15 November 2008
COLOMBIA UPDATE: October 2008
In October, CPT Colombia continued to accompany human rights groups in Barrancabermeja as well as community organizing processes in the Southern Bolivar region, such as San Pablo, Cantagallo, Garzal, and Santa Rosa. CPTers also accompanied mining federation members in the Southern Bolivar region.
Sarah MacDonald and Sarah Shirk attended a workshop for women sponsored by the Women's Popular Organization (OFP) a group CPT has accompanied for a number of years and the Mesa de Mujeres (Women´s Roundtable). Focusing on violence against women, the workshop taught participants how to document and report incidents of violence.
Stewart Vriesinga and Sarah MacDonald accompanied a commission of the Southern Bolivar Agricultural-Mining Federation and others traveling from Barrancabermeja to Santa Rosa for a negotiation with government officials. Hundreds of community members from throughout the region gathered in Santa Rosa in anticipation of the meeting. However, the government officials did not show up. On 15 October, 300-400 people from the communities met; throughout the day many expressed their frustration and anger, sharing the sentiment that the government is not interested in talking with the communities.
Julian Gutierrez and Sarah Shirk attended a conference on bio-fuels organized by the regional assembly of the Coalition of Movements and Social Organizations of Colombia (COMOSOC). The conference focused on palm oil, which can be substituted for diesel, and is being planted aggressively in the Magdalena Medio region. Presenters noted that cultivation of palm oil damages traditional cultures, decreases food crop availability, and harms the environment.
Kim Lamberty and Pierre Shantz accompanied staff from the Program for Development and Peace in the Middle Magdalena for a community meeting in Caña Fria, located in the municipality of San Pablo in the Southern Bolivar region. About thirty people attended from eleven small villages. The goal of this process, called Zona de Desarrollo Integral, is leadership formation and community organization in order to prevent displacement and improve the community's ability to advocate for its own human rights and dignity.
Julian Gutierrez and Sarah Shirk traveled to Bogota with women from the Women's Popular Organization (OFP) to attend the 3rd annual national gathering of COMOSOC. The following day, the Coalition leaders presented a draft of their political agenda and strategic goals. Participants discussed ways in which they could participate in bringing about the group's strategic goals, which include: 1) A political solution to the conflict; 2) Dignity and quality of life; 3) True democracy; the rights to protest, freedom of opinion, expression and association; 4) Territorial sovereignty.
Stewart Vriesinga and Kim Lamberty travelled to Santa Rosa in the Southern Bolivar region to accompany Teofilo Acuña, leader of the Southern Bolivar Agricultural-Mining Federation, in his travels away from the area. Acuña has received death threats and was arrested last year for charges that were ultimately dropped for lack of evidence. Acuña left Santa Rosa after the government agreed to reschedule negotiations with the miners for 6 November.
Sarah MacDonald, Pierre Shantz, and Stewart Vriesinga participated in community meetings in Nueva Esperanza and Garzal, in Southern Bolivar. The focal point of each community meeting was a role play, which CPTers conducted together with community leadership. Role plays were designed to prepare the communities for dealing with a consortium trying to buy their land and/or a lawyer trying to convince them to leave the land. Each role play was followed by discussion and analysis, which community members entered into with spirit. Community leadership emphasized that whether or not community members stay on their land does not depend on titles or lawyers, but rather on community members having a vision for how they will develop and live on their land.
Kim Lamberty and Sarah Shirk traveled to Cantagallo in the Southern Bolivar region to attend another of a series of meetings of the Zona de Desarollo Integral process. The agenda and goals of this meeting were similar to the one that took place on 18 October in Caña Fria.