Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Five Demands for Peace in Colombia - Open Letter by International Human Rights Defenders

Join Noam Chomsky, Nobel Peace Prize Winner Adolfo Perez Ezquivel, Colombians for Peace founder Piedad Córdoba, and many international human rights and solidarity organizations in taking a stand for peace in Colombia. Endorse this sign-on letter and its five demands. You may also sign as an individual, along with your organizational affiliation (for identification purposes only). 
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When the Colombian government and the former FARC-EP (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army) signed accords ending over five decades of armed conflict, they not only entered into a good faith pact with each other, but with the nation, the region, and all those internationally who hunger for peace and thirst for justice.
Rich in culture and resources, Colombia’s strategic location and history give it an importance beyond its borders. Should the peace accords prove durable and viable, they will open a road of hope for generations to come. But should the enemies of this peace have their way, they will unleash an internal reign of terror against workers, rural, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian communities, eco-defenders, and human rights defenders. They have already begun to do so, with assaults against social movements surging to the highest levels in over ten years. The failure of the peace accords would complete the sacrifice of Colombia’s sovereignty to foreign masters who use the nation to export instability and repression throughout Latin America and put big profits into the coffers of transnational corporations.
Peace accords reached in late 2016 are being unraveled through various ways: legislative assaults; electoral fraud and intimidation; legal setbacks; extrajudicial executions and massacres; ongoing displacement of rural, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian families and communities; and the failure of the Colombian state to meet commitments as outlined in the accords. Labor unionists continue to be killed at higher rates than anywhere else in the world, despite provisions for their safety included in the Labor Action Plan of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and in the peace accords. If the extreme right consolidates power both through elections and brutal violence in the countryside, this will cast a shadow of despair that will spread and grow, affecting people everywhere.
It is no exaggeration to say that war and repression in Colombia are “made in the USA”. The Pentagon’s Yarborough Commission urged Colombia, in 1962, (two years before Colombia’s civil war with the FARC-EP began), to "perform counter-agent and counter-propaganda functions and as necessary execute paramilitary, sabotage and/or terrorist activities against known communist proponents. It should be backed by the United States." “Known communist proponents” included not only members of the Communist Party, but peasant, Afro-Colombian and indigenous leaders, unionists, teachers, and student activists. The US has contributed well over $12 billion via Plan Colombia to develop Colombia’s military and repressive capabilities.
The extradition of Colombian ex-insurgents and paramilitary leaders to the US is another means of interference with both the peace process and investigations into links between death squads and Colombia’s political and economic establishment. The incarceration of Simón Trinidad (Ricardo Palmera) at the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado reveals the US disregard for Colombia’s peace. Trinidad was not a coordinator of FARC-EP military activities, but an intellectual who served as their top negotiator for the release of captives, and for peace. His rightful place during the peace talks was at the table, not wasting away in solitary confinement in a jail cell far from home.
Now the US government has requested the arrest of Jesús Santrich, a former insurgent and one of the negotiators for the FARC-EP during peace talks. This arrest will likely lead to the extradition of Santrich to the US. Many long-time close observers of the Colombian conflict believe that the detention of Santrich has many of the markings of a set-up and an attempt to derail and delegitimize the accords. But even if there were any truth to the charges, the alleged crimes would have taken place on Colombian soil and should be dealt with in Colombia. The probable extradition of Santrich would establish a precedent that can be used against former FARC-EP leaders to render the accords null and void.
The administration of US President Donald Trump seems driven to undermine the peace accords. The US Ambassador to Colombia; the Assistant Secretary of State for International, Narcotics Law Enforcement; the Secretary of State; the Vice President; and Pres. Trump have all delivered recent declarations against Colombia’s voluntary programs for rural development and the eradication of illicit crops. The forced eradication favored by the White House has resulted in massacres and escalation of human rights abuses.
Last February, Admiral Kurt Tidd, head of the Pentagon’s Southern Command, visited Colombian troops amassed in the south to pursue forced eradication and to battle against various armed groups. He also visited Colombian troops amassed on the Venezuelan border, giving us an example of how war and peace and Colombia’s special relationship with the US military have international implications.
There are longstanding calls for an end to Plan Colombia and to repeal the US-Colombia FTA. We support these. However, we want to highlight five points that represent the frontline of assaults on the peace accords. We additionally call on the Colombian and US governments to take the following steps to forge a new path for peace, justice, and dignity that will guarantee the aspirations for peace of the Colombian people and the world. During this period of national elections in Colombia, we call on each of the presidential candidates to commit to taking the following actions if elected.
We call on the Colombian and US governments to:

  • End political violence targeting social activists, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, environmentalists, human rights defenders, rural community organizers, ex-insurgents, former political prisoners, and family of ex-insurgents and political prisoners. Since implementation of peace accords on November 24, 2016, political violence has climbed to the highest level in over ten years. At least 282 popular movement activists have been killed since then. We can add to that number of victims 51 demobilized former insurgents and 14 of their family members. The Colombian government must provide for the safety of targets of political violence. The US government must end policies that worsen the situation.

  • End the violent and forced eradication of illicit crops. Pursue voluntary eradication, rural development and crop substitution programs as specified in the peace accords. Farmers in remote places grow illicit crops because of the lack of decent roads to get non-illicit crops to market, since narco-traffickers will come to their village to make purchases. Even with better roads, the rural economy has been decimated by free trade agreements that have turned Colombia into a country dependent on food imports. Rural, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian communities lack adequate infrastructure for schools, health care, and basic energy and water services.

  • The United States government must remove the FARC-EP from the State Department terrorist list. The peace accords are the law of the land in Colombia. The FARC-EP no longer exists as an insurgent army and has been replaced by the new and legal political party, the Revolutionary Alternative Common Force (FARC).

  • Release all political prisoners and prisoners of war still held in Colombia and repatriate those now held in the United States. End the policy of extraditing former members of the FARC-EP, as well as paramilitary leaders, to the US. Extraditions interfere with peace accords and investigations of paramilitaries. The peace process is weakened by Colombia’s failure to free all prisoners covered by the accords. There are still 625 such prisoners.

  • Respect the right for opposition campaigns to participate in the electoral process openly and without fear for safety. Widespread fraud and voter intimidation must cease. The Colombian government must provide for the safety for opposition campaigns. The US and international governments must not recognize elections that take place under clouds of fraud, intimidation, and violence. FARC political party as well as Center-Left campaigns have been attacked by paid thugs. Congressional and primary elections in March 2018 were marred by a shortage of ballots in over 20% of Colombia’s voting system, including the country’s three largest cities. The Electoral Observation Mission of Colombia reported 1,290 campaign violations but had not set up enough offices to carry out investigations. Violations included vote buying and precinct workers who refused to hand over ballots. One election day poll reported that 30% of Colombian voters said they were not able to vote privately.

Finally, we the undersigned hope for and work for peace and real democracy for Colombia and the world. We commit ourselves to not give up on this beautiful dream, but to continue to speak out against those who would destroy the peace. We know, and we affirm once more that: THE PEACE OF COLOMBIA IS THE PEACE OF THE WORLD!
Individual Endorsers (Organizations listed for identification purposes only):
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize and Argentine Human Rights Defender
Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Piedad Esneda Córdoba Ruiz, Former Colombian Senator and Founder of Colombians for Peace
Daniela González López, International Coordinator for the People’s Human Rights Observatory
Eduardo Correa, Professor and Investigator of Mastery in Defense and Promotion of Human Rights at the Autonomous University of Mexico City (UACM)
Gilberto López y Rivas, Investigator at Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History
Jamal Juma, Coordinator of STOP THE WALL campaign in Palestine
Daniel Kovalik, Associate General Counsel for the United Steelworkers
David Swanson, author of Curing Exceptionalism and director of World BEYOND War
Leilani Clark, National Co-Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice
James Jordan, National Co-Coordinator, Alliance for Global Justice
Cathy Rojas, ANSWER Coalition
Mark Burton, Attorney at Law, Alliance for Global Justice, and Denver Peace Council
Pamela Brubaker, Professor Emeritus, Religion and Ethics, California Lutheran Seminary
Carlos Fazio Varela, Journalist and Professor of the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and in the Postgraduate Department of Human Rights at the Autonomous University of Mexico City (UACM)
Anahit Ahoronian Kharputlian, Agonomy Engineer and Teacher at the Multisectorial Commission of Uruguay
Samuel Hernández Morales, CODEP – MNPP (Peoples Defense Council – National Movement (of Mexico) for Popular Power
Raquel Mogollón, Coordinator of Camino Común International Xchange
Ana Laura Padgett Rojas, Guatemalan Network for Organic Integration – RIO – for the Defense of Mother Earth and Human Rights
Mohyeddin Abdulaziz, Arizona Palestine Solidarity Committee
Maribel Quintana, Organizational Secretary of IU Becerril de la Sierra, Madrid, Spain
Pedro Tostado, Sociologist, Madrid, Spain
Sarah Roberts, member of Southside Presbyterian Church, Tucson Samaritans and No More Deaths
Ingrid Ivanna Romero Navarette, Oscar Romero Committee of Madrid Spain
Audrey Bomse, Co-chair National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee
Dominick Tuminaro, National Lawyers Guild Cuba Subcommittee
Stanley Caster, Brooklyn Progressive Action Network
Camilo Matos, Puerto Rico Nationalist Party
Ken Hayes, School of the Americas Watch, Austin, Texas
Jennie Eisert, Minnesota Anti-War Committe
Meredith Aby-Keirstead, Minnesota Anti-War Committe
Kane Widlicka, Minnesota Anti-War Committe
Christine Hauschildt, Minnesota Anti-War Committe
Rhea Smykalski, Minnesota Anti-War Committe
Tracy Molm, Minnesota Anti-War Committe
Kent Morning, Minnesota Anti-War Committe
Thistle Parker-Hartog, Minnesota Anti-War Committe
Misty Rowan, Minnesota Anti-War Committe
Stephanie Taylor, Minnesota Anti-War Committee
RAEchel RUNNING, Artist sin Fronteras, Tucsón, Arizona
Martha Rollins, Code Pink
Nancy Wallace Nelson, Alliance for Global Justice and Code Pink
Faye Hinze, Task Force on the Americas
Tom Whitney, Writer for People’s World
Rachel Lipscomb, Derechos Humanos Coalition
Juan Manuel Morales Iglesias, Business person
Marco Rizzardini, Spanish Sociologist
Diana Paredes, Peruvian Sociologist living in Spain
Michelle Jahnke, Tucson, Arizona
Steven Johnson, Texas
Organizational Endorsers:
People’s Human Rights Observatory (International coalition)
American Coordination for the People’s Rights (International coalition)
Alliance for Global Justice (USA)
School of the Americas Watch (USA, Chile)
Oekumenisches Buero fuer Frieden und Gerechtigkeit e.V.
Oficina Ecumenica por la Paz y la Justicia
Ecumenical Office for Peace and Justice (Germany)
Izquierda Unida (Spain)
Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases (USA)
World Beyond War (USA)
Border Patrol Victims Network (México, EEUU)
National Women’s Fightback Network (USA)
Amigos de Sembrando Paz (USA)
Colombia Solidarity Platform of Madrid, Spain
International Action Center (USA)
Party for Socialism and Liberation (USA)
Oscar Romero Committee of Madrid, Spain
Workers World Party (USA)
Task Force on the Americas (USA)
Camino Común International Xchange (Colombia, USA)
Pan Left Video Collective (USA)
Minnesota Anti-War Committee
Nicaragua Center for Community Action (NICCA)
Tucson Anti War Committee (USA)
Tucson Students for a Democratic Society (USA)
Arizona Palestine Solidarity Committee (USA)
Bridges Across Borders (USA)
Serve the People – Awaken Revolutionary Consciousness (USA)

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