From El Espectador, translated by FOR Peace Presence. Original: http://bit.ly/1gmXaz1
President Juan Manuel Santos apologized to the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado, which opted for peaceful resistance in the midsts of armed conflict, and were in the past accused erroneously by the authorities of supporting the FARC. Santos announced his apologies, referring to the the actions of his Government on this subject, in the name of the State and in compliance with a provision of the Constitutional Court, during a commemoration for the International Day of Human Rights. Santos also recalled the pacifism of the late South African leader Nelson Mandela.
“Some years ago, from the Presidency of the nation, unjust accusations were made against a community – the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado. With respect to this, the Constitutional Court ordered the State, through its head the President, to retract”, said Santos.
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Barges and cargo ships dot the distant horizon off the white shores of Santa Marta. Seated on the Caribbean Sea between sandy beaches, small fishing villages, and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Santa Marta was destined to be a centerpiece of Colombia’s growing tourism industry.
But in the 1980s, as the country pushed to open doors for foreign investment and mineral extraction, the region underwent an industrial transformation. In 1982, the first coal port arrived in Santa Marta—a wide, metal pier linking shipments to off-shore barges. Slowly it became a platform for coal exports, threatening local tourism, destroying natural habitats and traditional ways of living, dividing small communities, and pillaging mineral resources.
In a country with the largest number of internally displaced people in the world, the communities in nearby La Jagua, the country’s most productive coal mining region, contain the newest experiences of forced displacement. They are caught between the contamination of once-fertile lands that are no longer apt for food production, local waterways no longer suitable for human use, and carcinogenic air-quality responsible for respiratory diseases and skin rashes.
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There’s no better way to improve your understanding of active non-violence in Colombia, to demonstrate international solidarity, or to get to the heart of the global issues that are effecting the organizations and communities we work with, than by coming over and visiting!
We’re very pleased indeed to announce the International Fellowship of Reconciliation Delegation to Colombia, happening in March 2014. This is an unequaled opportunity to meet human rights activists, to build bridges and partnerships in Colombia, and to see first hand the impacts of structural violence and armed conflict in Colombia, all guided and translated (into English and German) by members of our Peace Presence team.
If you would like to join the delegation, please see this page for more information, fill out this form to apply, and send it to these email addresses: irmgardehrenberger[at]versoehnungsbund.at (for Europe) or spimiento[at]forusa.org (for America). Please send this page to anyone and everyone you think may be interesting in this truly amazing experience.
Looking forward to seeing you in 2014,
The Peace Presence Team
By Luke Finn
Before there was Colombia, there was the extractive industry.
The legend of El Dorado stems from a Spaniard, Juan Rodriguez Freyle, watching a High Priest of the Muisca getting covered in gold dust and jumping in Lake Guatavita, near Bogotá, in a religious ceremony that makes the Pope’s big hat and incense burning look fairly underwhelming. Naturally, the Spanish saw this profligacy and wrongheaded veneration of the Sun God Sue, decided that they themselves were far better placed to use all the gold responsibly, and set about destroying the complex societies that had flourished in Colombia prior.
Legends of cities of gold (La Ciudad Blanca, the Seven Cities of Cibola) drove men who nowadays would rightly be considered genocidaires (or go-getting entrepreneurs in the global commodities market) across the Atlantic, far from their families, to an uncertain fate—an alien environment full of strange gods, beautiful birds, jeweled beetles; the sort of landscapes working class Europeans hadn’t seen since they’d left the Rift Valley and laid it to waste.
The Spanish Empire was built on this gold (and other commodities they could “extract,” worked by the stolen people of another ravaged continent.) The Muisca did less well.
Such was the conquest of the New World, and the Spanish didn’t know the half of it.
Colombia is the world’s fourth-largest producer of coal; it has 60 percent of the world’s emeralds and is the world’s second-largest nickel mine; it is a net exporter of oil; it has copper and rare earths and all the other weird stuff you never think about in spades—silica sands, coltan, and so on—that totals more than the worth of Belgium. And gold.
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By John Lindsay-Poland
Once the signature program of the U.S. drug war in Latin America, aerial fumigation of coca leaf crops is finally in deep trouble.
Fumigation’s crisis comes in a moment when coca growers, like other farmers throughout Colombia, face an economic crisis that led to a month-long national agricultural strike in August.
Colombia recognized the environmental, economic, and health damages of aerial fumigation in September, when it agreed to pay $15 million to Ecuador to settle a demand the neighboring country made at the International Court of Justice, based on destruction caused by aerial spraying in border areas. Ecuador’s lawsuit cited academic studies and regulatory warnings about the health risks of fumigation with glyphosate, studies ignored by the Colombian government.