by Eloy García
CPTers in Colombia prayed and sang out against further U.S. militarization of Colombia at a public vigil on 11 August outside a resort in Barrancabermeja where citizens awaited the arrival of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. “U.S. military bases will not answer Colombia’s troubles,” said participants. “They will only exacerbate human rights abuses directed against social organizations working for peace and justice.”
Team members Chris Knestrick and Laura Ciaghi lay in the street as symbolic corpses, draped with signs identifying “murdered community leaders” and “false positives” (civilians whom the Colombian army murders and dresses in guerrilla uniform in order to falsely claim them as killed guerrilla combatants). Other team members held signs calling for “Peace with Justice” and “No More Impunity” for perpetuators of crimes.
As the team sang “Give us strong hearts for the struggle,” police, soldiers, and other government security agents quickly surrounded them. While the authorities tried to remove them, the group, some kneeling, continued to pray a litany of resistance.
Following the prayer, CPTer Michel Lachman said, “This action is the result of the recent naming of seven [Colombian] military bases that the United States is using to amplify their presence in the region, to the understandable discomfort of neighboring countries. President Obama’s mantra of ‘change you can believe in’ rings hollow as he supports U.S. imperial designs in Colombia with approval of the planned base amplification and continued support of Plan Colombia.”
Local Colombians who witnessed CPT’s public prayer voiced their support, saying that President Uribe has no shame when he supports the United States over his own people. Some expressed astonishment that the agreement regarding the military bases would include total political immunity for any crimes committed on Colombian soil by U.S. personnel.
One taxi driver commented that, after the example of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Colombia’s neighbors are right to be worried about increased U.S. military presence in the region. “President Uribe has finally turned over the country completely to the gringos,” he said.