COLOMBIA: CPT delegates accompany Antioquians denouncing extra-judicial killings at military headquarters

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CPTnet
25 June 2010
COLOMBIA: CPT
delegates accompany Antioquians denouncing extra-judicial killings at military
headquarters
 

by Stewart
Vriesinga

 

[Note: This
release is the first part of a two-part reflection to appear on CPTnet.  Those wishing to see the original
longer blog entry from which the two releases are taken will find it at https://stewart-in-colombia.blogspot.com/2010/04/for-christ-who-has-not-risen.html]

CPTers Scott
Nicholson and I, along with our Colombian partner organization CAHUCOPANA,
spent Easter week hosting and leading a Colombian delegation that came to learn
about the reality of oppressed rural communities in the northeastern part of
the Antioquia department.

The trip began
and ended in Puerto Berrío—a port on the Magdalena River that is home to the
14th Brigade, the notorious Calibío Battalion, and numerous paramilitary
groups.  It is an area into which
our friends from the Corporation for Coexistence and Peace in Northeast
Antioquia (CAHUCOPANA) will not venture without international accompaniment.  A week earlier, two of my teammates had
accompanied a teachers’ march in Puerto Berrío after paramilitaries
assassinated a teacher and his spouse there.  Early on Sunday, 28 March, we began the long and bumpy
eight-hour bus ride from Puerto Berrío followed by a one-and-a-half-hour hike
up to the hamlet of Santa Marta, where we would stay until Thursday morning.

During our
visit in Santa Marta, we learned of the threat that multinational mining
corporations and other mega-projects presented to campesino farmers and
artisanal miners.  Paramilitary and
military extrajudicial killings, extortion and economic blockades are used to
displace and dispossess the thousands of people who make their home and
livelihoods on these lands—lands that the Colombian government has designated a
Campesino Reserve, which should protect the local residents from economic and
violent displacement.

CAHUCOPANA—a
local grassroots human rights organization—was formed to protect the local
population from mass displacement and extrajudicial killing.  In addition to paramilitary violence,
troops from the Calibío Battalion of the Fourteenth Brigade have been
assassinating campesinos and then presenting them as guerrilla soldiers killed
in combat.  CAHUCOPANA and local
residents have repeatedly denounced these atrocities, but these crimes remain
unpunished.  Local residents who
courageously testified against the state security forces live in constant fear
that state forces themselves or their paramilitary allies will take retaliatory
actions.

Yet, despite
the risks, local residents are organizing under CAHUCOPANA to resist
displacement and dispossession of their lands and to put an end to the
extrajudicial killings and legal impunity for those who commit them.  CAHUCOPANA and these residents decided
to accompany CPT and the national delegation back to Puerto Berrío to publicly
denounce the extrajudicial killings of their community members in front of the
headquarters of the Fourteenth Brigade.

The CPT
delegation was invited to participate in Puerto Berrío’s Good Friday Mass.  The delegates were asked to present the
fifth words spoken by Jesus during his crucifixion: “I thirst.”  Using theatre, song and words the
delegation described the northeast Antioquia campesinos’ thirst for justice,
and how Jesus, himself a campesino, continues to be crucified today.  The CAHUCOPANA folks, most of who had
stayed back in the retreat centre to plan their own action for the following
day, had watched the mass on television. 
They met us with applause at the entrance to the retreat centre in which
we were all staying.

Easter
Saturday, the CPT delegation joined CAHUCOPANA members in front of the 14th
Brigade to do a public action intended to end impunity and give meaning to the
lives of the Brigades’ victims through their courageous public denunciation of
the extrajudicial killings.  They
referred to their public action as a “Gallery of Historical Memory.”  The victims’ names, along with the
names of their killers, were read out. 
With the reading of each name we shouted out “Presente!  Presente!  Presente!  ¿Hasta
Cuando?  Hasta siempre!”  “Present!  Present!  Present!  Until when?  Forever!”

After the
public action, delegates and members of the Colombia team accompanied
CAHUCOPANA members out of Puerto Berrío— to Bogotá, Barrancabermeja, and to
their home territory in the north-east of Antioquia where so many of their
community members have already been crucified.  There they will remain, determined not give up their land to
make way for any neo-liberal enterprise or mega-project as long as they have a
spark of life in their bodies.

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