The “No” vote on a proposed peace deal in Colombia between the government and rebel group FARC has shocked virtually everyone.
People of conscience and faith here in the U.S. should pay close attention to Colombia for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the struggle for peace there presents a mirror to our own fears and dispositions and to the global logics of the war on terror and drugs. One thing that the results of the plebiscite revealed is that it is hard to change public imagination overnight after spending decades of fueling war, demonizing enemies, and seeing issues one-dimensionally.
Pope Francis has welcomed a groundbreaking deal reached between the Colombian government and rebels that promises to end more than 50 years of violent conflict.
According to a statement released Aug. 31 by the secretariat of state, the pope was “pleased to learn that negotiations have been finalized” after intense discussions.
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.
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.
We are deeply concerned.
Its been months since I´ve written anything about the current events in Colombia. But I can't let "the hug the country has been waiting for" slip by without comment.
My infant daughter Amara and I were at the deli counter when the news broke. A current ran through the grocery store causing eruptions of joy. Ingrid Betancourt, former Presidential candidate, the three U.S. contractors and 11 others kidnapped by the FARC guerrilla group were freed this afternoon.
I posted last November about legal proceedings against Chiquita for protection money paid to Colombian right-wing paramilitary organizations (AUC) that had been designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. government. Two stories this week shed more light on the situation and are worth checking out.