This article was compiled from various writings by CPT-Colombia team members and participants in the May and July Colombia delegations.
San Pablo, a municipality along the Magdalena River in southern Bolívar province, is an oil port surrounded by extensive fields of fertile land, where some of the highest levels of violence, threats, displacement, and paramilitary activity in the region impact the civilian population.
Last April, hit-men assassinated 36-year-old community leader Edgar Martínez in San Pablo, shooting him five times in the head. Martínez had been active in various initiatives for peace and justice, including the Southern Bolívar Agricultural-Mining Federation, which CPT has accompanied for more than three years. Martínez is one of at least 13 people assassinated in San Pablo this year.
In June, an unusual ecumenical effort uniting both Protestants and Catholics mobilized more than 1,000 people for a prayer rally and march, called “Clamor for Life and Peace,” to demand an end to the assassinations and to commemorate those killed in this year’s wave of paramilitary violence.
CPT delegates visiting San Pablo in late July met with grassroots organizations, local NGOs, churches and farming communities. They heard how U.S.-financed fumigations and violence by armed groups are generating ongoing displacements and suffering. The lack of infrastructure and the absence of viable alternatives have made coca cultivation and processing the leading economic activities in the area. Consequently, San Pablo has experienced increasing violence by and among paramilitary groups as these and other armed actors fight for control of the territory and the coca trade.
Delegation members, in conjunction with several community leaders and two pastors, performed a public action that symbolically swept away violence, corruption, militarization and corporate greed and affirmed participants’ hopes for peace with justice in the region. CPTers shared 126 letters sent by the international community calling for an investigation into the murders and intimidation of San Pablo leaders and civilians, then delivered the letters to local governmental authorities.