In early June, a FOR Peace Presence team traveled together to Buenaventura to accompany the Justice and Peace Commission in the Humanitarian Space Puente Nayero, at the city’s Coliseum with the Wounaan indigenous community from Aguaclara, and at the Humanitarian and Biodiversity Reserve of Santa Rosa de Guayacán by the Calima River. The accompaniment was characterized by the remarkable nonviolent resistance of communities and individuals to the powerful forces they are up against: in this case massive forced displacement. We are increasingly concerned that such forced population movements are spurred by the rights and territories of communities being disregarded by mega development projects. You can read more about this trend and the accompaniment itself in our article, Stages of Forced Displacement in Buenaventura.
The accompaniment team moved on directly to the indigenous community of Cerro Tijeras in northern Cauca. A Nasa reservation, Cerro Tijeras has long been resisting multinational interests, and we learned in particular of the adverse impacts to the reservation from the dam and hydroelectric plant of Salvajina, operated by EPSA (Empresa de Energía del Pacífico).
On June 10 a delegation from the US embassy visited the Humanitarian Space of El Mirador in Tamarindo, close to Barranquilla. Community members shared testimonies about their arrival to the Space after being displaced by the armed conflict, and spoke about the latest threats of forced displacements from el Mirador in order to make space for a possible logistics center of the free trade zone (see previous reports Monthly Update May 2015 & Monthly Update March 2015). The community presented its proposal for a dignified resettlement respecting the community’s vocation as farmers, a proposal thus far ignored by the authorities. Inhabitants of el Mirador also shared their concern about the recent threats and intimidations they had received due to their resistance to leaving the land without proper resettlement plans. After visiting the community, US embassy delegation met with regional and local authorities about the situation. While the community is still resisting in El Mirador and demanding a fair resettlement, the humanitarian situation they face remains precarious.
Over the course of the month, we held various meetings both with our partners and with authorities at the national level. Several of these meetings were centered on the community of Tamarindo, and the ongoing risk they face of an imminent eviction from their land.
Members of our team accompanied ACOOC (Collective Action of Conscientious Objectors) at the anti-military music festival Antimili Sonoro 2015, held in the Plaza de Bolivar in Bogota. The event lasted throughout the afternoon and into the night, featuring a range of live Colombian hip-hop, rock, reggae, and punk music. The event was supported by the District Process of Conscientious Objection, which unites the social organizations (including ACOOC) dedicated to making conscientious objection a genuine option for Bogota’s youth who chose that such a course is in line with their values. Along with being a space for people to come together, dance, and enjoy music, the festival attracted attention to Colombia’s practices of forced recruitment. Antimili Sonoro 2015, which was facilitated successfully without the intervention or involvement of police or security forces, testified to the power of nonviolence in society, and to the determination of young people to find a peaceful path for Colombia.
Following an invitation from our partners who are facing eviction in Nilo in Cundinamarca, FOR Peace Presence attended a congressional hearing in Bogotá which investigated the role of the Colombian government in the legalization of land grabs. During the hearing campesinos from around the country testified about the manner and conditions of their displacements, and about many administrative irregularities in land titling that facilitated these displacements. A community leader from Nilo took the stand to speak not only of illegal armed actors, but also of the direct role that government forces played in attempts to force the community from their land. Jeanine attended the hearing and wrote about it on our blog.
In June we also developed our ideas on ways that we can build relationships with new allies and networks. We want to make sure that FOR Peace Presence is not only able to continue accompanying our many inspirational partners, but also that our partners are able to inspire as many people as possible! We also focused on fundraising, with the whole team brainstorming and strategizing about how to bolster our current sources to finance our accompaniment work on the ground. We were able to generate many exciting plans to take forward, and a number of positive projects were initiated, including creating video content, making phone calls, and researching in-kind donations. As we move through July we are continuing with the projects we started last month. These efforts are part of what make our consistent accompaniment presence possible, and if you would like to support our presence on the ground please click here.
As June winded down, we said goodbye to Nikki–our great San José de Apartadó accompanier. Just before heading off, Nikki wrote an article about ongoing challenges faced by the Peace Community, which was published on NACLA and the Huffington Post. Meanwhile, the rest of the accompaniment team started preparing the upcoming training for future accompaniers. Stay tuned to our July update for details on the training and our new team members!
In numbers, Peace Presence spent 17 days accompanying in June. These accompaniments were spread through the departments of Antioquia, Atlántico, Cauca, Cundinamarca, and Valle del Cauca. Our team members published a total of seven pieces of our blog, along with two publications on external sites. We had two official meetings, and attended one congressional hearing.
Thank you as ever for your support of our work and that of our partners! See you next month!