CAHUCOPANA member Angela Castellanos will speak at CPT’s 25th anniversary Peacemaker Congress October 13-16 in Chicago. See www.cpt.org/congress/registration
CAHUCOPANA (cow-coh-PAH-nah) is one of those delightful acronyms, a mouthful in any language. In Spanish it stands for Corporación Acción Humanitaria por la Convivencia y la Paz del Nordeste Antioqueño. In English it means Humanitarian Action Corporation for the Coexistence and Peace of Northeast Antioquia, but the translation doesn’t really do justice to the spirit and work of the organization.
Founded in 2004, CAHUCOPANA is an initiative of campesinos (subsistence farmers) united to defend nonviolently their human rights. Their primary objective is to “build solutions to the social and human rights crises plaguing rural communities in the municipalities of Segovia and Remedios in Northeast Antioquia.”
This region, rich in natural resources including water, valuable minerals, wildlife and gold, is zoned as a forest preserve and should be protected as such. However, government concessions to foreign investors – such as Canadian multinational Gran Colombia Gold Corp. and its subsidiaries Zandor Capital and Anglogold Ashanti – have resulted in significant damage to the environment and triggered countless conflicts, claiming the lives of many campesinos and displacing thousands more.
CAHUCOPANA released a book on 20 July called “Northeast Antioquia: Territory under Dispute – Between the Accumulation of Capital and the Campesino Alternative” which points to the lack of government services in the region and the absence of regulation and planning for equitable development that would benefit the population.
“The only government presence is the military which is just here to repress us and damage the social fabric of our communities,” said one CAHUCOPANA leader.
Some residents report that the army is preventing goods from entering rural areas which means campesinos must make costly trips to distant urban centers on nearly impassable roads to buy food and supplies.
Paramilitary violence also threatens community life, forcing displacement and creating fear in Northeast Antioquia. A paramilitary group called the Black Eagles raided the community of Santa Marta in June, and on 26 July union leader Rafael Tobón was assassinated.
After nearly seven years of hard work and peaceful resistance, CAHUCOPANA has helped reduce the rate of human rights abuses and violations of International Humanitarian Law in the region. Their strategy includes forming human rights teams in each community and organizing “humanitarian actions” in response to crisis situations. These “humanitarian actions” involve not only collecting and delivering food, clothing and medicines to affected communities, but also providing human rights workshops and public denunciations of violence and abuse.
CPT continues to partner with CAHUCOPANA as it expands its efforts to promote respect for human rights and dignity, encourage direct participation in making peace, and demand a voice in deciding how the resources of their territory will be cared for and who will benefit.