20 August 2012
COLOMBIA: Peasants gather to defend rights amid ongoing persecution
by Alix Lozano
The first Miguel Angel Gonzalez Gutierrez peasant training institute, held from 29 June to 2 July in Medellin, was dedicated to strengthening human rights
protection, work that CAHUCOPANA has been advancing in northeast Antioquia over the
last eight years. In attendance were regional coordinators, youth and women’s organizers
and regional communicators. Teams from Bogota and Medellin developed the
event’s processes and methodologies.
Participants deepened their understanding and analysis in four areas: Human
Rights and International Humanitarian Law; Victims’ Rights to Truth, Justice
and Reparations; Historical Memory; and Land and Territorial Rights. CPT,
invited to address “The Rights to Land and Territory: Agrarian Conflict and the
Structures of Agriculture,” clarified the role of foreign interventions and
transnational business interests in dispossessing peasants, indigenous
communities and Afro-Colombians of land and territory.
Medellin, Antioquia’s capital
and administrative center, made for an ideal location for the event. The institute
offered northeastern Antioquia’s farming communities a view into the region’s political
realities and opportunities to form new alliances and relationships with other organizations
working toward common goals. For example, participants connected with LATEPAZ, an organization led mostly by female heads of household displaced by violence
from the Urabá region and now residing in Medellin’s La Cruz barrio.
Medellin came under
paramilitary control starting in 2002. This process – which occurred with collusion
from Colombian military and police as a response to the presence of FARC and ELN guerrilla groups – has led to the violent deaths of an untold number of women
and men who have defended their right to a dignified life on their land.
On 7 June 2012, Ana Fabricia Cordoba, a leader and
founder of LATEPAZ, was murdered on a bus. Her assassin fled after shooting her
in the head using a silenced gun.
of Cordoba and other women
give evidence of the constant persecution and aggression directed at community
leaders throughout the country. In spite of all the reports and denouncements, official
negligence in protecting people’s lives remains a plain reality.
2010 and April 2011, 206 individual acts of aggression were registered against
human rights defenders, including 34 assassinations. During the same period,
127 social or human rights organizations were victims of some type of aggression
that put their members’ lives and safety at risk and prevented them from
carrying out their legal and legitimate work of defending human rights. This
does not take into account the violent deaths of women in Northeastern
Antioquia, whose life stories rip the hearts of those who hear them.
That this scenario is playing out in a capital city like Medellin shows the level
of degradation a country can come to when humans are treated as objects and
certain people consider themselves lords over others’ lives and destinies.
This is why more
institutes for community leaders are needed in order to raise consciousness and
sensitivity that life must be held as sacred, freedom of expression protected as
a right of all people who live in transparent democracies, and the lives of all
men and women must be defended.