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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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Please call your Rep TODAY and


ask that they sign on to the McGovern “Dear Colleague” letter in support of key goals of Colombia’s peace negotiations.


The letter’s deadline Thursday, May 8th!

 

 The brief letter supports and congratulates


the members at the negotiating table for making the progress they have thus far but, more importantly, also calls for a ceasefire while the negotiations continue in order to stop the bloodshed in the meantime. A statement like this from US officials sends a powerful message to the main actors in the Colombian conflict: The peace accord is crucial, but NOW is the time for peace in Colombia!


1.

Call you’re the Congressional hotline (202) 224-3121, tell them your member of Congress (

click here if you don’t know

), then ask to be connected. Once connected, ask for the foreign policy staffer and tell them any variation of the following:

“I’m calling to ask that Rep. ____________ sign onto the McGovern Dear Colleague letter regarding the Peace Process in Colombia. The letter supports and congratulates the members at the negotiating table for making the progress they have thus far but, more importantly, also calls for a ceasefire while the negotiations continue. As a member of Rep. ___________’s district, would like to see him/her support calls for peace amidst the longest civil war in our hemisphere and a conflict wherein 80% of those killed are civilians. The peace accords need to be signed and the bloodshed needs to stop. I hope Rep. _______ will add his/her name to that call.”


2.

If the foreign policy staffer isn’t available, ask that the person give and spell the email address for that staffer so you can send them the same message in an email.


3.

Also ask to be connected to the staffer’s voicemail so you can leave the message and ask for a return call.


If you’re in Rep. Davis’ or Schakowsky’s districts, please call to thank them!

They’re already on this letter and could use constituent support to justify continued solidarity with Latin American social movements. Plus you can gently express that you hope they’ll urge their colleagues to join too!

This is an important moment where we can ask our Representatives to intervene in our hemisphere’s longest running civil war, a war that we help fuel with billions of dollars in military aid. Ask your Representative to make a statment urging peace instead of ongoing violence!

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Article by CRLN staff member, Celeste Larkin and Chicago organizer, Martin Macias, published on truthout about a mostly people of color delegation to Colombia to visit African descendant communities organizing for their autonomy, land and lives. Celeste and Martin report back from their trip and explore what it means to be in solidarity with the communities they met in Colombia.

Click here to read the full article.

Globalizing
the Struggle, From Ferguson to Colombia: State Violence and Racialized
Oppression Know No Borders

 

Jumping Rope in Buenaventura: Children from the community of La Playita play across from the site of where paramilitaries would torture and brutally dismember residents. Residents tore it down and built a community center next door.

Jumping Rope in Buenaventura:

Children from the community of La Playita play across from the site of where paramilitaries would torture and brutally dismember residents. Residents tore it down and built a community center next door.

For decades, Afro-descendant
communities in Colombia have fought for autonomy and self-determination as a
response to government policies that produce multiple forms of violence in
their communities. Fully aware of, and in solidarity with, mobilizations in
Ferguson, Afro-Colombians recognize the common dreams of movements for racial
justice for people of color people across the hemisphere. Two members of a
delegation that visited these communities in August 2014 reflect on their own
solidarity process and explore the ways that transnational solidarity manifests
(or doesn’t) in movements. How can we move beyond allyship and towards a
practice of co-struggling?

One week after Michael Brown was
murdered in Ferguson, nine US-based activists and artists of color and one white
woman traveled to meet racial justice movement leaders in Colombia. Our
delegation was led by

Proceso de Comunidades Negras

(PCN, Black Community Process), a collective of African-descendant Colombian groups focused
on cultural and political power for Colombia’s black population. The history of
dispossession is a long one for African descendants in Colombia and across the
diaspora i.e. European colonial conquests, subsequent violent and dehumanizing
economies of enslavement, the state’s denial of social services and
reparations. With the energy of the #BlacksLivesMatter mobilizations flowing
through our hearts and minds, we began our weeklong human rights delegation
throughout the Southwest Valle de Cauca region of Colombia.

Communities in that region have
experienced displacement and disenfranchisement (and/or the threat of them) for
decades as a result of large-scale infrastructure development, tourism
expansion projects and agricultural policies that favor production of export
crops (mainly sugar cane) over domestic food production. Some communities are
actively resisting illegal mining operations that destroy and usurp their
ancestral territories. Residents are actively resisting the destruction/capture
of their land which comes as a result of illegal mining operations. The
directors of these illegal enterprises operate with impunity – which is further
demonstrated by their use of paramilitary forces to threaten or assassinate
community leaders.


Reparations


And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or
a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the
seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him
out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish
him liberally out of thy flock, and out of thy floor, and out of thy winepress:
of that wherewith the LORD thy God hath blessed thee thou


shalt give unto him. And thou shalt
remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the LORD thy God
redeemed thee: therefore I command thee this thing today.


– DEUTERONOMY 15: 12-15

It’s with this Biblical passage that
Ta-Nehisi Coates started his crucial essay, ”

The Case for Reparations

The passage has very real implications: if a person or community has been
subjected to a traumatic period (or century) of bondage and dispossession, it
would be unjust and ahistorical to expect that they can immediately begin a
productive, happy life with such a deficit in power, resources, and
self-determination. Indeed, the historic and collective dispossession of
Afro-Colombians must be reconciled through amends and reparations, or the
imbalance of power at all levels of society will continue and their newfound
“equality” will be nominal only.

Yet instead of redistributing the
wealth created off the backs of generations of people of color and through
racist and violent projects of dispossession, the US government has
successfully streamlined capital and resources into the lucrative projects of
the military industrial complex which has been utilized to maintain order more
than protect and serve. The racialized patterns of criminalization within this
environment of military build-up have created an era wherein the bodies of
people of color are treated as criminal until proven innocent. And it is within
this setting of very immediate violence and years of residual trauma that
Coates’ call for reparations historicizes the urgency for fundamental changes
for communities of color.


CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING THE ARTICLE.



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The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America and our Chicago partners made a visit to Senator Durbin’s office on Monday, May 18th in celebration of the international Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia. This year’s theme was “Tomorrow’s Peace Starts Today”. We delivered a “SHALOM” banner, courtesy of the 8th Day Center for Justice, and we discussed calls for the U.S. government to shift billions in military aid to help implement the Peace Process in Colombia.

We discussed the root causes of the conflict and asked that Senator Durbin, with his position on the Defense Subcommittee of the Senate’s powerful Appropriations Committee, use his power to move U.S. aid away from military funding and towards support for civic efforts like the Labor Action plan and land restitution work. We delivered articles about problems of inclusion in the peace process; the historic and fundamental conflicts over land and problems of paramilitaries; and models of countries where militarization does not dominate social policies. 

We’ll continue to push Senator Durbin’s office to change the nature of U.S. support for a militarized Colombia within a process for peace. Here from Chicago, we’ll keep working to make sure that tomorrow’s peace starts today! ‪#‎DOPA2015

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La Red de Líderes Religiosos en Chicago para América Latina y nuestrxs compañerxs visitamos la oficina del Senador Durbin este lunes pasado, 18 de mayo para celebrar los Días de Oración y Acción por la Paz en Colombia. El tema de la celebración internacional este año fue “La Paz de Mañana Empieza Hoy”. Llevamos un cartel de “SHALOM”, hecho por nuestxs amigxs en el Centro de Justicia 8º Día, y exigimos al  gobierno Estadounidense que cambie su apoyo militar para empezar la implementación de Proceso de Paz en Colombia.

Discutimos los orígenes del conflicto y pedimos al Senador Durbin, con su posición en el Subcomité de Defensa en el poderoso Comité de apropiaciones del Senado, use su poder para cambiar el  apoyo militar de EEUU a Colombia a un tipo de apoyo que hace posible esfuerzos cívicos como el Plan de Acción Laboral y la restitución de las tierras a comunidades desplazadas. Llevamos con nosotrxs artículos sobre los problemas de inclusión en el proceso de paz; los conflictos históricos y fundamentales sobre la tierra y problemas de paramilitares; y modelos de países donde la militarización no domina política social.

Seguimos exigiendo que la oficina del Senador Durbin trabaje para cambiar el apoyo militar a Colombia dentro de un Proceso de Paz.  Desde Chicago, seguimos trabajando para asegurar que ¡la paz de mañana empieza hoy! #DOPA2015

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