FOR Peace Presence Monthly Update – September 2014

FOR Peace Presence Monthly Update – September 2014

Greetings!

This month we worked as a team of three in Bogotá with Gale, Michaela, and Kaya, while Isabel and Nikki continue FOR Peace Presence’s permanent accompaniment, living in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó.

In September, the Bogotá team physically accompanied for 17 days in Cundinamarca, Atlántico, Cesar, Santa Marta, and Valle de Cauca, La Guajira and Sucre – a new record! Additionally, we organized 4 joint meetings with Embassies and our accompanied partners and a meeting with the Human Rights Unit of the Colombian Ministry of Defense. We released 5 written pieces on our Peace Presence webpage – check out our News section of our website to stay up-to-date.

As military presence surrounding the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó was a constant in September, our team has not only been present in the hamlet of La Unión, but also responded to the community’s movements. Nikki and Isa made the long, 5-hour, muddy trek to accompany a community leader to and in the Peace Community hamlet of Mulatos, where the 2005 massacre took place.

This stream which feeds the Sumapaz River has run dry – June 2014, and August 2014

At the beginning of September we responded to the petition of communities in Nilo, Cundinamarca to stand witness to the continued destruction of their habitat, now on behalf of extractive activities, as dredgers from a sand extraction company devastate the local Sumapaz River. Communities first settled in this area around 1920 and in 1954 the military training base of Tolemaida was installed in close proximity and all land was given to the military. Today Tolemaida is one of the biggest military training bases in Colombia and attempts to displace these communities despite several state protections in favor of the communities. Check out our facebook photo album to learn in detail about the different threats the community of Nilo faces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“For life, dignity and integrity” Event

With our partner Tierra Digna, a Colombian collective of laywers, we accompanied the event “For life, dignity and integrity: Guarantees for communities in mining zones” in the department of Cesar, one of the most active open pit coal mining areas in Colombia. Communities and environmental and human rights defenders came together to exchange experiences and learn about new strategies to confront extractive industries’ affects on more communities throughout Colombia. If you want to learn more about the work of Tierra Digna and this struggle, and you happen to live in the US, we will hopefully see you during the upcoming FOR Peace Presence Tour with Tierra Digna! (see below).

IMG_1045

Mural of Principles of Humanitarian Space

While accompanying in the Humanitarian Space of Buenaventura, news from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights arrived and brought hope. Protective Measures, called “preventive measures” or ‘medidas cuatelares’ have at long last been approved – these measures will cover more than 1000 people, who stand for an alternative to violence in the midst of one of the most violent cities in all of Colombia. Now concrete protections, such as a school bus for the children and an armored car for the leaders of the space, have to be implemented by the Colombian state. We hope to contribute to a fast implementation by insistently reminding out different national and international agencies of their obligations.

On Colombia’s Human Rights Day, we accompanied a Human Chain protest, formed by 1200 farmers who are victims of the armed conflict in the area of Montes de Maria in the department of Sucre and Bolivar. These farmers not only demand the liberation of their imprisoned leader Jorge Montes, but also demand that the government fulfill agreements reached after a Peace March in April of 2013. In March 2014, FOR Peace Presence had visited the zone of Montes de Maria with our 2014 FOR International Delegation.

Speaking of delegations – In September we announced our upcoming 2015 FOR Peace Presence Delegation to Colombia. The program will focus on our core partners and the struggle over land throughout Colombia. If you’d like to take part in this on-the-ground educational experience in Colombia, join us: What’s Land Got To Do With It? Prospects and Challenges to Lasting Peace in Colombia.

We are very excited to share with you that after some busy weeks of preparation, one of the two joint-FOR Peace Presence Speaking Tours began in September. Mario Cardozo received the Mohammad Ali Humanitarian Award in Louisville, Kentucky and is now on the East Coast, where he will be until the end of October. Mario was declared Colombia’s first conscientious objector for non-religious reasons, and he is there sharing his music and experience.

And as for our second speaking tour – we had some very exciting moments in the month of September. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights confirmed a hearing on forced displacement due to mega-projects in Colombia with Johana Rocha of Tierra Digna, and 8 other Colombian organizations. FOR Peace Presence accompanier Kaya and human rights defender Johana Rocha of our partner organization Tierra Digna will be on a US speaking tour from October 24 – November 16. They will be traveling through Washington DC, New York, and the Bay Area, California, sharing with audiences the links between multinational extractivism and human rights abuses in Colombia, and how communities have sculpted alternatives in the face of displacement by large-scale development projects. Please contact us at info@peacepresence.org to hear Johana speak in your city!

We cannot do this work alone – it requires various forms of support. Sometimes we put up calls to action on our Facebook or website, and sometimes we ask you to write to your local members of congress. If you can take a moment today to donate to FOR Peace Presence, it will help ensure that we can continue our physical, protective accompaniment along-side partners in the field, as well as our political advocacy and movement building work. Your help remains invaluable to this cause.

Thank you,

FOR Peace Presence Team

Candice, Michaela, Kaya, Gale, Isabel, and Nikki

A Matter of Recognition

by Alejandro Parra of ACOOC, translated by Gale Stafford of FOR Peace Presence

Para español, haz clic aquí

Mariopremio

Mario (third from right) with the other winners of the 2014 Muhammad Ali Award

On Saturday, September 27 in Louisville, Kentucky, 22-year-old Colombian conscientious objector Mario Andrés Hurtado Cardozo received the Conviction Award granted by the Muhammad Ali Center. This recognition is given to young adults under 30 years old who stand out for their work in social justice and the defense of human rights in diverse countries of the world.

Mario was selected among many others nominated in Latin America, due principally to his decision to refuse to be trained for war and to work for the rights of young people from working-class areas. These youth are the main target of recruiting by all of the armed groups in Colombia, including the country’s own army, the force which most ropes young people into the war in the form of obligatory military service.

Mario refused the obligatory military service; instead he opted to work for Hip Hop con Jóvenes (“Hip Hop with Young People”) of Soacha, the municipality of Colombia that receives the largest population of people displaced by violence. He also accompanied the denouncements of mothers who lost their children as a consequence of “false positives,” a practice of the army that consists of killing innocent civilians and then dressing them in uniforms of the armed guerilla faction in order to present them as “killed in combat” and therefore claim rewards. These types of actions have left 4,200 victims in the country, of which only 14% have been recognized as such and been financially compensated by the State[1]. After his work in Soacha, Mario joined the Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia (Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors), where he currently works as a legal counsel and defender of youth in risk of recruitment who, like him, denied military service.

However, there is a serious irony in Mario’s recognition, as in cases of many conscientious objectors throughout history. While other countries recognize his conviction and contributions towards constructing a peaceful society, in his own country, Mario is far from being recognized, and is rather ignored to the point that legal action is necessary in order to guarantee his right to conscientious objection. And now that he is finally able to practice this right, Mario is ostracized for his decision, as if the State wishes to sanction him for claiming that he can serve the country without needing to carry a weapon and be trained for war.

Just like the rest of Colombia’s conscientious objectors, because he has denied military service, Mario cannot claim his Law degree, nor can he practice as a lawyer. This is due to the fact that Mario has refused to carry a military booklet. In Colombia, military booklets are a type of mandatory identification young men are required to have, defining their military status and service. Because Mario has refused to carry one, no business or social entity can contract him, given that the State would impose economic sanctions for hiring a young person without said document.

It is contradictory that a government that says it is going for peace not only continues recruiting thousands of young people for the war, but furthermore, makes civil sanctions through the denial of fundamental rights to education and work to those who decide not to take part in it. “In Colombia it is much more profitable to have a gun than a professional title,” affirms a conscious objector who does not understand how the State offers higher education, economic grants and places of work for guerrillas or paramilitaries who, after having been part of the war, decide to demobilize. This is all while the very same State takes away the fundamental rights of the young people who have never shot against another Colombian and refuse to be trained to have to do it. Instead, it applies quantitative fines that, in the majority of cases, turn out to be impossible for conscientious objectors to pay because with their condition as objectors, they cannot even count on having a decent job.

However, conscientious objectors believe that it is more than the fact that the State does not want to recognize their political right and sanction to those who manage to be recognized as such. Really this is what they say that hides the profound fear that one day, the number of young people who make use of the right to objection will grow exponentially, obligating the State and the military forces to recognize something which they have always tried to deny: that the majority of young Colombians don’t want to take part in the war, and don’t believe in an anachronistic, discriminatory, and obsolete model of obligatory military service.

The amount of young Colombians linked with the public forces are around 412,000[2], at the same time the Army Recruitment Command proposes that the number of draft dodgers is around 800,000[3]. In any other social State of law, the military forces would have admitted that there is a serious problem that exists with the model of military service by now, given that the number of young people who disobey the law are double those who see themselves as obligated to submit to it. In Colombia they insist on treating those who refuse to take part in the war as delinquents, but they recognize and prize the combatants with all kinds of privileges and options for the citizens’ army.

What would Austrian suffragist Berta Von Suttner think? With her book Lay Down Your Arms!, she not only inspired the creation of the Nobel Peace Prize, but also was the first woman to receive said recognition. What would she say upon seeing that 100 years later the same Prize was awarded to the President of the most potent military power of the world? Upon learning that today, from the same office where the Prize is exhibited, he ordered the bombing of innocents with the excuse of controlling a fabricated enemy as the means to his necessities?

The recognition that today they give to this Colombian objector on an International level is an important deed –  it seeks to focus the attention on the necessity of transforming the absurd military logic that reigns in society, hoping that one day those who seek peace will be the model to follow, and not the citizens that the State insists on sanctioning and pursuing.

 

FOR Peace Presence provides protective and political accompaniment to ACOOC, and nominated Mario to the Muhammad Ali Center for the award in Conviction.

 

 

[1]Human Rights Watch’s World Report 2014 notes that, “as of June 2013, the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General’s Office had been assigned investigations into 2,278 cases of alleged unlawful killings by state agents involving nearly 4,000 victims, and had obtained convictions for 189 cases.” (http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/colombia?page=2) In early 2014 the Attorney General’s office stated it is investigating cases involving 4200 victims. Many additional cases are being pursued in the regional offices of the Attorney General’s offices and unknown numbers of other cases.

[2]http://www.elpais.com.co/elpais/conflicto-armado/graficos/infografia-cuanto-le-cuesta-conflicto-armado-pais

[3]http://www.senalradiocolombia.gov.co/noticia/en-el-pa-s-cerca-de-800-mil-j-venes-evaden-el-servicio-militar

Una cuestión de reconocimiento

por Alejandro Parra de ACOOC

Click here for English

Mariopremio

Mario (tercero de la derecha) con las otras personas premiadas en 2014 por el Centro Muhammad Ali

El sábado 27 de septiembre en la ciudad estadounidense de Louisville Kentucky, Mario Andrés Hurtado Cardozo, objetor de conciencia colombiano de 22 años, recibió el Premio a la Convicción otorgado por el Muhammad Ali Center. Este galardón se entrega a jóvenes menores de 30 años que se han destacado por su trabajo en defensa de la justicia social y los derechos humanos en diversos países del mundo.

Mario fue seleccionado entre numerosas nominaciones provenientes de Latinoamérica, debido principalmente a su decisión de rehusarse a ser entrenado para la guerra y trabajar por los derechos de jóvenes de sectores populares, los cuales son el principal objetivo de reclutamiento de todos los grupos armados en Colombia, incluyendo las fuerzas militares que son en el ejército que más jóvenes vinculan a la guerra en el país bajo la figura del servicio militar obligatorio.

Mario se rehusó a prestar el servicio militar; a cambio optó por trabajar desde el Hip Hop con Jóvenes de Soacha, el municipio de Colombia que más recibe población desplazada por la violencia; también acompañó las denuncias de madres que perdieron a sus hijos como consecuencia de los falsos positivos, que han dejado en el país 4200 víctimas de las cuales solo el 14% han sido reconocidas como tal y reparadas por el Estado[1]. Luego de su trabajo en Soacha, Mario se vinculó a la Acción Colectiva de Objetores y Objetoras de Conciencia, en donde actualmente trabaja como asesor jurídi