As finalists for the National Human Rights Prize, Diaknoia 2017, we want to highlight the important work of the Regional Human Rights Defense Corporation – Credhos and a few memories we have accompanying this esteemed organisation. Since its creation, Credhos has played a fundamental role in the Magdalena Medio region due to the trust it has built with the communities for its serious and committed work in defense of human rights. PBI has accompanied Credhos since 1994, with its office next door to ours in the city of Barrancabermeja.
Our dear neighbours have known PBI volunteers from all over the work that have passed through the Barranca team, getting to know the dynamics and problems in this petrol city. We have shared moments of sadness and fear, but also joy and hope where the two organisations have built up a relationship of friendship and trust, that allows us to overcome difficult moments.
“Throughout these 23 years walking together (PBI began accompanying Credhos in 1994), we have shared many moments, happiness and sadness, and lots of accompaniments. In my case I will never forget my first accompaniment with PBI, recently having arrived to the team in Barrancabermeja; we almost jumped out of our beds when a petition arrived to accompany various organisations to a “minga” in the Sogamoso river, close to the house. In the middle of the chaos, two of the people we accompany appeared, Abelardo and Wilfran from Credhos, who received us with huge smiles and explained everything to us step by step (a huge privileged for me being one of the “newbies”), the negative impacts on the communities of the area due to the river having been re-routed and its social and environmental impacts, who everyone was and of course, where we could get our plate of delicious “sancocho”. Later came more accompaniments, meetings in their headquarters, “tinticos” and parties in the PBI house where between “vallenatos” we continued to build our history together” – Ana Vicente Moreno
“A moment that I will never forget was during and accompaniment with Iván and Andrés to the battalion in Barranca after the army had killed a campesino in the Sur de Bolívar region. Iván and Andreś spoke in such a dignified and frank way to the army, despite the anger that we all felt, and in the end the family of the man who was killed decided to accept Credhos´ offer of accompaniment. I felt hugely proud standing beside Iván and Andrés at that moment, so much bravery and dignity” – Hannah Matthews
“Accompanying Credhos has meant we have become closer to the reality and history of Barrancabermeja, one of the areas of the country most hit by socio-political violence and by the armed conflict. They are without doubt an example of resistance and solidarity with the victims of this eternal war” – Sergio De Leo
“I´m not afraid of anything!” Andrés Ortiz tells me, smiling, in Credhos´ patio as he recounts some of the difficult situations he has had to deal with. He mixes verbs in the past and present to quote some of the threats he has received directly. The last ones, the most recent ones. The defense of human rights is not popular with everyone in the region of Magdalena Medio. Because of this, the serenity with which he speaks to me about “his” problems, unintentionally becomes the protagonist of his story, a type of amulet which allows him to continue. In order to keep doing what Credhos has done for years in Barrancabermeja: defend human rights and win over those who continue to perpetrate violence through the streets of this city on the river banks” – Silvia Arjona
“With respect to my memories with Credhos, I enjoy the day-to-day meetings in their office or their visits to our house. From the beginning I felt impacted by Iván´s stories about exile and the reasons for why he had to leave Colombia, whilst he told us the most surreal details of the cases Credhos was following we exchanged stories of adventures in Madrid, the city that has both of our hearts for different reasons. I had just arrived in Barranca and I couldn´t believe that what I heard could be possible. I like sharing ideas about the context, what will happen in Colombia and Credhos´ concerns, they always speak with enthusiasm and determination…I feel priviledged to be able to listen to their stories and work hand-in-hand with them. A year ago we were sleeping in the office and in the houses of some of the members of the organisation to protect them in a particularly critical moment and show that PBI is always at your service, friends!” – Clara Ortega