Colombia Solidarity Campaign

- Fighting for Peace with Justice -

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Interview with imprisoned human rights defender Julián Gil amid Covid threat

It has been almost two years since Julián Gil – then technical secretary of the social movement People’s Congress – was imprisoned. His arrest on 6 June 2018 sent shock waves across social activists, and human rights defenders who organised solidarity protest chanting – Being a social leader is not a crime! The case of Julián Gil manifests the revival of the Colombian state strategy to silence social leaders by accusing them of connections to armed insurgent groups. The Attorney General Office accused Julián of indirect participation in warfare as a member of the ELN insurgency; the prosecution’s case against Julián rests exclusively on the testimony of one person and reportedly does not have material evidence.

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Covid - 19 Emergency for Prisoners in Colombia

The worst has happened for prisoners trapped in Colombia’s inhumane and heavily overcrowded prison system. At least 800 prisoners have contracted the Covid-19 virus, and three have died from it.

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Anglo American AGM - Truth!

On Tuesday 5th May Anglo American (AA) conducted a closed AGM. AA owns equal shares (with BHP and Glancore) in Cerrejon an enormous open cast coal mine. We want to remind AA of a small part of the consequences of their exploitation to nature and humans.

The following are two stories that Indigenous Wayuu and African-descent communities living in La Guajira Colombia, have shared with us about their experience of having the Cerrejon open-cast coal Mine in their territories for more than 30 years.

The first one is about the Afro-descent Community of Tabaco, which was violently displaced 19 years ago and is still waiting for comprehensive compensation. The second story relates to the devastation of water sources in this dry area of Colombia due to the expansion of Cerrejon mine.


#AngloAmericanAGM

#LiberenAlBruno

#TabacoResiste
 

Covid in La Guajira

How do you wash your hands if you don’t have any water? How do you purchase enough food for your family in order to comply with social distancing when you have no income earning possibilities? Wayúu and Afro-descendant communities in La Guajira, Colombia, a region already struggling with malnutrition and water scarcity, are especially vulnerable in the face of COVID-19.

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The assassination of social leaders continues in Colombia

 

Colombia remains one the most dangerous countries for social leaders this year has already seen at least seventy-two assassinations1. While the Colombian government refuses to recognise the systematic nature of the violence2, numbers indicate that those defending their territories from the exploitation of natural resources and illegal economic activities continue to be the main targets of threats and attacks.

 

Colombia Solidarity Campaign members are saddened to learn about the killings of Marco Rivadeneira and Carlota Salinas  two community organisers who have been working in areas disproportionately affected by armed violence and poverty.

 

Marco Rivadeneira

Marco RivadeneiraOn 19 March, Marco Rivadeneira was attending a peasant meeting in Puerto Assis when three unidentified armed men dragged him outside and later killed him. Marco was the president of Puerto Asis Peasant Association (ASO-PUERTOASIS) and a board member of the National Agrarian Coordination (CNA)  one of the largest peasant organisations in Colombia. He was actively involved in the People's Congress. In recent years, Marco has been involved in negotiations with state institutions for substitution of illicit crops in several villages in Putumayo; he has been advocating for viable alternatives for coca-growing peasant families.

 

Carlota Isabel Salinas

Carlota SalinasOn 24 March, Carlota Isabel Salinas was shot dead by armed men outside her home in San Pablo, Bolivar. Carlota was a member of Popular Women's Organisation (OFP) a grassroots women's movement that promotes peaceful resistance against all forms of violence in the Magdalena Medio region. OFP members suffered decades of systematic violence from paramilitary groups who perceived the women's movement to be a threat to their economic interests in the region. Recently, the Colombian State recognised the damage that was suffered by OFP members and started the collective reparation process. Carlota was killed on the first night of the national coronavirus lockdown. On the day of her death, Carlota was organising food parcels for low-income families affected by a public health crisis.

 

 

 

 

 

It is alarming that both killings of social leaders occurred in municipalities that were prioritised for Territorially Focused Development Programmes (PDET) and the National Comprehensive Program for the Substitution of Crops Used for Illicit Purposes (PNIS). At the heart of both programmes is a promise of meaningful participation of communities in planning, implementation and evaluation of territorial development plans. The continuing threats and killings of social leaders jeopardises the promise of peace and guarantee of human rights in Colombia.

 

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Colombia - Covid 19 Pandemic

It is too early to comprehend the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the global South, however, it is already exposing the profound structural inequalities and failure of the neoliberal state to protect basic human rights. In the face of the growing public health crisis, the government of Colombia continues to prioritise the interests of the financial and business sectors and sacrifice human lives on the altar of capitalism.

 

A national lockdown was decreed from March 24th until April 13th, with a recent extension until April 27th. So far, the numbers show a total of 2,709 positive cases and 100 deaths by April 12th, becoming the fourth most affected country in Latin America. However, various setbacks in the testing of citizens mean that these figures are likely to reveal only the tip of the iceberg.

 

The decision to impose a lockdown, while a widespread measure which protects those who are able to afford to place themselves into isolation, puts pressure on vulnerable groups, increasing their risks and suffering. In cities, the informal sector, small-scale and street vendors account for a majority of the Colombian economic system. They are now facing some of the most significant impacts, where lack of support means that they need to choose between dying of hunger or of COVID-19.  Furthermore, police repression has put them at a crossroads with no way out.

 

 

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Victims of March 21st: a massacre of prisoners for protesting in the Modelo prison in Bogotá

Victims of March 21st: a massacre of prisoners for protesting in the Modelo prison in Bogotá

 

By: Equipo Jurídico Pueblos and Gearóid Ó Loingsigh ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

(25/03/2020)

An escape plan in question

 

On the night of March 21st and the early morning of the 22nd, the forces of the Colombian state forcibly erupted into the Modelo prison in Bogotá, murdering 23 prisoners and injuring 83 in response to the protests and demands of the prisoners regarding the appalling sanitary conditions that reign in the prisons and are objectively a matter of concern regarding a future outbreak of Covid-19.  The director of the INPEC (Colombian Prison Service) and the Minister for Justice, Margarita Cabello tried to justify the massacre alleging that they hadn't sought to put down the protests but rather to prevent a mass escape plan they had uncovered some days previously.

 

This lie was unquestioningly repeated by the entire media.  Caracol (TV and Radio channel) even published recordings of prisoners speaking by phone.  But anyone, with any knowledge of the dynamics in prison who listens to the fragmented conversations filtered to the press would notice that one couldn't reach the conclusion from them that there was an escape plan being hatched.  But even if it were true, more questions arise than answers given.

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Colombia Killings - a Dirty War

In response to the Guardian's article on 23rd March (see link below) Dr Andy Higginbottom, Secretary Colombia Solidarity Campaign wrote this letter:

Dear Guardian Letters

The sad thing about the constant assassination of social leaders and human rights defenders is that it has been normalised and no longer seen as newsworthy, so your report  “Colombian death squads exploiting coronavirus lockdown to kill activistshttps://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/mar/23/colombian-groups-exploiting-coronavirus-lockdown-to-kill-activists is welcome for returning the spotlight on this ongoing nightmare. Three such killings occur every week, and have been since the signing of the peace agreement between the FARC guerrillas and the government on 26 November 2016.

The principal responsibility lies with right-wing paramilitaries targeting presumed leftists; according to allegations cited in the UN’s 2018 report, five times more so. https://ap.ohchr.org/documents/dpage_e.aspx?si=A/HRC/40/3/Add.3 Moreover, the latest UN mission records that 173  demobilised FARC combatants  have been assassinated, alongside the ‘303 killings of human rights defenders and social leaders’, up to the end of 2019https://colombia.unmissions.org/sites/default/files/n1942147.pdf

There is a further Covid-19 twist to the appalling human rights situation in Colombia. In the early hours of Sunday morning, at La Modelo prison in Bogotá, state forces killed at least 23 prisoners and injured another 80 or so. The inmates were protesting “against overcrowding and poor health services during the coronavirus outbreak”.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-51999594

This is not peace, it is a very dirty war.

Yours

Dr. Andy Higginbottom

Secretary Colombia Solidarity Campaign

 
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