COLOMBIA: Courageous young leader shows commitment

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CPTnet
11 January 2010
COLOMBIA: Courageous young leader shows commitment

CPT Colombia is grateful to have had the opportunity to talk
with Carlos Arturo Morales Mayorga, the twenty-three-year old leader of the
organization CAHUCOPANA, which CPT has accompanied since 2008.  CAHUCOPANA is the Corporation for
Coexistence and Peace in Northeast Antioquia.  Its objective is resolving the humanitarian crisis and human
rights violations that afflict the rural communities of the townships of
Remedios and Segovia, in the province of Antioquia.

Carlos is from Lejanias in the township of Remedios.  Since the age of eighteen, he has been leading
Humanitarian Actions and other CAHUCOPANA projects, while caring for his wife
and two young children.  Despite having
experienced the loss and murder of three CAHUCOPANA members at the hands of the
state, and having had his own life threatened for his involvement in promoting
human rights, he continues to be a strong voice of resistance, calling for
justice and peace in Colombia.

Carlos (in middle holding white sheet)

CPT: What does CAHUCOPANA do?

Carlos: CAHUCOPANA is a small organization founded in 2004.  The purpose for which our organization
was created is to empower communities, shape and form human rights, and thus
for communities to live with social justice and true peace.  We conduct training workshops on human
rights and international humanitarian law, in places where people are afraid
because they see the army come to the houses raping children, stealing animals
and food, and communities are not denouncing or reporting this.

 We believe that
by informing the people of their rights, we are also giving them the tools to
work for justice.

CPT: What’s going on in Northeast Antioquia?

Carlos: The area of Northeast Antioquia has been one of the
hardest hit regions of the country on the issue of human rights violations and
state neglect.  There are many
multinational interests there, and this makes the fundamental rights of campesino
communities very vulnerable.  In
addition, former president Alvaro Uribe’s policy of “democratic
security” has left children without parents, mothers without children, and
widows.

This territory is rich in natural resources such as uranium,
gold, watersheds, and lots of wood.  This wealth and interest in the gold mines unfortunately has
lead  to multinationals looking at
Northeast Antioquia not for dignified development,  but to extract these campesino communities, displace them,
and keep the resources for themselves. 
For example, the government gave 21,000 hectares [approx. 52,000 acres]
in a land concession to multinationals between the San Lucas Mountains and the
Northeast Antioquia region.  This
has led to an operation called “Operation Athena” by the Calibio
battalion, of the XIV Brigade, which over the past four years has had the
objective of wiping out the campesino population.

Furthermore, there are paramilitary groups and national army
checkpoints in the region that do not let in food, canned goods, medicines,
boots, malaria treatment [it is a tropical region], and on top of this, there
is the constant state abandonment of access roads.  You will not find a health center or decent education for
children.  Despite all this,
Northeast Antioquia has been a real example of non-violent resistance in the
Middle Magdalena region

CPT: What is happening with extrajudicial executions in the
region?  Or “False
Positives”?

Carlos: 
Extra-judicial executions were implemented in 2005 as a state
policy.  What is happening is that
state has been kidnapping and murdering young campesino men, then dressing
their bodies up to look like they are guerilla fighters.  For every “enemy combatant”
killed, those responsible receive time off and a monetary reward.  The state army is currently under
investigation for 2000 cases of extrajudicial executions, but it is impossible
to ever know how many there have been. 
Personally, we have had over eighteen partners executed by the Calibio
battalion of the Fourteenth Brigade.

But what this repression has done is nurture and affirm us.  We will
not have a minute of silence.  On the contrary, our voices have been
unleashed and we will not keep quiet. 
They want to stigmatize us, lock up, or kill leaders of CAHUCOPANA or
ACVC [Campesino Association of the Cimitarra Valley].  They believe that
if they do this, the social processes in
the region will end.  Yes, there
are some who are going to kill us, but this is a process that no one is
going
to stop, not fear, not anything, and for that, we are strengthened.

CPT: What could the international community do to support
CAHUCOPANA?

Carlos: There are many things you can do to support
CAHUCOPANA.  To speak out for justice,
you don’t have to have a physical presence here in Colombia.  Speak out to the embassy and
international government bodies through public actions that claim the right to
life for all people.  Inform
yourself.  Read about the Colombian
conflict in the news, especially through Rural Press [prensarural.org].  You can send letters of solidarity to
CAHUCOPANA.  And of course,
CAHUCOPANA is always willing to host national and international delegations to
see the reality of Northeast Antioquia firsthand.

CPT: What is your personal history in the social and human
rights movement?

Carlos: One reason why I work to defend human rights is that
my father has worked twenty-five years with the social movement.  He is a recognized leader in
Barrancabermeja, and he has been persecuted for his work.

For example, during the paramilitary incursion in 2001, my
family was displaced, and we lost our home.  We lost everything.  We had
only one change of clothes.  Human rights groups helped us to move and
live in
Bucaramanga.  Subsequently, our
house  was raided by prosecutors
[La Fiscalia].  It was a terrible
example of injustice.  But this
experience helped me reaffirm that I had to get involved.  I started
working with my dad with
ACVC, but when I saw CAHUCOPANA beginning to form, I liked it more.

CPT: What is it like to care for your family while your own
life is threatened?

Carlos: Threats against a defender of human rights become a
daily routine and these make you value even more your partner and children,
because they walk, and go along with you, strengthening, and reinforcing your
work.  This mutual support is one
that reaffirms the love and protection for my family.  It does so because I want to watch my
partner, daughter, and son grow up with a fair and dignified development.  That’s my hope for the future that I
want share with all children in the region.

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