combatants, such as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace that offers a means to avoid jail time, it is also true that this mechanism is largely responsible for preventing more than 7,000 combatants from disappearing and remobilizing.

Rural Reform

The rural reforms mentioned in the Accord are the foundation of creating a truly stable and lasting peace in Colombia. Many of the issues that cause conflict stem from the lack of positive state presence in the Colombian countryside in order to provide the infrastructure necessary for transportation, education, health care, and clean water. Much of this would be remedied by provisions in the Accord. Other provisions would provide a viable alternative to the cultivation of coca crops, so as to provide a continued income for rural farmers without contributing to the production of illicit crops.

Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that Duque will implement these aspects of the accord. The section on rural reform alone would take up about 85% of the cost of implementation for the entire Accord, something that would most likely be unpopular with Duque’s supporters. The majority, if not all, of Duque’s support comes from city dwellers and large landholders who benefit from the current status quo and would likely prefer to see resources allocated to urban projects rather than rural ones, as about 77% of all Colombians live in urban areas.

Furthermore, the Santos Administration never introduced the legislation that would be necessary to implement most of the rural reform seen in the Accord. Again, it is very unlikely these provisions will be included in Duque’s agenda, as it would require working against the interests of many of his strongest supporters.

Transitional Justice Mechanisms

In addition to his apathy towards to the rural reforms, Duque is also largely opposed to the transitional justice mechanisms introduced in the Accord, above all the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, which Duque has called a “monument to impunity.”

Duque wants to strengthen the punishments handed out to ex-FARC members, but will most likely be unable to do so, as the courts already approved the mechanisms and structure laid out in the Accord. Even if Duque were able to modify the punishments, it would be unlikely that the FARC members would accept any harsher punishments resembling those given to enemies defeated in battle, rather than through negotiated agreements as is the case for the FARC. Duque refuses to acknowledge the many atrocities carried out by the Colombian military during the long Civil War and never speaks of punishment for them.

Additionally, Duque has proposed Constitutional amendments banning amnesties for narcotrafficking, but these could not be applied retroactively and as such would only be able to be applied to future peace accords, not those involving the FARC.

Overall, it is unlikely Duque will carry out any of the provisions of the accord that are not specifically related to the FARC and their demobilization, effectively wasting one of the greatest opportunities Colombia has had to date to see truly meaningful efforts to create a stable and lasting peace.

As Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America said, “The FARC accord, especially its chapters on rural development, coca, victims, and political participation, offered an opportunity to make Colombia a modern, prosperous country.”

To ignore this accord for being “too lenient” on the FARC is frankly a disservice to the thousands of Colombians who have suffered for generations due to this conflict, and to the thousands more who will lose the opportunity to be the generation that undertook the necessary reforms to create a true and lasting peace in Colombia.

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Overview

At 41 years old, Ivan Duque will become the youngest president in Colombian history. Educated as a lawyer and having spent the past decade working in Washington, DC at the Inter-American Development Bank, Duque is a relative newcomer to the political scene.

Duque first appeared in Colombian politics about 20 years ago, serving as an adviser to then-Finance Minister Juan Manual Santos. His political career continued in the United States as well, where he served as an adviser for three Andean countries as the then-Chief of the Cultural Division of the Inter-American Development Bank.

During his time at the IDB, Duque formed a close relationship with former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and later returned to Colombia in 2014 when he was elected to the Colombian Senate with Uribe’s backing.

Concerns

Many are concerned that Duque will act as a puppet for Uribe’s political plans, but Duque is firm in his statements that he will govern as himself, without influence from his mentor. Duque has presented his time spent in Washington as a necessary distance between him and the established Colombian political elite as evidence of his independence from their influence, but his plans so far seem consistent with those of Uribe, whether or not Uribe is directing him.

Other areas of concern surround the Peace Accord, notably Duque’s lack of recognition of state and paramilitary forces as perpetrators of violence. Additionally, Duque does not want to maintain the terms for talks with the ELN that former-president Santos had begun, leaving future talks a mystery.

Plans

Duque has stated that he will make the necessary “corrections” to the Peace Accord in order to emphasize provisions on victims’ rights and to push for greater security measures and punishments for guerrillas.

In order to spur some of the much needed economic growth in Colombia, Duque’s platform includes cuts to business taxes, support for oil and coal industries and to help manufacturing.

Duque is also sees the large influx of Venezuelan refugees spilling over the border into Colombia as a security rather than a humanitarian crisis, and will most likely dedicate a significant effort to addressing this issue.

For more reading: https://newrepublic.com/article/149185/colombia-keeps-electing-presidents-tied-murderers

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As Colombia moves forward with a new administration led by President-elect Ivan Duque, marked by their aversion to the Peace Accord reached by former-president Juan Manuel Santos, the future of the Peace Accord is uncertain and other non-governmental entities have begun to pick up some of the pieces of the accord left abandoned.

The Presbyterian Church of Colombia has a considerably smaller presence than the Catholic Church, but focuses on more progressive approaches to many social problems. With a strong presence in Barranquilla, Urabá and Bogotá, and serving Afro-descendants, Indigenous and displaced persons, the Presbyterian Church has long been a proponent for peace.

Recently, CRLN was able to meet with representatives from the Presbyterian Church of Colombia and the Reformed University to discuss the current status of the peace process in Colombia, as well as the Church’s role in this process.

The Church’s main areas of involvement include: monitoring the implementation process; educating demobilized FARC members through the Reformed University; running reconciliation processes in communities and; providing leadership for DiPaz, an ecumenical group based out of Bogotá.

DiPaz has been involved in social processes and accompanying communities that work in building peace with justice through nonviolent action, the search for truth and justice that would allow for true reconciliation in Colombia.

Conversation focused on the current status of the Peace Accord in Colombia, which the representatives from the Church and University saw as shaky at best. They thought that the peace process would be unlikely to continue into the administration under Ivan Duque, and although that administration cannot legally do anything to end the accord, it seems likely that they will simply kill the initiatives through inaction.

One of the most controversial aspects of the Peace Accord is the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, known in Spanish as La Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz, and commonly referred to by its Spanish acronym as la JEP. La JEP was designed to exercise judicial functions and fulfill the duty of the Colombian state to “investigate, prosecute and sanction crimes committed in the context of and due to the armed conflict.”

La JEP offered amnesty for certain crimes in exchange for an admission of guilt from the perpetrators in order to facilitate some sort of reconciliation and transitional justice. However, not even state actors could unanimously declare support for this – the Colombian military supported la JEP, due to the ability to avoid any jail time, whereas former president Álvaro Uribe and his supporters, some of the most vocal opponents of the Peace Accord and its mandates, are strongly in opposition to la JEP as it requires an admission of government wrongdoing.

Due to the controversial nature of la JEP, it has progressed in its mandate much slower than planned. It seems that little will be done with the reconciliation aspect, especially under the new administration, and so the Presbyterian Church is working to pick up some of the pieces.

The Church is now working to carry out much of the reconciliation aspect, running reconciliation processes through the churches in local communities. These processes typically consist of a demobilized FARC member or Colombian military member coming to the Church and admitting guilt and asking those in the community for forgiveness.

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Background

In 2016, the Colombian government, under then-President Juan Manual Santos, reached an agreement for Peace with the long-standing rebel group FARC, whose acronym in Spanish stands for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Left out of this Accord, unfortunately, were the other major rebel group ELN and the paramilitary forces that often seemed to carry out atrocities with the tacit approval of the Colombian military. Atrocities against civilians were committed by all of these groups during the civil conflict in Colombia, which has been ongoing for the past 50+ years, despite multiple previous efforts to reach peace.

This accord was the first to include such broad citizen participation in the negotiation stage, which was held in Havana, Cuba, and included multiple representatives from civil society, including representation of Afro-Colombians, Indigenous persons and women.

Despite these high levels of involvement, when the Peace Agreement was put to a public vote in a plebiscite in the fall of 2016, Colombians voted No to peace by a 2% margin. The No camp was strongly led by former-president Alvaro Uribe, a prominent conservative, wealthy landowner and leader of the Democratic Center political party, who campaigned tirelessly to defeat the Peace Agreement.  Many found the peace agreement to be too lenient towards the demobilized members, many of whom would see no jail time for the actions and would receive immediate seats in Congress. Others were swayed by conservative propaganda that alleged that one of the results of the Peace Agreement would be the institution of liberal sex education curricula in the schools.

The Colombian government considered the No camp’s qualms with the agreement and made some revisions accordingly, and the peace agreement passed the Colombian Congress later in 2016.

However, since that time, not much has really been done with the ambitious agreement. The agreement spans multiple issue areas and contains six main focus areas concerned with building a stable and lasting peace. These areas are:

  1. Towards a New Colombian Countryside: Comprehensive Rural Reform
  2. Political Participation: A Democratic Opportunity to Build Peace
  3. End of the Conflict
  4. Solution to the Problem of Illicit Drugs
  5. Agreement Regarding the Victims of the Conflict
  6. Implementation and Verification Mechanisms

Of these issue areas, only about half have seen any sort of marked effort for implementation, and even then not necessarily a full implementation. Illicit crops and their eradication have been a prominent topic, as well as the end of the conflict and means for reincorporation of demobilized FARC members into legal civilian life and areas regarding the victims of the conflict.

Illicit Crops and their Eradication

The section of the accord dedicated to illicit drugs offered many potential solutions for the eradication of crops made for illicit use as well as for the problem of illicit drug use, but neither have really arrived at a truly influential level of implementation.

Eradication of crops has been a slow process, as the fight between manual and aerial eradication continues. Proponents of manual eradication argue that it offers a more thorough and complete eradication of coca crops without spreading harmful herbicides over other crops and the communities, while also offering a more direct method of crop substitution and replanting of other, non-illicit crops. Those in favor of aerial eradication favor the increased efficiency of fumigation by planes or drones and claim that manual eradication is too slow of a process and also leaves open the possibility of resistance from growers.

The Peace Accord offered very explicit proposed solutions that all were centered on crop substitution and joint planning with the affected communities, but in reality it seems as if there has been very little direct involvement of the community growers. In particular, the Peace Accord contains an Ethnic Chapter mandating the direct involvement of Afro-descended and Indigenous community members in planning the implementation phase of the Accord, a stipulation that has so far not been honored.

Despite the government’s plans to eradicate coca crops, Colombia will never see true eradication until the government can offer viable alternative crops or some other means of livelihood to the rural growers. Without a guaranteed source of income, growers will never be willing to substitute their crops and the problem of illicit crops will continue.

End of the Conflict and Reincorporation

The Peace Agreement’s focus on the end of the conflict and reincorporation for demobilized FARC members has most likely been the most effectively implemented portion of the accord.

The end of the conflict centered on the bilateral and definitive ceasefire and cessation of hostilities and laying down of arms. The laying down of arms was a UN monitored mission, as part of the tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism comprised of the Colombian government, the UN and the FARC.

The UN mandate was to maintain a focused presence in areas heavily influenced by the FARC presence and was split into two distinct missions, with the first focused on the laying down of arms and the second as a verification mission. According to the UN, the ratio of weapons to combatants that were turned in was favorable, which is a good indicator of a successful disarmament.

The reincorporation process of the FARC into legal civilian and political life has proved both controversial and somewhat successful, although the government has not fulfilled all the promises of the agreement. The Peace Accord allowed for a section describing the political reincorporation of the FARC as a reorganized political party instead of a rebel group, with representation in Congress as well as funds for running and maintaining a political party.

The Peace Accord also offered a suggested allowance or financial support package for reincorporated FARC members to “start an individual or collective socially-productive project” as well as other economic and social benefits to members.

Although the FARC members have demobilized, many are still without resources or education, both of which were mentioned in the accord, and the lack of these resources have contributed to ongoing conflict in many areas.

Regarding the Victims of the Conflict

The main point in the agreement regarding the victims of the conflict was the establishment of a Comprehensive System for Truth, Justice, Reparation and Non-Repetition. This system was designed to be made up of different judicial and extra-judicial mechanisms, with the following objectives:

  • to achieve the maximum possible realization of victims’ rights;
  • to ensure accountability for what happened in the conflict;
  • to guarantee the legal certainty of those who take part in the comprehensive system; and
  • to help facilitate social coexistence, reconciliation and guarantees of non-repetition of the conflict.

The System also was designed with four main tenets:

  • Comprehensiveness: the different mechanisms are connected in a coherent manner;
  • Conditionality: each special justice proceeding will be conditional on guarantees of non-repetition, as well as on contributions to the establishment of the truth, and to reparations;
  • Universality: the system will be applied, in a differentiated manner, in order to grant equitable and simultaneous treatment to all those who, having taken part directly or indirectly in the armed conflict, provided that they comply with the relevant conditions of the Comprehensive System; and
  • Participation: the victims will participate in all of the different processes of the Comprehensive System

There are six different mechanisms of the System as laid out in the Peace Agreement:

  • Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition Commission,
  • Special Unit for the search for persons deemed as missing in the context of and due to the armed conflict,
  • Special Jurisdiction for Peace,
  • Comprehensive reparation measures for peace building purposes,
  • Non-Repetition Guarantees,
  • Commitment to the promotion, respect for and guarantee of human rights.

Of these six mechanisms, the most widely seen, and also perhaps the most controversial, is the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. The main reason for this controversy stems from the fact that the underlying principal of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (known by its acronym in Spanish as the JEP, or Jurisdicción Especial para la Paz), is a guarantee of amnesty and no requirement for serving any jail time for perpetrators of crimes that admit their wrongdoing and recognize their responsibility, in an attempt to facilitate reconciliation processes.

Many people find this to be too lenient on ex-guerillas as well as ex-military members, as it seems that many will choose to accept their responsibility in exchange for no jail time, but to many of the victims of the conflict this is not a severe enough punishment. The Accord claims that those who “decisively participated in the most serious and representative crimes and recognize their responsibility, will receive a sanction containing an effective restriction of their liberty for 5-8 years, in addition to the obligation to carry out public works and reparation efforts in the affected communities.”

Although the Accord also offers a detailed list of crimes that will not be the object of amnesty or pardon, such as crimes against humanity, genocide, serious war crimes, crimes of a sexual nature, extra-judicial executions, recruitment of minors, and other such serious crimes, many are still not pleased with what they see as a move that is more favorable towards the ex-FARC members and Colombian military members than to the victims.

With all this controversy, the JEP is not progressing as fast as had been intended, and under the new administration, it is uncertain what the future of this special jurisdiction will be.

The Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition Commission has taken some steps in terms of contributing to the historical clarification of what happened and promoting and contributing to the recognition of the victims. However, there is still much to be desired with many mechanisms of the Comprehensive System.

Overall, the Peace Accord has seen much less implementation than many had initially hoped. There has been little done in terms of comprehensive rural reform or implementation and verification mechanisms, and the items regarding political participation still have not seen much in terms of implementation. Voter turnout in Colombia remains low and very divided between urban and rural communities. Many conflict-heavy areas are still struggling, such as rural, Afro-descendent and Indigenous communities, despite the Peace Accord’s intent to involve them directly in decisions affecting their communities, an intent which so far has not been implemented.

New Administration, New Challenges

May 2018 saw the election of Ivan Duque as Colombia’s new president, a staunch conservative and protégé of Alvaro Uribe. One of Duque’s main points during the election was his opposition to the current Peace Accord, something that worries the many proponents of peace in Colombia.

Although Duque cannot completely erase the existing Peace Accord, he can focus on only one part of it or move so slowly to implement it that much of the Accord will remain on paper alone. It remains to be seen if the segment of the Colombian public that wants to see the Peace Accord implemented can bring enough pressure to bear on the Duque administration to push him to do so more quickly and if the international community will be interested enough in the success of the Peace Accord to back them up.

 

For additional reading:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-colombia-election/colombia-president-elect-vows-to-unite-nation-alter-peace-deal-idUSKBN1JD03R

http://time.com/5297734/ivan-duque-colombia-election-risk-report/

 

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CRLN is a member of the national Honduras Solidarity Network, which put out a statement recognizing today as the 9th anniversary of the U.S.-supported coup in Honduras. 9 years later, the oligarchy that initiated the coup has consolidated its power and democratic norms have eroded.

Click here to read the statement and to take action on three items:

  1. Sign an Amnesty International action alert to free political prisoner Edwin Espinal
  2. Send an email to demand fundamental changes in U.S. policy on Honduras
  3. Ask your Representative to cosponsor the Berta Caceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (in Illinois, Reps. Rush, Lipinski, Gutierrez, Quigley, Davis, Schakowsky, and Foster are already co-sponsors)

 

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2018 Pedal for Peace Bike-a-thon

Beneficiary groups and project descriptions

 

 

Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)  

Founded 29 years ago, CRLN builds partnerships among social movements and organized communities within and between the U.S. and Latin America.  We work together through popular education, grassroots organizing, public policy advocacy, and direct action to dismantle U.S. militarism, neoliberal economic and immigration policy, and other forms of state and institutional violence.  We are united by our liberating faiths and inspired by the power of people to organize and to find allies to work for sustainable economies, just relationships and human dignity. Because CRLN has dedicated restricted funds for travel scholarships and for the support of human rights defenders, Pedal for Peace donations will go for general operating support of our regular programming.

Contact person: Sharon Hunter-Smith, shunter-smith@crln.org

 

 

Chicago-Cinquera Sister Cities  

Cinquera, El Salvador, is a small community of around 3,000 people in the central part of the country.  In 1992, Cinquera, which had been abandoned during the horrific civil war, was repopulated after the peace accord.  Chicago-Cinquera Sister Cities has been working with a progressive community organization, the ARDM, for many years.  This year, the ARDM has again designated Pedal for Peace donations for the scholarships of five college students who are majoring in computer science, agricultural engineering and education.  The donations will cover their enrollment fees, tuition, transportation, food and housing.  During and upon completion of their studies, the students have made a commitment to live in and work on behalf of the Cinquera community and to support the scholarship program for future students.

Contact personJim Hoover, jimmyishere@hotmail.com

 chicago-cinquera.org

 

Chicago-Guatemala Partnership  

Saq Ja’, Guatemala, is a rural Mayan community of around 50 families located in the western highlands.  The army burned the community in 1982 during the civil war, killing half of the people.  The remaining people fled, and returned after the Peace Accords in 1996.  After much hard work, the community succeeded in building a primary and middle school to educate children through 9th grade.  The Chicago-Guatemala Partnership, which has accompanied the community since 1999, will again designate this year’s Pedal for Peace funds toward support for the middle school and scholarships for those going on to higher levels of schooling.  Saq Ja’s own scholarship committee will make the final decisions on which students to fund.

Contact person:   Mary Naftzger, maryandbob.n@sbcglobal.net

 

 

Concern America (C/A)

The Pedal for Peace Bike-a-thon will support C/A’s community-centered health and leadership program in rural Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities in the isolated and war-torn Chocó region of Colombia, providing primary health care services to 20,000 people previously without access to such services. This innovative and successful model, known as Health Promoter Practitioners (HPPs), engages the most valuable resource in every village: the people themselves. With a depth of knowledge, skills, and ability to provide health care comparable to the work of nurse practitioners in the U.S, HPPs are able to successfully meet 80% of the community’s health care needs. Funds received from Pedal for Peace will help cover expenses related to the health courses, Teaching Clinic, and community visits, led by the team of advanced HPPs, as well as the visit from Advanced Practitioners from Guatemala.

Contact  person:  John Straw, jstraw@concernamerica.org

 

 

La Voz de los de Abajo   

La Voz de los de Abajo has worked in solidarity with campesino and indigenous organizations in Honduras for nearly 15 years on community radio projects, human rights accompaniment and supporting initiatives by small farmers and their organizations. Since the coup in June 2009, it has also organized multiple delegations from the U.S. to Honduras to provide human rights accompaniment to the organizations and communities resisting the coup.  2017 Pedal for Peace funds will be sent to the only hospital in the African-descended Garifuna territory founded and run by a Garifuna doctor, Dr. Luther Castillo, who with his staff of other young Garifuna physicians have treated well over 400,000 patients free of charge since 2007. In addition, Pedal for Peace funds will be sent to the National Center for Rural Workers (CNTC), which provides legal and organizational accompaniment to thousands of campesinos struggling for land and land reform.

Contact personVicki Cervantes, vickicervantes@yahoo.com

 

 

Autonomous Tenants Association  

The ATU is a tenants collective, whose mission is to support and defend the rights of tenants in Chicago through collective organizing. More particularly, the ATU seeks to enable tenants across the Chicago area to understand their rights as tenants, as well as to benefit from collective organizing in order to prevent illegal lockouts, request repairs and lease-agreements, and provide defense against eviction. When tenants come together to demand solutions to these problems, landlords are confronted with a greater economic threat and are more willing to reach a settlement.  The ATU was formed by tenants in Chicago to protect and create collaboration among all tenant members to put a stop to the process of gentrification and forced displacement of low-income working class residents of our communities.

Contact person: Antonio Gutiérrez, gutierrez.atu@gmail.com

 

 

 

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Contact SHunter-Smith@crln.org by June 20th to sign on! See copy of letter to Senator Durbin below. An identical letter will be sent to Senator Duckworth. 

 

June 21, 2018

Senator Richard J. Durbin
John C. Kluczynski Federal Building
230 S. Dearborn St., #3892
Chicago, IL 60604

Dear Senator Durbin,

We write to you as leaders of Christian, Jewish and Muslim congregations and Organizations in the Greater Chicago area to ask that you personally contact Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to request a stay of deportation and release on order of supervision for Yesica Jovel (A-208276158). Her family, who have a pending case for asylum, is sponsored by Lake Street Church in Evanston. Yesica’s situation concerns us greatly for the following reasons:

1) First and foremost, as people of faith, we are grounded in our religious practices of welcoming the immigrant and the stranger. Our scriptures enjoin us to have the same laws governing immigrants that we have governing ourselves, to treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves, to treat others as fellow children of the one God. We find ourselves living in a time and a place when immigration policy and enforcement practices are most egregiously counter to these tenets of our faith.

2) In Yesica’s case, we are alarmed that although her entire family had been threatened with death by MS-13 in El Salvador after gang members killed Yesica’s father, only Yesica’s mother and two brothers were allowed to come to Evanston to apply for asylum, while Yesica was separated from her family at the border and
coerced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to agree to deportation. This strikes us as an unfair application of the law as it pertains to asylum seekers; ICE took advantage of Yesica’s youth and inexperience to frighten her into agreeing to deportation, which is at the root of all that happened next. Our faith, in contrast, calls us to be particularly attentive to and protective of the most vulnerable among us.

3) In El Salvador, she went to live with relatives and was sexually abused by an uncle. She moved in with other relatives, but he kept hunting her down. MS-13 also learned that she was back in El Salvador and began persecuting her again. Finally, in desperation for her life, she fled again to the U.S., hoping to be reunited with her family. She was detained after crossing the border in Texas and has remained in detention for two years, despite the best efforts of Lake Street Church members and her lawyer to have her released. We believe she had no choice but to leave her
country given the threats against her life; given the trauma she experienced, she needs the comfort and care of her family to heal. Nevertheless, ICE and the courts in Texas, so far, have only focused on the fact that she crossed the border twice, instead
of questioning ICE’s separation of the family. Her lawyer is still appealing that ruling.

4)As a survivor of sexual assault, persecution, torture and the murder of her father, and as a lesbian,Yesica is a member of several protected social groups under international asylum law. We believe that Attorney General Sessions’ announcement last week removing membership in several of these social group categories as valid considerations for asylum puts the U.S. at odds with international law, with U.S. asylum case law since the 1990’s, and certainly goes against our religious mandate to care for the welfare of all God’s children. We hope that you and others in the Senate will challenge Attorney General Sessions’ new ruling on who qualifies for asylum.

 

We strongly support Lake Street Church’s efforts to advocate for a stay of deportation and release from detention for Yesica Jovel. We appeal to you to use the power of your office to personally contact ICE officials on behalf of her release so that the suffering of this young woman can end.

Sincerely,

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