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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The High Cost of Free Trade for Indigenous and Afro-Colombians

Victoria Marie, PhD
Presented at the
Racial Violence and the Colour Line of the New World Order Conference
Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia
April 2, 2005

The power of spreading the word… When governments speak they don’t speak the truth. Plan Colombia is not addressing social probems but spending more on war, which seems to have the aim of eliminating the civilian population (OFP, 2004).

Colombia has been in a state of civil war for the past 40 years. The combatants are the legitimately armed actors, such as the army and police; paramilitaries, who protect the interests of legal and illegal businesses; and two major groups of revolutionary forces. However, it is the civilian population that is most adversely impacted from the ongoing conflict. They are endangered by the warring factions, who routinely murder, displace or conscript them. The aim of this paper is to explore how this conflict and economic policies have adversely affected the people of colour in Colombia, from the perspective of Colombian women. Data gathered in Bogotá and rural Cauca from mestizo, indigenous and Afro-Colombian groups form the basis for this paper.

In November 2004, the author was part of a Witness for Peace (WFP) women’s delegation to Colombia. After we settled in our hotel in Bogotá, we went on a mini tour of the city by bus. We passed a section of town that looked as if it had been devastated by bombing or some other kind of mechanized erasure. There were people huddling over fires, others combing through rubble and others seemingly looking on aimlessly. Our guide explained that this section had been a particularly violent and dangerous part of town. As part of the effort to cleanse the city, the area was bulldozed. Both the criminal element and the poor who could not afford to live anywhere else were rendered homeless. In vivid contrast, we next went to the Presidential Palace and other edifices of the state as well as the Basilica. Palace guards inspected our bags before we were allowed to walk past these seats of state and religious power.

The purpose of the delegation was to stand in solidarity with Colombia’s women of peace and through meeting these women, to learn about the effects of United States and other foreign policies on the lives of the Colombian people. The delegation attended the Fourth Congress of Women Workers CUT (Central Unitario de Trabajadores), Women and Society, where we spoke with women from the health, education and farm worker unions. The group also had meetings with a cross section of 12 other organizations, as well as a meeting with representatives from the United States Embassy in Bogotá and a meeting with a representative from the Colombian army. The organizations visited were concerned with issues of labour, internal displacement, the disappeared/detained, health, education and the militarization of civilians. At the 1995 United Nations World Conference on Women, the indigenous women of the world declared,

The 'New World Order' which is engineered by those who have abused and raped Mother Earth, colonised, marginalised, and discriminated against us, is being imposed on us viciously. This is recolonisation coming under the name of globalisation and trade liberalisation. The forces behind this are the rich industrialised nation-states, their transnational corporations, financial institutions which they control like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organisation (WTO). They will cooperate and compete among themselves to the last frontiers of the world's natural resources located in our lands and waters (Beijing Declaration of Indigenous Women, 1995).

Little has changed since 1995, as the economic and physical violence in Colombia continues to be concentrated on indigenous groups, African Colombians and mestizo campesinos (mestizos are people of mixed indigenous and European and/or African heritage and campesinos are small farmers). The women of these groups suffer the most from displacement and genocidal practices that are perpetrated with seeming impunity. The impact of private and public practices on the lives of Colombian women of colour is the focus of this paper. The issues are presented using documentary sources but primarily through the voices of these courageous women. The initiatives they have taken as paths of resistance are presented to show that although they have suffered many forms of repression and violence, their creativity, resourcefulness and resilience has not been vanquished.

Free Trade Agreements and the Internally Displaced
IDP (Internally displaced person) is the acronym that hides the reality of people forced to leave their homes to settle in unfamiliar and unfriendly urban fringes. Transnational interests and the hope of free trade agreements are the chief producers of the displacement of people from their homes.

Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) eliminate trade barriers, which are set up to protect small farmers and manufacturers. Without the trade barriers, transnational business interests can set prices that undercut local prices. Forced out of the market by the inability to compete, small farmers are usually forced to sell their land because they are no longer able to make a living. This in turn, forces mass influxes of people to urban areas, where their situation would be better described as that of domestic refugees.

For culturally unique groups, the process of shifting from traditional economic contexts to urban environments spells assimilation. Indigenous languages rapidly vanish, and cultural traditions of all types, be they Afro-Colombian, indigenous or Appalachian, disappear within a few generations. Within the cities poor health conditions, poverty and a lack of opportunity combine, and sometimes the only options seem to be crime, prostitution and drug abuse (Hodges, 2004).

Ciudad Bolivar, the last stop for many domestic refugees, is situated on the outskirts of Bogotá. It has the worst social conditions of Bogotá. For example, the first cause of death for people between the ages of 15 and 44 is violence and for people between 45 and 59, violence is second. A spokeswoman for Organización Femenina de Popular (OFP), a local women’s group, describes the situation in Ciudad Bolivar of as follows:

It is hard to know which armed actors are here. This is like a corridor, which one day it’s one group. The next, it’s another. It’s hard here because the legal armed actors make it difficult for our youth. These armed actors detain young people and humiliate them. They do this not only to youth but men, women and children as well. There are murders here everyday, this is part of the process of “social cleansing.” There is a systematic policy of extermination being carried out by the government and the legal armed actors.

Amnesty International reports that in January 2004, an OFP worker was abducted by armed men, believed to be paramilitaries, who reportedly scalded her feet with boiling water and shaved her head. They told her she was being tortured because, “we want you out of OFP” (Amnesty International USA, 2004). In spite of the ever present danger, the OFP is struggling to end political and economic violence. The organization has helped over 373 families since their inception. Their motto, “Las mujeres no paramos ni forjamos hijos e hihas para la guerra” (“We do not give birth and raise sons and daughters for war”). The OFP are human rights advocates concerned with health care, decent housing, public services, schools and the rights of women inside and outside the home.

Speculation that the Andean Free Trade Agreement and the Central American Free Trade Agreement will be signed is behind the quest for new avenues to transport goods. There is also growing transnational interests in natural and other resources in north western region of Colombia. These factors contribute to the social injustice perpetrated against the local populations. For example, a Boston Globe story picked up by Colombia Week reports,

As he explores running for Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick is drawing criticism from labor leaders who say he ignored alleged labor and human rights violations at Coca-Cola while he was its vice president and chief legal counsel. The violations include paramilitary attacks on workers and labor organizers at Colombian facilities (Boston Globe 2/8 in Colombia Week, 2005).

Rich in timber, platinum, gold, uranium, abundant water and great biodiversity, Choco has been called Colombia’s “piggy bank” (Hodges, 2004). The only obstacles to extracting resources are physical access and the local population. Therefore, the old Panama canal, which cannot accommodate some of the modern big ships, makes the Panama-Colombia border an attractive site in various proposals for an alternate canal to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Between these proposals and the Pan-American Highway, plus large-scale hydroelectric and natural gas pipeline projects already in the works, this real estate becomes some of the most valuable in the world. Panama has always resisted completion of the Pan-American Highway, for a number of reasons, but Colombia’s government is working hard to persuade its neighbor. Colombia, along with all its business partners, knows that the riches of the Chocó are unparalleled (Hodges, 2004).

Colombia’s black population is concentrated in the Choco region along the Pacific Coast where they represent 95% of the population. The Black presence in Colombia dates back to the early part of the 16th century. African slaves replaced the Indigenous slaves, who were literally being worked to death. Today, Afro-Colombian labour drives the coffee and banana plantations of Antioquia and the mines and trade services of Choco. Yet, the living conditions of the African and Indigenous residents of the Chocó, 80 percent of whom live in extreme poverty and have an illiteracy rate three times the national average, provide a stark contrast to the potential riches of the region. “Only four countries—Afghanistan, Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone—have a higher infant mortality rate than the Chocó, where 125 children out of every 1,000 die before reaching their first birthday" (Gibbs and Leech, 2003). They are plagued by the deterioration of public health, forced migrations to urban centers and the dispossession of land by armed actors. (Minorities At Risk, 2004).

Article 55 of the 1991 Constitution dealt with lands on the Pacific coast watershed and out of that article Law 70 was created, which gave certain cultural and organizational rights to Afro-Colombians as a distinct group. For example, it gave the right to participate in local government as an Afro-Colombian. Particularly significant was that Law 70 paved the way for them to work for collective title to their lands.

Immediately after collective title was granted the army came in and started bombing, indiscriminate bombing. The pretext was clearing out guerrillas. Because of that 20,000 fled in deep fear…. Quite a few fled to Cartagena, some to Panama, a city near Panama. But the vast majority went to Pavarandó, Antioquia (bordering Choco). This has been, until now, the largest ever displacement in Colombian history (Witness for Peace, 2002).

The greatest threat to Afro-Colombians are the armed actors: military, guerrilla, and paramilitary forces, all of whom share responsibility for killings, disappearances, and land displacements in black communities.

Paramilitaries and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) units have surrounded villages in the western province of Chocó for a week, trapping up to 1,000 people and preventing food and medicine from entering, Lt. Gov. Fredy Lloreda said (Colombia Week, 2005).

The principles demands of Black Colombians, including the women of AFRODES are: greater political rights in their own communities, greater participation in decision making at the central state level, equal civil rights and status, greater economic opportunities, and protection of land and jobs used for the advantage of other groups (Minorities At Risk, 2004).

Soacha, a part of Ciudad Bolivar, looks very much like a refugee camp on the outskirts of Bogotá. It is the new home of many displaced Afro-Colombians. Witness for Peace has visited AFRODES in Soacha several times over the years, including visits in 2001 and again in July/August 2002 and the quote above is from the 2002 delegation. AFRODES, founded in 1999, is an organization that helps displaced Afro-Colombians (Podur and Witness for Peace, 2001). In November 2004, our Witness for Peace delegation visited Soacha but this time we focused on the voices of women. The women of Soacha told us the following (I have used pseudonyms for the women.)

I came because of the violence. I came with my grandchildren. We went through a lot of pain. AFRODES helps but it is not enough. There are so many bad times for our children. It is a hard life for women with children. So here I am, without work. They don’t give us work. We don’t have friends here. We have no chickens. We have no farm and we don’t have work. We used to live off agriculture in the mountains. We had a little farm. But we had to leave because of the violence.

I am the head of the household with three children. Right now I am unemployed. It is important to give employment to women heads of households. I come from a small town [in Antioquia], very tranquil. Then one day we found bodies. We were not used to violence. That is why we started our group. We need to organize to protect ourselves. I have been in the city seven years. No work. I have to be mother and father to my children. My children can’t be in school because there is nobody supporting me. My daughter is in AFRODES kindergarten. Even in the AFRODES kindergarten, you need to support or how could the school remain open.

We lived in Rio Sucio in Choco. My first husband was murdered. We don’t know why they killed him. They gave us 24 hours to leave. We went to a small town then I moved to Quito with two small children. Then I came to Bogotá. I have been here three years. In the beginning I got help from Network Solidarity and priests. I married my second husband and had another child. My children are in school. My husband does day labour sometimes. He has work sometimes, sometimes not. When we do have work we put the money aside so the children can go to school.

We find work through word of mouth. Do any kind of work but I would like to work in a factory or selling clothes in a shop of my own.

No one will give me work because of my age. I like to work. I want to work. I would like to raise chickens and then sell them.

We feel secure but insecure at the same time because there is no law or authority that ensures our safety.

The situation is very hard and very difficult. We want peace. We reject violence. We don’t want violence. We want peace.

We want a future without violence, with love. We want our children to study and have a better life. They should give money for displaced people, so our children can move forward.

As ominous as the experiences of the displaced are the experiences of the families with loved ones’ whose whereabouts are unknown. The Association for the Families of the Detained and Disappeared (ASFADDES) was born in 1982 and came out of the disappearance of 13 students. People went to the government to try and find out about their family members to no avail.

22 years ago, we began our struggle and 4 years ago, a law was put in place that forced disappearance is a crime against humanity. Until then the government of Colombia did not have disappearance as a crime. Kidnapping was a crime because it mainly happened to the rich but disappearance was a crime against the poor. One day after Law 589 was passed, our colleague was killed. Many of my colleagues have had to leave Colombia because of persecution. They have bombed my house, threatened my daughter, they follow us and take photographs. My promise is to my disappeared partner and all the disappeared in Colombia and elsewhere. My son is 25 and my daughter is 18. I was pregnant with my daughter, when my partner was disappeared. My son now works with me in this work. We continue this human rights work because we continue to dream and hope that we can have a dignified life.

ASFADDES was founded to find out information about family members and to work for peace, justice and human rights. The organization has several areas of work, one of which is education and human rights.
We also work on denouncements to make the government give reasons for the disappeared and killed. Something we do that is very import is every May, we make a memorial in memory of the disappeared to show the people of Colombia that there are disappeared here and we remember them.

The other piece of the work we do is legal assistance and documentation. We document from the first moment that a person is disappeared. We document everything including the fact that the government does not respond. Legal assistance includes taking the person to the different NGOs. Another area is the internal structure, fund raising, and collaboration with other organizations. We receive some funding but it is shrinking.

ASFADDES is responding to the needs of the families of the detained and disappeared. Likewise, there are other sites of resistance. When the delegation visited El Cedro, a local community outside of Popayan, we were told,

We don’t want the FTAA because producers, subsidized by the U.S., come down and undersell the local farmers. For example, coffee, they use chemical input in their farming. Now they’re pushing eucalyptus, which uses up resources, big companies like Monsanto. Now, we are looking to develop our own seeds from around here and not to use chemicals and that gives us an economy that promotes our own well-being. We know that you like these things because you also like organic agriculture. Our problem is water, the water springs are low. We have to look for another spring for our water. We are looking to reforestation. We love these trees. We are so proud. I can tell you about this place, El Cedro, what we have accomplished. We will continue to be strong and move forward.

In the next section, I give a brief description of Plan Colombia and present some of the ways in which others are taking part in the struggle to alleviate the effects of social injustice and to end the violence.

Plan Colombia, Armed Actors and Sites of Resistance
Everyday we struggle to improve our communities. All we want is a dignified life, to recover our culture that we have lost, reclaim our history, so we can retain it. We have income generation for the countryside. With all the human rights violations, it is hard to go forward. Don’t believe what they say in the media, that we are all terrorists and drug dealers. We are hard working people (Campesino).

Under Presidents Clinton and Bush, Plan Colombia is the latest aid package and initiative designed to bring about an end to the violence and drug trafficking in Colombia. It is also includes strategies that are designed to stabilize the economy, promote trade and investment and social development.

The plan includes ten strategies (economic, fiscal and financial, military, judicial and human rights, counter-narcotics, alternative development, social participation, human development, peace and international affairs) designed to address all aspects of the problems Colombia faces (Ecumenical Human Rights Commission of Ecuador (CEDHU), 2001).

Of these ten strategies, the bulk of the funding goes to military and counter-narcotics strategies. While Colombians are suffering health problems, environmental degradation and the loss of legal crops from the aerial spraying, foreign companies are benefitting. For example, Lockheed Martin, Textan Industries and United Technologies manufacture the armaments and helicopters used in the spraying and Monsanto produces RoundUp Ultra, the chemical used in the spraying.

RoundUp Ultra is a highly concentrated version of Monsanto's glyphosate herbicide, with additional surfactants to increases its lethality.… Over the past century, global water supplies have been contaminated with the full gamut of Monsanto's chemicals, including PCBs, dioxin and glyophosate (Roundup). So now the company, seeing a profitable market niche, is taking control of the public water resources they polluted, filtering it, and selling it back to the people. In short, Monsanto is making a double profit by polluting the world's scarce freshwater resources, privately taking ownership of that water, filtering it, and selling it back to those who can afford to pay for it (Organic Consumers, 2005).

(Ecumenical Human Rights Commission of Ecuador (CEDHU), 2001)

The most onerous part of Plan Colombia is that it appears to ignore human rights violations and the destruction of the environment. For example, we were told of the situation of the banana workers when the delegation attended the Fourth Congress of Women Workers CUT (Central Unitario de Trabajadores), Women and Society, held in Bogotá.

The first women with whom we spoke worked on large banana plantations. The majority of plantation jobs in Colombia’s banana industry are held by Afro-Colombians. They told us that in the agribusiness sector women are discriminated against because they cannot be fired if they get pregnant. Companies either do not hire women or the women must submit to sterilization if they want to obtain employment. There are no women in management or upper level positions.
  • Colombia is considered to be the most dangerous country in the world for union leaders. Over 4,000 union activists have been murdered since 1980 (Witness for Peace, 2004).

  • In 2003, 172 trade unionists were assassinated, 164 received death threats, 26 were kidnapped, 7 disappeared and 50 families were forced to flee into exile (Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW), 2004).
The banana workers also voiced fears of traveling in Colombia by land. One of the women said, “This is the first time we had to travel by land. But the men never have to travel by land. For women in Colombia, being part of a union is very difficult.”

Banana plantation workers face acute public health risks from exposure to the chemicals used in the agribusinesses. The women we spoke to stated that the chemicals used on the banana farms have caused rashes, ovarian cysts and impaired vision.

The women stated that 80 percent of the women in Uraba region were widowed heads of their households. “When our husbands die or our fathers die or our children, we are the ones who cry, we are the ones who have to keep the family going.” However, these women have found the strength to become agents of change by addressing those responsible for the conditions under which they work. Two years ago, they began to do research by passing out surveys to discover the concerns of the women in their industry. With the results of their research, they launched a campaign, In Banana Plantations, we accept women (En las fincas bananeros, aceptamos mujeres). This campaign promotes women’s labor, sexual and reproductive rights in the agribusiness sector.

After the Conference in Bogota, we travelled to Popayan in the Department (State) of Cauca. From there we visited organizations in the city of Popayan and the rural communities of Timbió and Cajibio. In Timbió we visited the local Committee for the Integration of the Colombian Macizo (CIMA). One of the primary goals of CIMA is to make known the plight of the civilian non-combatants– the vast majority of the inhabitants of the Macizo—who for years have been caught in the crossfire. The Human Rights Coordinator of the Women’s Program of CIMA spoke eloquently about the militarization of the region. She told us—

For 50 years, there was no presence of armed actors in the area. Then military incursions into Santa Rosa began in 2003. This has caused a lot of hardship in Santa Rosa and other communities because farmers have been pointed out as insurgents. The last mass detentions in Santa Rosa occurred in 2003 and 2004. Students, old people— the only thing that matters is that you’re indigenous and a farmer.

The number of selective assassinations is also on the rise. There used to be one assassination per year. This year there has been six. It keeps increasing. They torture people, come into your house and take you. Landmines have also increased from last year. So, as women, we ask what is happening. Why are these atrocities happening? Why has there been such an increase in 2004?

These people have only small plots of land to grow crops to feed themselves. The spraying, the fumigations are poisoning the crops, causing physical deformities in children, and this is because of fumigation. It is hard to prove and the Health Department says those are just regular illnesses.

The public forces and the paramilitaries are the same people. The paramilitaries are not doing massacres any more. They are killing one by one. They are not spreading the word anymore but, we know.

But in the midst of this devastation, our struggles and our pain, we work to effect change. We work with other groups and the women are working on nutrition issues and ways to help ourselves. Now in communities women are starting gardens. This is a form of resistance. Women, men come forward and tell them what we are doing.

In Popayan we visited the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC). Cauca’s Indigenous peoples had lost much of their land and CRIC was founded in 1981 to address the right to land. On our visit to the CRIC office we spoke with the coordinator of women’s programs. She told us decisions in CRIC are made by the Cabildo (Council) and until a few years ago, Cabildo members have been men. Since 1996, there has been an increase in the involvement of women. Now, seven out of 87 Cabildo members are women. It is a small number but when you think that there were none before, it is an important change.

Before the Spanish came, there was harmony between men and women. Men and women complemented each other and there was much more harmony. When the Spanish came we had to adapt to new ways and a new religion. At this point discrimination began. Men began to discriminate against women. And this was brought to us. An example of the violence of the Spanish is they would rape the women repeatedly and cut their nipples off so the couldn’t feed the babies.

Woman began to fight back against the Spanish and the men. Women also fought in the struggles and were leaders. Women have always played a part in the struggle, in the process of defending their land, defending the right of the land. Gaetana and Rosilina were two who gave their lives … for the struggle.

We were informed that that in addition to their founding concerns about land rights, they are now concerned about the behaviour of armed actors. She told us—

One of the problems, in terms of government policies and the militarization of our territories, is the presence of the military. They like our young women, make them pregnant and leave. This is a big social problem.

CRIC has expanded their mandate to address these and other new problems.

Women became more involved in CRIC and the struggle for land rights. Women were concerned about the decisions being made and asking were the concerns of women being addressed. First we had to come together. As more indigenous women were trained we began to identify and address social problems.

For example, the “Treca” or exchange is the indigenous peoples’ resistance to Free Trade Agreements. They barter local crops and products with each other. Therefore, each farmer, craftsperson and artisan bypasses the unjust prices for their goods and the necessity to buy foreign goods that undercut local producers.

If ideas or strategies like the treca were to become popular and were allowed to take hold, it would offset free trade agreements’ devastating effect. However, I do not believe that these groups can achieve the economic autonomy they deserve without outside help. For example, one way we can help is to buy fairly traded goods, such as fair trade coffee, tea, and cocoa; union made clothing; and support local vendors who sell fairly traded goods. In the next section, I show how some returning delegates joined ‘la lucha’ (the struggle).

The Way Forward in Solidarity
The power of spreading the word… When governments speak they don’t speak the truth.

I have tried to show three things with this paper. First, the actions of armed actors have resulted in the displacement of many campesinos, Indigenous and African Colombians. Second, the interests of foreign business, including U.S. companies like Monsanto are profiting from, and in some instances causing, the deleterious conditions of these populations. Third, and most importantly, I have shown the resilience, diligence and creativity of the people in dealing with their adverse condition. Now, it is time to suggest what we can do by showing what has been done by some of the delegates on their return home.

Gail is a founding member of Witness for Peace says she,
gave a talk to a house meeting of about 20 people, gave a public talk in Moore Square downtown to about 100 which was televised...wrote a piece on Colombia which has been published in a number of places and had a letter to the editor published.

Ann has
visited Senator’s office and made presentation on Colombia to staff. As a result of my last trip to Colombia two years ago, Syracuse now has a Sister Community with Cajibio in Cauca. This year we met with an organizer from the Community and material aid was delivered. This relationship will continue.

has had articles published in the Winston-Salem Journal: “U.S. Aid Worsens Poverty, Oppression” (September 27, 2003) and “Brenda-Witness puts Plan Colombia in sharp focus” (December 18, 2004). In addition to her membership in Witness for Peace, she is a member of the Peace Brigade.

Margaret, who has written articles and put on a photo exhibit among other actions, stated:
Well, I knew already during the 2002 delegation that I would want to be able to return to Popayán, Cauca, to offer some trauma-reduction support to the families of the Association for the Families of the Detained and Disappeared (ASFADDES), with whom our delegation had spent an amazing afternoon and evening. In April of 2004, I was approached by a doctor/art collector who wanted to purchase MB Hopkins' painting from me. To make a long and wonderful story short, the local arts community rallied around a project that enabled me (a bodyworker) to return to Popayán in August 2004 with two psychotherapists (one of whom, Judy Bierbaum, was also on the 2002 delegation) and a translator, in order to offer trauma-reduction work to families affected by the forced disappearance of loved ones. We spent about a week in Popayán doing that, and trying to lay the groundwork for future work.

Patrick states:
since my first trip to Colombia, in 1997, I have worked toward forming a group here in Los Angeles to do advocacy for the nonviolent efforts in Colombia. I continue to monitor the situation there, to respond to urgent actions, and to inform others about congressional action and alert them to appropriate times to contact Congress about specific legislation. My subsequent visits to Colombia have broadened and deepened my understanding of the situation and therefore my ability and motivation to continue doing those things.

This is but a small sample of the people from Witness for Peace delegations who have returned home and have joined the struggle of their Colombian brothers and sisters for peace and justice. In essence part of what I have tried to do in writing this paper is fulfill one of my promises, which was to share the plight of the people we visited with the Canadian people in general and the academic community in particular. However, it is hard for me to convey the emotions that accompany being witness to what we saw in Colombia. Marilou, a member of our delegation captures so closely the unarticulated feelings that I have about our experience in Colombia and in writing this paper. Her words are the best way to conclude and if one listens closely enough, these words are also an invitation.

I realized that I don’t believe I shared with you the true impact of my Colombia experience (which I am actually still trying to come to terms with). Granted, one of my goals is to educate others about what’s going on in Colombia, but the reality is, I only understand but a miniscule piece of what’s going on there (or in the world for that matter!) and my contribution now is not so much to be able to have intellectual discussions about Colombia and the impact of US policy on other countries because … it’s not that simple, it isn’t – the war has been going on in Colombia for over 40 years and I don’t know the answer to how we put an end to it. What I do know is that I connected with so many incredibly beautiful, gentle and strong souls while I was there. I do know that my heart was touched by their hope and struggle for a day when the words “illegal armed actors”, “massacres” and “disappeared” would no longer be a part of their vocabulary; when mothers standing up for basic human rights didn’t have to worry every morning if their kiss goodbye to their child would be their last kiss; when union leaders didn’t have to worry if today would be their last; when a young woman whose father “disappeared” ten years ago no longer has to shed any more tears because she can once again be in the arms of her dad; when campesinos can grow subsistence crops and not have their land fumigated; when Afro-Colombians can go back to their land and not fear for their life….(Marilou, 2004).

Other Works Cited:
Amnesty International USA. (2004). Organizacion Femenina Popular -- Colombia. Retrieved January 12, 2005, from

Beijing Declaration of Indigenous Women
. (1995). Retrieved March 9, 2005, from

Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW). (2004). CLUW decries exploitation of women workers by U.S. multinational corporations. Retrieved January 12, 2005, from

Colombia Week. (2005). Tuesday, February 8, 2005: ETC. Retrieved March 5, 2005, from

Ecumenical Human Rights Commission of Ecuador (CEDHU). (2001). Plan Colombia and its Consequences in Ecuador. Retrieved March 9, 2005, from

Gibbs, T., and Leech, G. (2003). Displacing Development in the Choco. Retrieved January 10, 2005, from

Hodges, S. (2004). Notes of a Botanist on CAVIDA’s Fifth International Encounter, December 4-9, 2004. Retrieved February, 2005, from

Minorities At Risk. (2004). Assessment for Blacks in Colombia. Retrieved November 13, 2004, from

Organic Consumers. (2005). Monsanto Corporation: A Biotech Company Responsible for Roundup Ready Soybeans. Retrieved March 9, 2005, from

Podur, J., and Witness for Peace. (2001). The Afro-Colombians: AFRODES. Retrieved November 14, 2004, from

Witness for Peace. (2002). Soacha - City of displaced Colombians. Retrieved November 13, 2004, from

Witness for Peace. (2004). How Would AFTA Impact Colombia Civil Society? Retrieved November 13, 2004, from