Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Colombians living in fear as battle for control rages around them ...In October 2011 US president Barack Obama signed the US-Colombia free trade agreement (FTA) that saw 80 per cent of US consumer and industrial exports become duty free overnight. A supposedly protective labour action plan was implemented in April 2011 but since it has been in place, a reported 38 trade union workers have been murdered.Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos says the deal will bring in some 100,000 jobs a year but some experts feel the huge influx of capital can only bring more carnage.“Large-scale development projects are tied to the root causes of violence or directly tied to violence. Our biggest concern with the FTA is that the paramilitary structures have not been dealt with and that the violence will increase,” says Gimena Sánchez, a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America.In Buenaventura the pressure is already mounting, with the expedited expansion of the port and a mooted tourism project on the water’s edge threatening to bulldoze neighbourhoods such as La Inmaculada and La Playita and displace more than 17,000 families.
In places such as Caloto, Corinto and Suarez, life seems almost pedestrian, but since a paramilitary upsurge around 1998, this region has seen incredible terror. In the years which followed, the Cauca river became known as “the cemetery”.People were often dismembered alive with chainsaws and thrown into the waterways, or beheaded in town squares to spread panic. The land vacated when people fled this type of horror then became fair game.High above Suarez, at La Toma, community council leaders Francia Márquez and Lisifrey Ararat are fighting tooth and nail to save their historic village, home to an Afro-Colombian gold mining community since 1636. Here, locals use the same methods practised by their ancestors to mine the hills by hand. Now, they are caught in the middle of a three-way war between the guerrillas, the army and the paramilitaries.A decade ago, when the government began granting mining concessions in the municipality to outside investors, Colombian and multinational corporations took notice. In the years that followed, 35 new concessions were granted locally, ignoring a prior community consultation process guaranteed under Colombian law. Then the eviction notices came.‘Social cleansing’ When La Toma protested, the paramilitaries moved in. Death threats and promises of “social cleansing” from the Águilas Negras followed; on April 7th, 2010, armed men at nearby Alto Ovejas massacred eight miners.Attempts to evict 1,300 families at La Toma were most recently thwarted in April of last year, after locals took a case to the Colombian constitutional court. The new licences were suspended as they had not adhered to prior consultation, but locals fear the breathing space is temporary.Though it is widely accepted that under Santos genuine efforts have been made to address past human rights abuses, people here are still wary of an army which worked brazenly with the paramilitaries for so long. In Caloto, Col John Mesa’s 14th mobile brigade has seen heavy fighting with the guerrillas. Although he cannot ignore the past, he says the military respects human rights.“Maybe some cases are real,” he says of the accusations.“I cannot be sure because I have never participated. This is an army that has received the most rigorous human rights training in the world.Márquez and Ararat scoff at the notion of a benevolent military and, like the terrorised locals in Buenaventura, they do not feel peace talks will improve their situation.“The government wants to open the door for multinationals and create more misery and displacement and death in our communities,” says Márquez.“We don’t have much hope for this process here. There is no hope at all.”In the 1980s, the construction of the giant Salvajina Dam in the valley below displaced a large number of families. Many moved to higher ground at La Toma, with others destined for a life of misery in urban slums.They have learned a hard lesson, they say. Peace or no peace, there will be no more moving. “These lands are our life, mining is our life,” La Toma’s leaders are agreed. “We have said as a community that we’ll leave these territories, but only when we are dead.”With millions across Colombia living on some of the most sought-after land in the world, the view is widespread that communities in the crosshairs are little more than an afterthought at the talks.“Neither side is telling the truth,” they say at the PCN office in Buenaventura.“Our struggle is about fairness. We live off our own work and the things that we produce in our territories. They just want to exploit the resources. They represent their own economic interests.”
[ed notes;colonel john mesas argument that colombias army has received the most rigorous human rights training in world is orwellian double speak..if by human rights training he means training in counterinsurgency operations thru military advisers and leaders trained at school up assassins at fort benning usa,then sure yes,they have been well trained,in everything from extrajudicial assassinations to eradicating peasant resistance to an exploitative preditory system wich has plundered and mobilized to expropriate their lands for far as  human rights are concerned,please this is same army who after false positive scandals broke out,threw clown parties for soldiers and their families involved in the process  Clowns, Aromatherapy and Suckling Pig for the 46 Soldiers Charged with ‘False Positives’  A day for the “false positives” suspects   ...anyway also see.. NGO: 'Alarming' link between US aid and 'false positives' - Colombia ... Plan Colombia 101

No comments: