Don’t Support Colombia’s Tyranny

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According to U.S. law, in order for foreign governments to receive U.S. military assistance, they must certify that these funds will not be used against civilians. In the past, Colombian governments have gotten around this by funding paramilitary organizations, which carried out attacks on civilians.

Two months ago eight members of the peace movement in Colombia were massacred, including two women and three children.  Eyewitnesses say that these murders, the latest in a string of attacks on a small community of non-violent peace activists living in northwest Colombia, were committed by members of the Colombian army.  The Colombia army receives millions of dollars annually from the U. S. government.  It seems our tax dollars may be directly responsible for the deaths of innocent women and children.

Colombia has been enmeshed in a civil war for more than four decades and many innocent civilians have been caught between the guerilla armies, the right-wing paramilitary groups thought to be financed by the Colombian military and the Colombian army itself.  Those most vulnerable in this war have been the indigenous people and the Afro-Colombian populations. 

In this latest brutal murder, two families and an additional man were brutally murdered and their bodies were left in a shallow mass grave.  One of those murdered was one of the founders of the San Jose de Apartado peace community, Luis Eduardo Guerro, who traveled around the world to tell their story.  Four years ago he spoke in Madison, WI, the sister city of the San Jose peace community, and also spoke at the School of the Americas Watch rally at the gates of Ft.  Benning, where many of the Latin American military and paramilitary were trained.  San Jose de Apartado was founded in the late 1990's, as one of several Colombian peace communities committed to peaceful civil resistance and neutrality in the civil war. 

Since there are at least 1.5 million Colombians displaced by the on-going civil strife, these communities have been supported by such international organizations as the United Nations High Commission on Refugees.  Nearly three-quarters of these displaced persons are women and children.  Many of these persons have been forced to leave their farms and communities and go into the cities, where they have no jobs and no housing.  The peace communities were started by displaced persons who re-claimed their land in the name of peace and non-violence.

According to U.S. law, in order for foreign governments to receive U.S. military assistance, they must certify that these funds will not be used against civilians. In the past, Colombian governments have gotten around this by funding paramilitary organizations, which carried out attacks on civilians.  In addition, Colombian military leaders have pointed to the need to fight guerilla armies and drug lords and it was under this pretext that Plan Colombia was introduced by the Clinton administration to provide support to the Colombian military.  But the testimony of eyewitnesses state that members of the Colombian army took the peace activists from their homes, this may offer the first evidence that U.S. military aid is indeed funding Colombian army’s attacks on civilians. 

In June or July there will be a vote in the U.S. Congress on funding the Colombian government and its military operations.  In preparation for that, April 26 has been declared National Call In Day on Colombia to members of the U.S. Congress and State Department.  It is an opportunity for Americans who are concerned about peace and justice in Colombia to contact their elected and State Department officials.  Calling for our government to withhold certification of assistance to the Colombian military until there is a transparent, impartial investigation and prosecution by civilian authorities of the perpetrators of this massacre.  Moreover, we can call for an investigation of army officials involved in human rights abuses in Colombia. 
Thousands of civilians have lost their lives in a long and bloody civil war.  Even as we grieve for these latest victims, we can move forward alongside courageous Colombians still working for peace despite threats and loss.  They live each day joyfully, proclaiming that death will not have the last word.  They believe – Peace is Possible!

Let us help them make peace a reality in Colombia.

On April 26, you can fax Ambassador Michael Kozak, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, U.S. State Department at 202-647-5283.  You can contact your U.S. Senator and Congressperson by logging on ucctakeaction.org 

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