In 2020, we hosted a series of webinars about the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and quarantine on different communities in Colombia. The webinars features local activists and community leaders speaking directly about the situation in their territory. Find more information below about each webinar and topic.
Description: Since the signing of the Peace Accords with the FACR, social leaders in Colombia have faced mounting risks for promoting peace-building and land rights in their communities. Over 700 social leaders have been killed since the Accords was signed. The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened these risks, as armed groups take advantage of institutional limits during the quarantine. So how are leaders and communities responding? Listen to three leaders and human rights defenders in Colombia about their perspective on the pandemic, the measures their communities are taking, and the ways they are responding to the recent attacks on other social leaders.
About the speakers:
Nidiria Ruiz Medina is a leader in the Women’s Association AINI Source of the Spring of Flowers, from the Naya River, Buenaventura, Valle de Cauca, a women’s collective that supports peace-building processes in their region. She is the technical secretary of Communities Building Peace in the Territories (CONPAZ) and leads processes for families of disappeared persons, as well as memory and truth-seeking commissions.
Willian Aljure Martínez is a human rights defender and land claimant from the municipality of Mapiripán, Meta. He is part of the national directive for CONPAZ and a leader for the Mapiripán Association in Defense of the Environment (Asodeamapi). He is the grandson of the guerrilla leader Dumar Aljure, who signed a peace agreement in with the General Rojas Pinilla, and was later attacked by the military on April 4, 1948, during which 5 family members were killed. Willian’s father Juan Pablo Aljure was killed in the late 90’s, and a few years later his mother Berenice Martínez was also killed. Willian is a prominent victims’ advocate and land defender.
Ómar de Jesús Restrepo Correa, or Olmedo as his friends know him, is a campesino (small-scale farmer) from Antioquia, convinced that change is possible in Colombia. At 16 years old he joined the FARC-EP after paramilitaries threatened his family and he was forced to flee and leave his studies. He traveled to Havana in 2012 to contribute to the peace process that would become the historic Peace Accords. Now he represents campesinos and the working class as an Antioquia representative in the House of Representatives of Colombia’s congress.
This webinar, hosted with the National Ethnic Coordination for Peace (CENPAZ), focuses on the implementation of Ethnic Chapter of the Peace Accords and the rights of Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities during a pandemic. The speakers discussed the right to prior consultation for their territories, the ongoing conflict, and lack of basic social programs like hospitals and schools for Colombia’s ethnic communities.
About the speakers:
Rodrigo Castillo Rodallega is a member of the Community Council for the black community of the Naya River in Buenaventura. He is a social and community leader and human rights defender. Like Luz Mery, he is a member of the Special High Instance for Ethnic Peoples, and he is an advisor for Communities Building Peace in Colombia (CONPAZ-COL). He was one of the negotiators for the ethnic chapter in the final Peace Accords with the FARC.
Luz Mery Panche Chocué is an indigenous leader from the Nasa tribe of San Vicente del Caguán, in the department of Caquetá. She was the Director of the Intercultural Indigenous Education Center in San Vicente del Caguán. She also served as the representative for the Association of Indigenous Councils of San Vicente del Caguán in the Permanent Committee for Consultation with the Indigenous Communities of Caquetá. She currently is a member of the Special High Instance for Ethnic Peoples, which was formed as part of the monitoring process for the implementation of the Peace Accords with the FARC.
Israel Alberto Zuñiga Iriarte: From Barranquilla, Israel was involved in the social movements of the 80s that called for decent housing and public services for the poorest residents of the city. He joined the FARC in 1996, and fought to recognize the historic struggles of ethnic peoples that had been invisibilidad in Colombia’s history. He now is a Senator, and serves on the Constitutional Commission within congress. He is also responsible for building the policy platform for ethnic peoples in the new FARC (Alternative Revolutionary Forces for the Common) party.
Throughout the world we have seen the disparity in impact of the pandemic and the quarantine. This webinar features three women activists and/or members of the LGBTIQ community, about the particular situation for women and the LGBTIQ community, including topics like: special risks for female leaders and human rights defenders, the gender curfew, violence on the streets and in homes, and the different experiences in the urban and rural contexts, as well as their perspective on activism in times of a pandemic.
About the Speakers:
Nidia Marcela Montoya Rivera is a leader for small-scale farmers from the Community of Life and Work, La Balsita, in Dabeiba, Antioquia. She is a human rights defender and professor of psychology at the UNAD university. She is also president of the Women’s Association of Argelia Cauca (AMAR), that is part of the Communities Building Peace in Colombia (CONPAZ-COL) network.
Bairon Andrés Asprilla Garces is an Afrocolombian leader and member of the LGBTIQ community, from the Punta Icaco Humanitarian Space in Buenaventura. She is also part of the Board for the victims’ network Communities Building Peace in Colombia (CONPAZ-COL) network in Buenaventura, Valle de Cauca.
Alcira Tavera Luna is a coordinator for the Environmental Collective of Rovira, Tolima and is part of the Monitoring Committee for a process advancing with municipalities that are part of the Coello River basin. She is an innate female leader, defender of human rights and of our environment and all it gives us: wáter, life, territory, and the opportunity to exercise sovereignty.