Colombia

How Soccer Differs from the World of Partisan Politics

Brazil fans watch World Cup quarterfinal at the São Paulo Fan Fest - Brazil v Colombia on July 4, 2014. ©Ben Tavener via Flickr.

After the final whistle ended a hard-fought World Cup match, Brazilian star David Luiz consoled Colombian star James Rodriguez.

They exchanged jerseys to show their mutual respect, and Luiz held Rodriguez close as the losing player wept in frustration.

This poignant moment was much more inspiring than a string of fouls, some intentional, that sent Brazil’s Neymar to the hospital and left players on both sides shouting in agony.

During play, soccer seems eerily like the world outside: opposing forces collide, do anything to gain advantage, bamboozle the game’s referees, shout in mock pain and real pain, challenge joints and muscles beyond their capacity, give everything for their nation’s cause — all while spectators whoop and holler in the safety of the stands.

The Families of Colombia's 'False Positive' Victims Are Still Fighting For Justice

Sojourners editors Rose Berger, Elizabeth Palmberg, and photographer Ryan Rodrick Beiler have all covered stories in the Colombian drug wars.
 
We've visited the Christian base communities. We've traveled with Witness for Peace. We stood in the cash-yielding coca fields of subsistence farmers. We've met with the priests and Protestant pastors who spend more time burying their congregants than marrying them. We've prayed with the families.
 
Writing for VICE, Ellie Mae O'Hagan continues the story of dangerous peacemaking and the demand for justice in Colombia:
I was there with the NGO Justice for Colombia to hear about the country's 'false positives' scandal, which first broke five years ago and shows no sign of relenting any time soon. The scandal has its roots in the Colombian 50-year civil war between the government and the left-wing peasant insurgent group FARC. In the early 2000s, then-president Alvaro Uribe, out of an apparent concern for the army’s reputation, started putting pressure on soldiers to increase their kill figures.
 
According to media reports, soldiers were promised cash payments and more vacation time if they produced the bodies of dead FARC guerrillas—an accusation the government denies. In an effort to increase their quotas, soldiers allegedly started luring young, impoverished men away from their homes with the offer of work. Once away from their families, the soldiers executed the men, dressed them up in guerrilla uniforms, and presented them as combat kills. Many victims were dismembered and buried hundreds of miles away from their families.

Read more.

What Are We Trading Away?

"We the Corporations" sign at protest outside the TPP negotiations

When the U.S. is negotiating a mammoth, powerful international trade agreement, what do negotiators do when faced with tradeoffs between commercial interests in the U.S. and other U.S. values—such as human rights, preserving the planet we all have to live on, and helping the poor?

That’s the question I asked Carol Guthrie, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Public and Media Affairs, last weekend at the Leesburg, Va., resort where the next big thing in trade negotiations—the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), basically NAFTA for the Pacific Rim—was taking shape in its 14th round of negotiations.

Many parts of civil society, from the Sierra Club to the Columban Fathers, argue the TPP would have profound negative effects on the environment, public health, human rights, internet freedom, and the global poor, among other things. A number of civil society groups showed last Sunday in Leesburg, where they could sign up for a chance to speak to negotiators—but not, unlike around 600 mostly-corporate insiders, to see the actual text being negotiated. (Members of Congress reportedly are allowed to see the text—but, unlike the insiders, not to download a copy, take notes, or bring an expert staffer with them).

Why I’m Taking my Hunger Strike from Bogota to Detroit

Jorge Parra in Detroit

Jorge Parra in Detroit

I worked as a welder at a Chevrolet assembly plant near Bogotá, for General Motors’ South American subsidiary Colmotores--until my back began to hurt. I underwent three surgeries and now walk with a cane and have several screws in my spine.

When I could no longer work due to my occupational injuries, GM fired me, paying me no medical benefits or severance.

... I believe God is a God of justice, that the poor will be filled and the rich will be sent away empty.

But our situation was the opposite. The rich sent us away empty.

Colombian Indigenous Elders Try Alleged Guerrillas

More about the efforts of the Nasa people in Cauca, Colombia to free their territory of armed actors:

"Indigenous leaders in Colombia's conflict-scarred southwest say they will put on trial before tribal elders four alleged leftist rebels they accuse of attacks on civilians."

"Nasa Indian leader Marcos Yule tells The Associated Press the four could face such punishment as floggings or exile if convicted in this weekend's trials."

"The 115,000-strong Nasa say they are fed up with being in the crossfire of Colombia's long-running conflict. They have been trying since last week to force government troops and leftist rebels to leave their territory."

The rest of the short news item is here.

Colombian Indigenous Peacemakers Put the "Active" in "Activist"

Indigenous Guard member in Cauca (2011 photo).

Indigenous Guard member in Cauca (2011 photo).

In an Indigenous region of Colombia's Cauca province, activists armed with ceremonial wooden staffs, moral authority, and *lot* of moxie are telling both government armed forces and guerrillas to get out of their territory. In the face of an upsurge in guerrilla-vs.-state violence, Colombian President Manuel Santos made a saber-rattling visit to the town of Toribío to hold an emergency cabinet meeting there, but indigenous activists from the Nasa ethnic group--all too aware that government troops' presence in civilian areas can paint a target on them--were not impressed with Santos' offer of more of the same.

“The military can’t protect us and the guerrillas don’t represent us,” [Indigenous Guard leader] Mensa said, as he cradled the tasseled staff that identifies the volunteer guard. “All of them need to leave this area and let us live in peace.”...

"Even before Santos had finished the emergency meeting, the community had decided to take matters into its own hands. One group confronted the FARC at the roadblocks and another walked more than two hours to a barren mountaintop army battalion that overlooks Toribío.

"After a short standoff with troops, about 200 people swarmed the base and began toppling sandbagged bunkers and filling in foxholes."...

"At the FARC roadblocks, villagers shouted the guerrillas back into the jungle and seized five homemade mortars, called tatucos..."

Read more from the Miami Herald

When I visited Colombia last summer, I interviewed two members of the Indigenous Guard for an article for Sojourners magazine, and was deeply inspired by their commitment, strategy, and guts.

Forget The Firm--Meet Francia

Francia -- Photo curtsey of Elizabeth Palmberg

Francia -- Photo curtsey of Elizabeth Palmberg

Most real-life law students I've met are at way, way less risk of being murdered than their counterparts in a John Grisham novel--except for Francia Marquez. The Afro-Colombian activist and mother of two has received multiple death threats as she advocates to keep her home community from having their ancestral home stolen by a land-grab big mining project.

There's gold in them thar hills in Francia's home, La Toma, in Colombia's Cauca province. Families in her hometown have lived for generations off of small-scale, by-hand gold mining. (Francia herself still puts in some mine time when she visits home, although these days she's spending the most time in her legal studies in Bogota.)

But lots of larger-scale mining concerns want in on the action. Some have sent in bulldozers illegally. Others are joining the land rush of getting mining concessions from the national government--notwithstanding laws on the books that give local communities various rights, including prior consultation on any mining projects.

Two Smart Cookies: Girl Scouts' Wired Campaign Calls Cookie Folk to Clean Up Act

Girl Scout cookies. Image via Wylio http://bit.ly/zwXfFU

Girl Scout cookies. Photo by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar via Wylio http://bit.ly/zwXfFU

We're once again in that sugary time of year, Girl Scout cookie season — but, as two Girl Scouts from Ann Arbor, Mich., want you to know, there's palm oil in those cookies, as there is in many foods we eat. And palm oil has been linked not only with rainforest destruction in Indonesia, but with plantations in league with paramilitary killers in Colombia. (Kind of gives appalling new meaning to the phrase “cookie monster.”)

Last year I also met with Colombian farmers driven off their land by paramilitaries, as I write about in this month's issue of Sojourners, so I was excited to interview Madison and Rhiannon after their recent trip to Colombia.

Read on to find out about how, trying to live by the Girl Scout Law, these two intrepid 11th-graders have been on a five-year mission to stop cookies — and lots of other things you may be planning to eat — from, well, palming off human rights abuses on U.S. snack-seekers.

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