Blog Posts

A Plan Still on Paper: Three Years of the U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan

DSC_0846Monday, April 7th marks the third anniversary  of the failed U.S.-Colombia Labor Action Plan (LAP). Intended to address the concerns about labor rights that long stalled the U.S. Congress’s approval of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, the LAP was supposed to be, in theory, a tool that would create structural changes for workers to improve their working conditions in a country known more for its anti-union violence than its adherence to the rule of law. Unfortunately, practice is far removed from theory.  Rather than celebrating this anniversary, we are just once again reminded that Colombia still has far to go to protect labor rights and labor unionists’ lives.

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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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Colombia: If We Lose Our Memories, There is No Peace Process

Every year, faith-based organizations, activists, and human rights defenders from across the nation and world convene in Washington, D.C. to participate in Ecumenical Advocacy Days. One of the speakers which we had the pleasure of hosting this year was Andres Alba, the director of the Human Rights Office at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia. Andres, a theologian by training, spoke at the “Peace Walks and Peace Talks: Building Peace in Colombia from the Ground Up” workshop sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Mennonite Central Committee, and the Latin America Working Group. Here is his message.

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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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Father de Roux: Trust as a Key Factor to Peace in Colombia

Fr. Francisco de Roux recently visited the United States to present at the “Perspectives on Colombia’s Peace Process and Opportunities for U.S. Engagement” conference organized by the Washington Office on Latin America. As a Jesuit provincial of Colombia and a visionary leader for the peace and development program that has helped to construct peace on the ground in war-torn Magdalena Medio, de Roux spoke about the ethical and moral implications of the movement towards peace in Colombia. This is what he had to say.

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Reclaiming a Space for Nonviolence in Paraguay

Reclaiming a Space for Nonviolence in Paraguay

This blog was first published on December 18, 2013 on Fellowship of Reconciliation's blog . You can read the original here.

Looking at Paraguay through Colombian eyes

Sitting under a tree in humid 90-degree weather and surrounded by a sea of soy fields in Tucautí Poty, I couldn’t help but think how familiar and yet unknown this place was to me. There is something unique in this landlocked country, in the heart of South America, where peasant and indigenous people’s main language is Guaraní, and Spanish speakers like myself need interpretation. Where the Cold War military dictatorship lasted several decades longer than in other countries in the region: General Alfredo Stroessner’s sanguinary rule lasted from 1954 until 1989.

Yet I found communities and groups very similar to those of my birth country of Colombia, fighting inequality, struggling for a piece of land to grow the crops they have grown for centuries; communities organized and committed to nonviolence. As in Colombia, groups are facing repression in a highly militarized territory. Yet, I was still shocked to see how overt the repression is in Paraguay and how spaces for nonviolence are closing.

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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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