Just as the last post about the free trade agreement with Colombia went up on our website, I received the following urgent action alert from Global Exchange about the violent repression of anti-trade agreement protests in southern Colombia.
Cauca is a region with an incredible history of nonviolent resistance -- for background on the communities that are under attack, see "Cajibio and the Plan of Life."
In addition to contacting the Colombian authorities, please contact Senators Collins and Snowe and tell them that this kind of violence illustrates why it is impossible to have a truly "freee" trade agreement with Colombia.
Express concern for human rights violations against peaceful protestors in Cauca, Colombia
In Cauca, Colombia as more than 15,000 peaceful protestors gathered on Monday May 15 to exercise freedom of _expression guaranteed under Colombian law, the Colombian Armed Forces of the 26th Brigade, the local police and more than 500 police from an anti-riot squad that have been brought in from all over the country attacked and wounded 36 people. Six people are detained. One person has been killed and was a member of the indigenous peace guard, a nonviolent group that seeks to protect the community from all armed actors by carrying staffs endowed with ceremonial powers of peace and non-violence.
The protesters are concerned about the negative impact on their communities of a trade agreement with the United States, the repression against human rights leaders, the possible reelection of president Uribe, as well as the erosion of their recognized rights over their traditionally held territories.They gathered peacefully on May 15, at a national summit in Maria Piendamo, Cauca to ask that the government sit down to negotiate with them. Maria Piendamo carries special meaning because it was declared a zone for dialogue and negotiation in 1999 by Colombian civil society. But the government is refusing to negotiate with the summit participants, and the armed forces are responding with violence.
For two days now the protesters, from peasant, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities have been physically abused by the armed forces and the riot squads. In addition, Governors from Cauca and the neighboring province of Nariño, as well as the interior minister of Colombia have made unfounded accusations that the peaceful protestors are being organized by the largest leftist guerrilla group, the FARC, which is also considered a terrorist group. Actions that have only put the safety of the summit participants at stake.
American Friends Service Committee staff in the area are concerned because the government on two occasions on Wednesday, May 17 agreed to sit down and negotiate with the summit participants but instead of sending its negotiating team into the area it has sent more armed forces that have attacked the protestors and have led to more people wounded and arbitrary detentions. Of special concern are the elderly, children and pregnant women who are taking part in the summit and who are in designated places that the armed forces have entered and attacked them with tear gas and rubber bullets. We ask that you send a personalized appeal based on the sample text below to the officials listed at the end of this message. Personalized messages and subject headings make more effective emails, faxes, and letters.
I am concerned about the current human rights situation in the province of Cauca, Colombia. I understand that indigenous and Afro-Colombian summit organizers are not involved with any armed group and are seeking to negotiate with the Colombian government in a peaceful way. I call on government officials to provide guarantees so that peasant, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities can exercise their right to life, and to freedom of _expression. In addition, I call on the government to protect and prevent the communities and summit organizers from being singled out as terrorists, arbitrarily detained, persecuted and or forcefully displaced. I look forward to hearing from you about your efforts to bring a peaceful solution to this situation.
Please send your appeals to:
Dr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, President of Colombia Cra. 8 No.7-26, Palacio de Nariño, Bogotá, D.C., Fax: (+57 1) 566.20.71 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr. Jorge Alberto Uribe Minister of Defense El Dorado con Carrera. 52 CAN, Bogotá, D.C. Fax: (+57 1)222.18.74 E-mail: email@example.com , firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Dr. Edgardo José Maya Villazón, Attorney General for ColombiaCarrera 5 No. 15-80 Bogotá, D.C. Fax: (+57 1)342.97.23 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com
Dr. Carlos Franco, Presidential Program for Human Rights and Internacional Humanitarian Law Calle 7 No. 5-54 TEL: (+571) 336.03.11 FAX: (+57 1) 337.46.67 E- mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com
Dra. Carmen Rosa Villa, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights United Nations.Calle 114 No. 9-45 Torre B Oficina 1101. Edificio Teleport Bussines Park. Bogotá, D.C. Teléfono PBX (57-1) 629 3636 Fax (57-1) 629 3637 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org