The following open letter was started by social groups in Catalunya. We invite you to add your organisation’s support. Signatories can be sent to email@example.com, they must be received by 30 November 2008 as the full list will be published 1 December 2008.
“We, the organizations named below, call upon the international community to show solidarity in the face of worsening conditions in Colombia as experienced by social organizations and defenders of human rights in their brave resistance to neoliberalization.
The Colombian government’s Operation “Jaque” has led to an increase in the policy of targeting and criminalization of social organisations. Aggressions, assassinations and the displacement of indigenous communities in Cauca and Chocó have multiplied in the last few months. Established human rights defenders such as those in the Inter Ecclesial Commission of Justice and Peace have been the victims of kidnappings and relentless harassment. Between the 17 September and the 12 October alone, 15 indigenous comrades have been assassinated. Student organizations have been marked as hotbeds for terrorists and even the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has threatened to silence all organizations who are working from Europe to defend human rights in Colombia.
Militarization and para-militarization is even more serious in the regions that possess the strategic natural resources that are abundant in Colombia; water, oil, minerals, biodiversity and land. The entry of transnational corporations to exploit these regions has worsened the situation. This is the case of the multinational banana company Chiquita Brands – formerly United Fruit Company – that was judicially charged with paying paramilitaries from the Autodefensas Unidos de Colombia (AUC) in Córdoba and Urabá where the AUC was involved with massacres and forcibly displacing the population that opposed their activities. There are also other cases such as Occidental Petroleum and Reposol – YPF who operate in Arauca, where there have been denouncements of human rights violations that have also principally affected social organizations. In fact we are witnesses of a clear strategy to clear these territories through the violent expulsion of indigenous, afro-Colombian and campesino communities. This is happening in a way that is clearly connected to the negotiations around agri-fuels which is being promoted in a irresponsible way by the European Union and the United States, and has lead to the deforestation of territories and converted them into green deserts of oil palms and sugar cane.
Due to its natural riches and strategic location in geographical terms, Colombia is also involved in the Plan Mesoamérica (previously known as the Plan Puebla Panama) and the Initiative for the Integration of Regional Infrastructure in South America (IIRSA). These megaprojects, mentioned in Plan Colombia, incorporate worrying social and environmental impacts, the sole objective being the looting of natural resources and using the region as a place for commodities to pass through. Their implementation would also require the annihilation of all opposition, and as such is a reason for the violations of human rights in Colombia.
In spite of the structural violence which exists in the country, the mobilization and denouncements are succeeding in paralysing the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the United States. The FTAs are part of the neoliberal structure of world economy which is now facing one of the most serious financial crises in history. Given this situation, what is needed is to strengthen internal and regional markets. However in the unfortunate example of the experience of the North American FTA (Mexico-Canada-United States) we have seen that this type of economic agreement brings with it the loss of sovereignty as well as an increase in the poverty of the local populations. But the Colombian government has not learnt from this lesson. Without doubt it wants to disband the Andean Community of Nations in which various countries have an critical opinion and dignified role in the face of the Accord of Association that the European Union wants to implement. Today, Uribe’s government no longer respects the constitutional mandate of promoting unity in Latin America; instead he prefers to sign a bilateral FTA with the European Union. In the face of the government’s blindness, it is the People who can see clearly. This is demonstrated by the striking cane cutters, the workers in Colombia’s judicial system, and the popular and indigenous resistance, all of which demonstrate a definitive rejection of the savage capitalist model of exploitation.
In response to this brave resistance of the people of Colombia, the current strategy the Colombian government has developed is the marking out, criminalizing, neutralizing and forcibly disappearing of all opposition to its policies of free trade, looting and militarization. With no respect for the policies within the Constitution and ignoring local and international legal frameworks Colombia slowly carries on sinking even further into an arena motivated by corruption and State terrorism. The international community is totally misinformed about this reality. A new attack against all local as well as international organizations who work to defend human rights in Colombia is an attempt to create a smoke screen in order to cover up the crisis which the government is going through; the parapolítica scandal and the undeniable relationship between paramilitaries and governmental institutions such as the Attorney General, Army and Police.
That is why we call on all social and cultural organizations, and national and international defenders of human rights, to join in our unwavering support for the comrades who are being targeted. We hold Álvaro Uribe Vélez responsible for the life and safety of the people and organizations that his words target. We demand that he publicly retracts them.”
Colectivo Maloka, Estado español
Xarxa de l’Observatori del Deute en la Globalització, Estado español
Contacto: observatori @ odg.cat
Colombia Solidarity Campaign Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org