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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The month of May left a footprint in the history of Colombia


(Personal correspondence from Amanda Martin)
The month of May left a footprint in the history of Colombia.

Alvaro Uribe was elected for a second consecutive Presidential term (2002-2006, 2006-2010). His amendment to change the 1991 Colombian Constitution, to legally permit his candidacy, passed in October 2005. President Uribe was in Washington last week (his 9th visit) to discuss the Free Trade Agreement.

Also in May, a national summit was held to protect and enforce the rights of the Colombian people. 15,000 people (farmers, indigenous groups, students, labor leaders, Afro-Colombians, and many others) gathered at the Guambiano indigenous reserve of La Maria, Piendamo, in the state of Cauca (SW Colombia). This land is titled “for co-existence, negotiation, and dialogue”.

The people demanded to meet with the government to discuss the failure of the state to comply with the law. Specific issues included the indigenous and Afro-Colombian right to collective land, a national referendum on the Free Trade Agreement, Agrarian Reform, inclusion of victims in negotiations with demobilized illegal armed actors, state support of the right to protest and freedom of expression, and the right to life.

During the 5 day summit, none of the government ministers attended. The people decided to block the Pan-American highway in order to get the attention of the government. The government responded by sending the anti-riot police to enter the indigenous reserve by force.

Helicopters flew just 20 feet above the ground, shooting tear gas canisters at the people. Many were wounded, and one indigenous leader was killed. The community health clinic was destroyed. The organic coffee plants were contaminated with tear gas, while the harvested coffee beans were stolen. A house, 15 motorcycles, the entire stock of medicine from the clinic, and furniture was burned. Computers and the dry goods from the community store were stolen. The state troops defecated in the community cooking pots and on the floors of the health clinic.

The US government has just approved another $801 million for Plan Colombia in 2007. 82% of this money is designated for war (further militarization). $200 million alone is for fumigations and helicopters (maintenance and purchasing). Our tax dollars are funding this war.

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