Colombia Shorts

Colombia COsParamilitaries Re-Group:  In Barrancabermeja, the Central Block of the Black Eagles, a new paramilitary group operating in the city, sent a series of death threats to youth and organizations.  “Central Block” reminds local people of the old “Central Bolívar Block” that operated in this area under the paramilitary United Self-defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).  The AUC officially demobilized in January, 2006.  Despite the remarkable name similarity and the threats, officials in the city deny the existence of this new or reorganized paramilitary group.  In July and August, numerous social and human rights organizations, including several close partners of CPT, received an e-mail threat from the Central Block saying, “We consider all people or organizations that belong to far left groups or social movements military objectives.”  The Central Block circulated a similarly-worded threat in the different Barrancabermeja neighborhoods saying it was committed to “cleansing” the city of “undesirables.”

Conscientious Objection: The collective of conscientious objectors of Barrancabermeja called “The Fifth Commandment,” performed a public action during the traditional military parade on National Independence Day (July 20).  With faces creatively painted, the conscientious objectors handed out 300 balloons in less than five minutes with messages decrying militarization, armed conflict and forced recruitment.  Finally, they stood with their backs turned to the parade as a symbol of their objection to war.

Break-ins: On June 14, the Bogotá office of Justapaz (a program of the Mennonite Church of Colombia and part of CPT’s inviting body) was robbed.  Leaving other valuable items untouched, the perpetrators stole two computers containing sensitive information on people and churches active in peace work and on victims and witnesses of human rights violations.  On June 2, the Bogotá office of Fellowship of Reconciliation (which does work similar to CPT in the northwestern peace community of San José de Apartadó) was burglarized and computer records were stolen.  In January of 2007, the Permanent Assembly of the Civil Society for Peace also suffered the theft of a computer containing sensitive documents and photographs.

Coke Boycott: The labor union of Coca-Cola workers renewed their campaign against the multinational industry.  After a year of talks with the company and an agreement of confidentiality, the union decided to stop negotiations and to publish the ongoing abuses of workers.  The union seeks an agreement of complete reparations (political, economic, historical and social) including a public statement that would recognize Coca-Cola’s culpability in the deaths of unionists at the hands of paramilitaries both inside and outside the company.  The company is only offering economic reparations.  Unionists request that members of the international community boycott all Coca-Cola products (including Dasani bottled water and Powerade sports drink) until the company publicly recognizes its violations.

SOA Graduates: Two former instructors and 5 other high-ranking officers who received training at the School of the Americas (SOA) were among 13 military officials arrested as part of a recent investigation into the Colombian Army’s 3rd Brigade for collaborating with the drug cartels they were trained to fight against.  Join the vigil to close the SOA (now known as the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation - WHINSEC) this November 16-18 in Columbus, Georgia.  See www.soaw.org for details.