COLOMBIA UPDATE: March 2009

CPTnet
30 April 2009
COLOMBIA UPDATE: March 2009

In March, CPT accompanied and participated in events organized by Southern Bolivar Agricultural-Mining Federation, organizations in Barrancabermeja and the Micoahumado and Garzal communities.

Threats distributed at the national level by paramilitary groups named youth, drug users, and others as targets for social cleansing campaigns.  Four youth had to displace from Barrancabermeja due to these threats.  Men in a white van without plates forced a group of youth to distribute the pamphlets containing the threats.  

Each Wednesday during Lent, the team presented public liturgies in response to the difficult situations that the communities and organizations we accompany face.  

1-5 March
The community of Garzal requested CPT's presence at an emergency meeting held to decide how to respond to two unknown visitors that arrived in the community.  Fearing a hostile land takeover because of a land dispute with the Barreto family, the community has a policy of not allowing strangers to enter.  After a negotiation with police, the community, representatives of the Barreto family, and the municipal ombudsperson, the community agreed to allow the Barreto employees to stay in a nearby house.  Pierre Shantz and Paul Horst observed the process.

In a second visit, Sarah Shirk, Chris Knestrick and Paul Horst attended a conciliation session between the Garzal communities and the Barreto family in Simiti.  The Barreto family did not have sufficient information about the land they are claiming, nor could they prove the validity of their titles.  The judge ordered a deeper investigation into the validity of the Barretos' titles and the rights of the families in the community to possess the land.  

8 March
Jenny Dillon attended an International Women’s Day event sponsored by the Women's Popular Organization (OFP).  The women commemorated the day with an exposition called "The Clothesline."  The exhibit included a video about the history of the organization and posters, photos, and historical dates printed on pieces of clothing and then hung on a clothesline.

11-15 March

Gladys Gomez, Chris Knestrick and Paul Horst participated in the Sixth anniversary celebration of the Constituents' Popular Assembly for Life, Justice and Peace in Micoahumado and Corcovado.  The celebration memorialized the communities’ process and achievements to date, continuing their call to remain unified.  During CPT's visit, team members observed helicopters and small army planes fumigating land near the La Plaza community.  (See 2 April 2009 CPTnet release, Fumigation as a Weapon of War and the photos.)

19-21 March
A municipal committee that attends to the displaced population met with the communities of Garzal and Nueva Esperanza.  The community presented various complaints about threats, violence, and lack of services.  Committee members recognized that the violence has continued, and that they should not have removed the measures of protection a few years ago without consulting the community.  The committee decided that the Barreto family's workers can only visit, and would not be permitted to move into the communities.  If anyone violates this agreement, the police will intervene.  

In the meeting with the Colombian Institute for Rural Development (INCODER) the next day, which CPTers Pierre Shantz and Jenny Dillon attended, community members and their lawyer, Rafael Figueroa, told about their history on the land and the judicial process regarding it, criticizing the Barreto family's abuse of power and claim to the land.   

19-25 March
Two teams consisting of Chris Knestrick, Gladys Gomez, Eloy Garcia, and Sarah Shirk accompanied various members of the Southern Bolivar Agricultural-Mining Federation as part of their second annual pilgrimage to the San Lucas Mountains.  

On 21-22 March, an assembly gathered in the mining community of San Pedro Frio.  Topics of discussion included the Agricultural-Mining Law and developing Standards for Living in Community.  In the evenings, various groups presented dance and musical acts.  

Shirk and Garcia joined the muddy, slippery hike up the Teta on Monday, 23 March.  On the mountain peak, leaders from the Federation offered prayers that their movement would be strengthened and that members would remain committed to the social struggle.  Two hundred people attended; organizers originally hoped for 2000.  (See photos.)

24-27 March
A Solidarity Mission from the organization Peace for Life visited Barrancabermeja.  The international and interfaith group met with the Women's Popular Organization, families of the victims of the 16 May 1998 massacre, youth initiatives and the LGTB community.  Vivian de Lima of the Philippines noted, “In every country I visit, I see the same forms of violence.  The work that we have is to lift ourselves up to seek justice and peace for everyone—not just for the victims, but for all of society.  This includes those who commit violence—(See photos.)



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