Make Peace in Colombia an Agenda Item for Congress

final_military_aid_slideThe failed war on drugs, support of an abusive military, fumigations that destroy farmers’ food crops, and the failure to stop murders of human rights defenders and violence that drives thousands of people from their homes are just the beginning of the laundry list of problems with U.S.-Colombia policy. That is why this spring we are gearing up for our biggest Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia to call on our government to finally put an end to its destructive policies and contribute to the historic opportunity of peace in Colombia.

Tell Congress to prioritize peace rather than military solutions in Colombia!

The ongoing peace process in Colombia not only gives our government a chance to play a constructive role in a history-making peace accord but to also start over and move away from outdated military solutions in Latin America. Colombia has been the largest recipient of U.S. military assistance in the Americas, and yet this focus on military aid has exacerbated a displacement crisis that has left nearly 6 million people without a home. Small farmers have seen their livelihoods disappear due to forced eradication and fumigation programs funded by the United States.

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Peace Is More than Silencing Guns: Human Rights and Colombia’s Peace Process

This post first appeared on USIP’s Olive Branch blog. It was written by Virginia M. Bouvier of USIP, Lisa Haugaard of LAWG, and Moira Birss of PBI. Click here to view the original post.

Peace is more than just silencing guns. That was the upshot when Colombian human rights defenders gathered at USIP recently to discuss the ongoing peace process between the FARC guerrillas and Colombia’s government and how the talks can advance justice in the aftermath of a deal. Days later, in a development unrelated to the gathering, the Colombian government took a step in that direction.

The event at USIP, the latest in a series called the Colombia Peace Forum, was co-sponsored by the Latin America Working Group Education Fund and Peace Brigades International. It convened some 50 policymakers from across the U.S. government and other interested parties to discuss the link between human rights and the peace process.

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Corruption, Human Rights Scandal Rocks the Colombian Armed Forces

Colombia’s Semana magazine revealed in February a massive corruption scandal involving the top ranks of Colombia’s armed forces.  Officials were skimming up to 50 percent off of lucrative military contracts.  “Give us 5 billion [pesos] and give the other companies 3.  If we are all eating, no one will pick a fight,”   said one colonel. 

Top military commanders, as well as personally benefitting from this corruption, were steering contracts to officers and soldiers under investigation and detained in military garrisons for involvement in extrajudicial executions. According to Semana, “this was a system to buy their silence and ensure that they did not implicate higher-level officials in the sadly famous practice of false positives.”

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In their Homes, in their Work, Colombia's Human Rights Defenders Remain at Risk

In their houses, in front of their children, in the middle of meetings, while taking their children or grandchildren to school, while eating in restaurants, while walking to or from work:  these are some of the places in which 78 Colombian human rights defenders were assassinated in 2013.

Community leaders, representatives of poor farmers and victims, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, land rights champions, union leaders, LGBTI and women's rights defenders, youth leaders:  these are some of the kinds of defenders assassinated in 2013.  Most were poor, from far-flung parts of the country.

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Resisting Violence, Building Peace: Join Us at Ecumenical Advocacy Days

You have always been ready to stand up for justice and peace in Latin America. You and all of our dedicated activists have shown us, Congress and the White House how a group of concerned individuals of diverse beliefs can make a difference.

Our work, however, is not done, as Latin America continues to be plagued by an epidemic of violence, with U.S. policies too often contributing to the problem, not the solution. From the tragic loss of life from the militarized approach of the failed war on drugs, to organized crime eroding institutions and the rule of law, violence continues to affect Latin Americans from many walks of life and their struggle for justice and human rights.

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Expectations of the Colombian Peace Process: A Victim’s Reflection

Lilia Peña Silva, a human rights defender and victims’ rights advocate from Colombia, recently visited the United States for a speaker’s tour coordinated by the Latin America Working Group Education Fund (LAWGEF), the U.S. Office on Colombia (USOC), and the Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos (CCEEU). Lilia is the founder and president of the Regional Association of Victims of State Crimes in Magdalena Medio (
Asociación Regional de Víctimas de Crímenes de Estado del Magdalena Medio, ASORVIMM), and was chosen by coalition of more than 200 Colombian human rights organizations and social movements for a speaker’s tour that included stops in New York City, Washington DC, Dallas and Austin, TX, and Miami, Fl.

A tireless leader and advocate for human rights and the rights of victims of state violence, Lilia took this opportunity to speak about her experience as a victim and as a leader, as well as about the ongoing peace process. This is what she had to say.

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Mandela and the Struggle for Justice for Afro-Colombians

As we remember and celebrate Nelson Mandela around the world, I thought you might like to see this wonderful op-ed by my friend Gustavo Emilio Balanta Castilla, a journalist and crusader for justice for Afro-Colombian communities in Cartagena, Colombia. 

Gustavo takes Nelson Mandela’s words, “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones,” and notes that it is impossible to praise Mandela while maintaining a state policy that reaffirms the inequity and systemic discrimination of the poor, Afro-Colombian and indigenous people of Cartagena and the rest of Colombia. 

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