COLOMBIA: Peoples’ Forum for Peace in Colombia–“Dialogue is the Answer”


1 September 2011
COLOMBIA:  Peoples’ Forum for Peace
in Colombia—“Dialogue is the Answer”

by Stewart Vriesinga     

 [Note: the following release has been edited for
length.  People may view the
original release here.]

 Those most
impacted by the conflict in Colombia are seldom heard from and almost never
consulted.  They are the
indigenous, Afro-Colombian and campesinos from rural sectors all over the
country.  They travelled great
distances to meet in Barrancabermeja from 12-15  August, to work out and propose their own solution to a
conflict that continues to threaten their lives, their traditional lands, their
livelihoods, and cultural identities.

  Miguel Cifuentes, one of the organizers,
announced to the participants during the conference,

The visitors to Barrancabermeja accommodated themselves as best they could in tents, or on the floors of the coliseum and football stadium “We have verified that there are over fifteen thousand
people from all regions of the country, with the active participation of over
600 social organizations in Colombia to share their organizational processes,
their work towards creating the conditions for peace, and the defence of their

By the end of the weekend, participants had come up with
their own manifesto for peace in Colombia, which they sent to Colombian society
(via the media), the central government, other branches of government, and the
guerrillas of the FARC-EP and ELN, “in order to express our willingness
and desire to dialogue because actions are urgently needed to untie the knot of
confrontation and move towards a political solution and peace.”

Both the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -Popular
Army (FARC-EP) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) sent statements
expressing their desire to enter into negotiations to find a solution to the
conflict.  The People’s Manifesto
noted, however,  “We are concerned that, despite the
formal recognition of the Colombian conflict by the present government … the
pursuit of a military solution is at the top of the government agenda and
relates to a misguided concept of a peace between ‘victors and vanquished.’ …”

The massacres and targeted killing of indigenous,
Afro-Colombian and campesino groups by all armed actors, including state
security forces, continue with impunity. 
New displacements also persist, some because of further violence, and
others because of State legal maneuverings that dispossess them of their
traditional territories to make way for transnational mining interests, palm
oil plantations, and other mega projects.

Clearly if the Colombian State agreed to negotiate a new
social contract that protects the rights, cultural identity and territory of
all indigenous, Afro-Colombian and campesino Colombians, many powerful business
interests here in Colombia and abroad would lose their easy access to
Colombia’s mineral wealth and natural resources.  So far, the Colombian state’s preferred solution to the
conflict seems to be eliminating both the armed resistance and the civil
resistance in favour of powerful national and international economic interests.
 The challenge for the allies of
Colombia’s victims of violence is to do what the armed resistance could not:
transform the balance of power to such an extent that civil society can
actually force the State to come the bargaining table.

 (The entire
Peoples’ Forum for Peace manifesto can be found on line here.

(Some CPT Colombia team members attended the Forum, but did
not actively participate in the dialogue. 
The Colombia team’s primary contributions were (1) Accompanying people
in and out of Segovia, Remedios, and surrounding villages along with our
Colombian partner organization CAHUCOPANA, (2) Taking part in a public action
in July by a CPT international delegation in Remedios during which the event
was promoted, and (3) Accompanying people from CAHUCOPANA as they visited
different cities in north-east Antioquia to invite them to participate in the


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