Tag Archives: #landrightsnow

The Peace University: Keep dreaming and resisting from the territory

The Peace Community of San José de Apartadó was born 25 years ago, amid violence and forced displacement. Men and women, peasants, from different rural communities in the department of Antioquia organized themselves to create a neutral community as a response to the conflict, and they built a peaceful alternative to preserve life and protect their territory. Since then, the Peace Community has shared its perspectives and experiences with numerous initiatives in Colombia and abroad. In fact, one of the Peace Community’s legacies is the University of Peace and Resistance or Peasant University, created with 20 other Colombian peasant communities.

Continue reading The Peace University: Keep dreaming and resisting from the territory

Cahucopana and the Mining-Peasant Communities Will Not Give Up, They Resist for Peace

One of Northeastern Antioquía’s (Nordeste Antioqueño) most emblematic human rights organizations is the Humanitarian Action Corporation for Coexistence and Peace in Northeastern Antioquia (Cahucopana). Since its foundation, in 2004, its main aim has been to defend the rights of peasant and miner communities and to generate protection mechanisms to live in peace, amid an armed conflict that has been perpetuated over time.

In 2022 several human rights organizations raised the alert to the humanitarian crises that are ravishing the territories. As in many regions of Colombia, in Northeastern Antioquia, it is not only the inhabitants who face risks but also those who speak up to defend minimum guarantees for life and to remain in the territory. This is the case of Cahucopana president, Carlos Morales, who suffered a serious attack on 27 February when armed men shot at him, his partner, and his son—a minor—while they traveled by motorcycle in the city of Barrancabermeja[1]. Morales, a recognized peasant leader for the last 16 years, choose to resist displacement despite the attacks against him and the serious threats against other members of Cahucopana, an organization that continues to stand alongside the communities of Northeastern Antioquia.

Carlos Morales is resisting forced displacement “to continue denouncing what is happening due to state abandonment and human rights violations resulting from the National Government’s non-implementation of the Peace Agreement”.

According to the emblematic peasant leader, the dispute for this region is due to all of its natural wealth, such as lumber, gold, and fertile soils with big landowners wanting to implement large-scale cattle ranching. “All this wealth calls the of armed actors” where “major state abandonment” can also be seen, in the sincere words of human rights defender. A return “to the time between 2004 and 2008” is a real fear. This was an era when extrajudicial executions and mass displacement were daily events in Northeastern Antioquia. It is worrisome, as Morals explains, that since the Peace Agreement, there was a return “to confrontations between the armed groups, aerial bombings, murders, and an increase in human rights violations suffered by peasant communities”.

Given the lack of institutions that guarantee minimum protections for the communities, for decades Cahucopana has promoted collective protection measures, such as humanitarian actions. These actions can be used not only by community leaders but also by the peasant and miner communities who are exposed to serious risks in a conflict-ridden territory. These humanitarian actions aim to accompany and make visible, nationally and internationally, the serious human rights violations experienced by the communities, who resist the armed conflict amid oblivion and state abandonment. Attending a doctor’s appointment, filing a complaint at the Prosecutor’s Office, or registering to vote can be extremely complicated and, sometimes, even unattainable tasks for the communities. To complete these common tasks, the rural inhabitants of Northeastern Antioquia must travel to the village of Remedios on exhaustingly long trips over roads that lack adequate infrastructure. Additionally, traveling these roads can signify serious risks due to the presence of multiple armed actors.


Humanitarian Action, collective measures to reach the areas forgotten by the state

At the end of March 2022, we accompanied a humanitarian action convened by Cahucopana in Carrizal, township of Remedios. There was participation from institutions such as the National Ombud’s Office, the Governor’s Office of Antioquia, the Ministry of the Interior, the Inspector General’s Office, and the Civil Registry Office; as well as members of the international community, including MAPP-OAS, UNHCHR, and UN Mission II.

The most notable aspect of this humanitarian action was the participation of approximately 2000 people who traveled from Tamar Alto, Panamá Nueve, El Piñal, El Carmen, and other rural areas to participate. These are likely places that are unknown to the readers, they often do not even appear on a map, but this mass participation exceeded expectations. Trucks, cars, and motorcycles started arriving in the morning. Despite the early morning rains—which had raised concern among the organizers—the participants were able to reach the village of Carrizal.



Carlos Morales stated that an essential piece of the collective protection measures,[2] is the international community’s role in “supporting the communities and organizations so that they can continue defending the territory”. Fortunately, incidents such as the attack against the leader and the recent threats against members of Cahucopana—which seek to impede the efforts of the human rights organization—have not produced the effect sought by the victimizers. Instead, it has led to a series of responses[3] and actions from the international community to back the organization.


Thanks to Cahucopana’s work, more and more leaders are taking on a protagonist role in the defense and protection of the territory. Nevertheless, as Carlos Morales notes, it continues to be essential that “the Colombian state safeguard the communities’ security and ability to remain in the territories. It must recognize these protection mechanisms from the differential, gender, and cultural perspective of the mining, peasant, Indigenous, and Afro communities because we are the communities who truly live the conflict”. What is clear is that Colombia’s historic debt continues with the communities, and with human rights organizations like Cahucopana, that preserve life, protect the territory, and resist for peace, in the middle of recurrent attacks and threats.

Barrancabermeja Team

PBI Colombia.


[1]FIDH: Colombia: Ataque armado contra presidente de Cahucopana Carlos Morales, 10 March 202

[2]SCRIBD: Handbook: Mecanismos de Autoprotección, 9 February 2022

[3] Llamado de Acción Urgente de OMCT: Colombia: Ataque armado contra presidente de Cahucopana Carlos Morales, 9 March 2022.

Carta de la Taula Catalana al Presidente Iván Duque: La Taula Catalana envia una carta al president Iván Duque contra l’atemptat del defensor de drets humans Carlos Morales, president de CAHUCOPANA, 11 March 2022.

European parliamentary question (Euro parlimentarian Miguel Urbán Crespo): tweet, 10 March 2022.

 

Beyond the Peace Agreement: A Global Humanitarian Agreement

Two years ago, amid the upsurge of the pandemic caused by Covid-19, several Colombian ethnic and peasant communities, accompanied by the Commission for Justice and Peace (JyP), sent an open letter to President Iván Duque, requesting a Global Humanitarian Agreement [1].  The call included a cessation of hostilities and new peace talks that would include the multiple armed actors still present in the regions. Since then, over 160 communities, with support from the Catholic Church, [2] international entities [3] and civil society organizations, [4] have sent 57 open letters [5] with the same aim. There has been no response from the outgoing government.

The calls for a ceasefire come from communities who have yet to see any real improvements in their territories since the 2016 signature of the Peace Agreement between the Juan Manuel Santos administration and the FARC-EP. Valle del Cauca, Cauca, Chocó, and Putumayo, among others, are regions where PBI accompanies JyP and ethnic-territorial and peasant communities who are victims of the armed conflict. The state presence is mainly military in these communities and they continue to register intense waves of violence, including the murder of defenders, massacres [6], sexual violence, and forced displacement [7], among other serious human rights violations.

Amid socio-political violence, these community initiatives are still convinced that only through “respectful and honest dialogue and recognition from decisive actors will the territorial context of injustice and structural and historical exclusion be transformed into a new social-environmental pact for peace”. [8] To achieve this, over 160 community initiatives are calling for and implementing a Global Humanitarian Agreement throughout the country.

Danilo Rueda, a JyP coordinator that PBI has walked with for almost three decades, has dedicated his life to peacebuilding from the territories, supporting victims of the armed conflict, and making denouncements whenever their rights are brutally violated, while he himself has been a victim of serious attacks.[9] According to the human rights defender, recently chosen to be High Commissioner for Peace,[10] the Global Humanitarian Agreement seeks to end the armed violence in the territories and safeguard life and integrity in the communities, as well as of those party to the armed confrontations as military enemies.

With determination, Danilo has promoted the Global Humanitarian Agreement proposal to generate conditions for a Global Territorial Peace or Full Peace. This Full Peace signifies “the creation and disposition of a state and government that is open to talking, based on the nature and identity of each armed group, to reach a laying down of arms and the generation of agreements”. According to JyP, and the communities they accompany, to end the attacks and violence against women and to end the recruitment of youth, the call for a Global Humanitarian Agreement must be answered.

In the last 15 years, there have been two processes to lay down arms: one between the Álvaro Uribe Vélez administration and the United Self-defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary in 2005 and another with the FARC-EP and Juan Manuel Santos administration in 2016. According to Danilo Rueda, lessons were learned from both processes on a diversity of issues, including what is known as transitional justice and the importance of truth. However, even more so, these experiences have shown the fragility of the signed agreements, characterized by a lack of guarantees for ex-combatants and the absence of an effective governmental response to the range of commitments it has taken on. This lack of response and fulfillment of commitments has Colombia “ad portas of initiating new cycles of violence, which already have very concrete manifestations in different territories”, reflects Danilo Rueda with concern. For the human rights defender, the only way to have responsible investment and confront the country’s nearly endemic corruption “is to achieve peace with the range of armed expressions that exist in Colombia today, on both urban and rural levels”. From the territory, the communities have already managed to generate spaces for the distension and differentiation between armed and civilian groups, which, to date, “have been relatively respected by diverse armed groups”.

Nevertheless, five years into the Peace Agreement and with continues efforts to promote the Global Humanitarian Agreement, life in the territories continues to be marked by violence. From Cacarica, in the north of Chocó, the Afro-Colombian leaders Ana de Carmen Martín and John Jairo Mena, both members of the Association of Communities of Self-determination, Life, and Dignity (CAVIDA), speak with conviction, their search is for a dignified life.

For Ana de Carmen Martín it is clear that if the Global Humanitarian Agreement is not implemented “the war will continue”. John Jairo Mena hopes that the new government signifies a possibility for change and a promotion of the proposal for a Global Humanitarian Agreement so that peasants, mestizos, Indigenous, and Black peoples can enjoy their territories.

This is no different from the experience in the Perla Amazónica Peasant Reserve Area, in the south of the country, in Putumayo. From this beautiful Amazonian territory, the emblematic leader Jani Silva, president of the Association for Holistic Sustainable Development – Perla Amazónica (ADISPA), defends peace, life, the territory, and its biodiversity. This has cost her numerous forced displacements and serious threats. Jani is also concerned about the Peace Agreement’s lack of implementation and, therefore, a reconfiguration of the armed conflict. “As a woman and victim of the conflict, I am worried about the conflict’s intensification, and that our work on environmental issues, with a gender perspective, is impacted by the clashes between groups”.

A high-level militarization of the regions—as the state’s sole response to date—in addition to major offensive strikes such as the aerial bombings and flashy attention-grabbing arrests, are far from fulfilling the communities’ repeated calls for peace. To respect the lives of the civilian population and communities in the regions, for full peace with a territorial perspective, the proposal from the regions must be heard, a cry for this war to end. Beyond the Peace Agreement, a Global Humanitarian Agreement is needed.

PBI Colombia.


[1] Comisión de Justicia y Paz: CartaAbierta 2 Salud, alimentación, agua URGENTE y respuesta a ACUERDO HUMANITARIO GLOBALCOVID19, 9 April 2020.

[2] El Tiempo: Iglesia pide al Estado actuar ante crisis humanitaria en Chocó y Antioquia, 19 November 2021.

[3] UN News: El llamado al alto el fuego mundial para ayudar a contener el coronavirus empieza a tener repercusión,  23 March 2020.

[4] Protection International: Organizaciones Internacionales de Sociedad Civil respaldan el llamamiento al Acuerdo Humanitario Global de las Naciones Unidas y el llamado de Misión ONU Colombia por un cese al fuego y piden que se proteja la vida de todas las personas en condición de vulnerabilidad en medio de la pandemia, 3 April 2020.

[5] Somos Génesis: Carta Abierta 57, 26 July 2022.

[6] Indepaz: Informe de Masacres en Colombia durante el 2020 y 2021, 29 November 2021.

[7] El Espectador: En Colombia ha aumentado un 213% el desplazamiento forzado, 27 October 2021.

[8] Somos Génesis: Carta Abierta 55, 15 July 2022.

[9] Frontline Defenders: Case History: Danilo Rueda.

[10] El País: Danilo Rueda: Un defensor de derechos humanos será el comisionado para la Paz de Colombia, 26 July 2022.

 

 

“We Returned and Here We Are: We Are Genesis”

Operations Genesis and Cacarica: In the face of terror, a resistance story

The Bajo Atrato region, in northeastern Colombian, has been particularly hard hit by violence and the armed conflict. According to the Victims Unit, the registry for this area includes close to 429,820 victims of forced displacement, dispossession, selective murders, and other victimizing acts.[1] One of the cruelest events that marked forever the history of the Atrato River’s Afro-Colombian communities occurred in the Cacarica river basin. Between the 24 and 27 of February 1997, Operation Genesis was executed. It was an offensive led by General Rito Alejo del Río, then commander of the Army’s 17th Brigade, in coordination with the United Self-defense Forces of Colombia (Elmer Cárdenas Bloc) paramilitary group, and under the pretext of taking back control from the FARC-EP guerrillas.[2] In parallel and through joint operations with  Military Troops,[3] the paramilitary group called the Peasant Self-defense Forces of Córdoba and Urabá (ACCU), initiated Operation Cacarica, crossing the Atrato River until they invaded the Salaquí, Truandó, and Perancho river basins.[4]

 

Continue reading “We Returned and Here We Are: We Are Genesis”

The massacre that transformed the Peace Community for ever

On the 21 February 2005, the fields of Mulatos and La Resbalosa in Antioquia were the scene of a horrific crime which once again targetted the local population. The rural division is an area located around five hours from the Peace Community’s main village, la Holandita. Eight people, of whom four were minors, were killed, dismembered and buried in a mass grave. Among the eight victims, seven were members of the Peace Community: Luis Eduardo Guerra, historical leader and founder of the Community, Bellanira Areiza, his partner and Deiner Andrés Guerra, his 11 year old son; Alfonso Bolívar Tuberquia Graciano, the coordinator of the Humanitarian Zone of La Resbalosa, Sandra Milena Muñoz Posso, his wife and Natalia and Santiago, their two children aged 5 years and 20 months.

The massacre was carried out by a commando of around 60 paramilitaries from the Heroes de Tolová Bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) alongside soldiers attached to the Army’s XVII Brigade[1]. These events, which deeply marked the path of resistance of the Peace Community, exposed the viciousness of a war that, rather than combating those who had taken up arms, was waged against small farmers and peasants who were striving towards peace in the midst of so much violence. The militaristic actions against the Peace Community were not new, nor would they cease after the massacre. According to Brígida González, founder and historical leader of the Community, with that massacre they wanted to reaffirm, “once again, that there should be no social organizations” [2].

Brígida Gonzáles, who in addition to being a leader is an artist recognized with the Award for ‘Creativity of Women in Rural Areas’ by the Women’s World Summit Foundation, painted this story, which is now in the National Museum of Bogotá. Her objective through her art is to never forget and to try heal what happened.

Continue reading The massacre that transformed the Peace Community for ever