People from around the world — Colombia, Great Britain, Peru, Spain, Switzerland, Congo, North Ireland, Sierra Leone, Venezuela, Denmark, Austria, the United States and Canada — are taking part in our Land You Love campaign, sending pictures of the lands they love most. Check out their photos here!
In Colombia, more than five million people have been forced to leave the land that is most dear to them. In this year alone, 15 leaders who were struggling to have their lands returned to them have been assassinated.
During the month of September, help us flood the Colombian government and U.S. embassy with photos of the land you love and this message of hope: Every Colombian deserves to live without fear and with dignity on the land she or he loves. See how to take part in this online action here.
Decades had passed since the last massive small-farmers mobilization took place in Colombia. This is not surprising, considering the level of violence that Colombian small farmers have had to endure, particularly leaders resisting forced displacement and struggling for getting their land back, twenty-nine of whom have been assassinated in the first semester of 2011. Over twenty thousand people mobilized from August 12-14, 2011 in the “Gathering for Peace and Land, Dialogue is the Path to Peace.”
By María Elvira Bonilla, El Espectador
There are many who end up carrying a weapon wishing they hadn’t, acting against their convictions. This reality has allowed the conscientious objectors movement to develop, with a presence in ten regions of the country and whose voice made it last year to the Constitutional Court and this week to the House of Representatives. The court decided that a conscientious objector, through a writ of protection, can seek to protect his rights, at the same time that it ordered the Congress to legislate this personal choice. The debate has just begun.
By Janice Gallagher and Paloma Ayala
Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico - On Day 4 of the caravan, it feels like it has been a couple weeks. After leaving from the central plaza in Mexico City in the early morning of the 9th, we are now spending our second night in the same place, the only time this will happen during the 10-day journey. We are part of La Caravana del Sur, led by Javier Sicilia’s Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity. Sicilia, a nationally-renowned poet and journalist , lost his 24-year year old son to violence in March of this year.
By John Lindsay-Poland
The Zetas cartel has established a base in the same small Guatemalan jungle town where the U.S. military has been upgrading facilities and training soldiers from a unit linked to the Zetas. What better demonstration is there of the drug war’s perverse logic? U.S. military training of poorly paid young men with few work options plays directly into the game of narcotraffickers. President Obama said this month that “I don’t think Mexican people want to live in a society where drug kingpins are considered to be some of the more powerful individuals in society.” He was speaking against proposals to de-escalate the war in Mexico, but he could justifiably have said the same about what the current drug war path has produced.
By Liza Smith
It was a routine recruitment appointment in Medellín, meaning that young men with a pre-assigned number showed up to resolve their military status. A number of them arrived with a certificate of exemption — in this case, they were students and according to Colombian law should be allowed to continue studying instead of fulfilling their military service. One young man qualified for four exemptions: he had been displaced from his home, his father was killed by guerrillas, he was the primary breadwinner in his family, and he was a student. Nevertheless, the Colombian military rushed all the students through the line, performing the required medical and psychological exams, and within hours they had been integrated into the army. Hours later FOR got a call from our partner organization the Red Juvenil with a request that we act on the behalf of these young people.
The Washington Post on August 20 revealed in a front-page story that “American cash, equipment and training, supplied to elite units of the Colombian intelligence service over the past decade to help smash cocaine-trafficking rings, were used to carry out spying operations and smear campaigns against Supreme Court justices, Uribe’s political opponents, and civil society groups.”
The Latin America Working Group gives background on the scandal, and Reps. James McGovern and Janice Schakowsky urged Secretaries of State and Defense Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta to disclose all U.S. aid to the agency in a September 7 letter.
FOR is reviewing more than 100 documents about Plan Colombia, and seeks a volunteer who reads both English and Spanish, can dedicate time, and pays attention to detail, to create an index of the documents. Can you help? Contact us.