Volume 21, Number 2
N.O. Dollar Day
Readers & writers
Journal of 21st Yr
2008: What's New?
Waiting for War
Iraq War Vet
Dylan & Wainwright
Charlie Wilson's War
César cuauhtémoc garcía Hernández
NYT on Kosovo
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Attack on Peace Community in Colombia
Last July, two armed men in uniform identifying themselves as Black Eagle paramilitaries stopped a vehicle traveling to the small town of San José de Apartadó in northwest Colombia. They forced Dairo Torres from the car at gunpoint and told the driver to be on his way. Minutes later another car passed and discovered Torres’s lifeless body. He had been shot at close range.
Torres was a leader of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, which is made up of several hundred families who were forced to flee their lands. When it was founded in 1997, the Peace Community declared its neutrality in Colombia’s long-running internal conflict. This meant that the entry of armed actors into the community, including the state security forces, was forbidden. Another key principle was that community members refuse any direct or indirect assistance to the armed groups.
In recent years, the Peace Community, now numbering almost 1,300 people, has been organizing to recover lands its members were forced to leave. With a return by community members to the hamlet of Mulatos planned for February 2008, para- militaries are once again on the rampage, while the army and police continue abetting the repression—in many cases, as active participants.
A recent legal study published by the Law School of the Autonomous University of Colombia found that in its 10-year history not one of the more than 600 crimes registered—including murders or disappearances— has ended in a conviction. In fact, few have even gone to trial. “You come face to face with the perversity of justice in this country, because the mechanisms of impunity operate in both directions: they not only declare the guilty innocent, but they also declare the innocent guilty,” says community leader Milton Barrera.
Indeed, the government often accuses the community of harboring guerrilla sympathies and even of being a guerrilla hotbed, despite the fact that out of the 168 violent deaths endured by the community about 25 were at the hands of guerrillas. The legal study attributes the remainder to paramilitaries and the military.
The Pacification of Urabá
San José is situated along the banks of the Apartadó River in the region of Urabá near the Panamanian border. Urabá has a long history of guerrilla activity, dating back to the 1960s and 1970s when guerrillas first arrived attracted by the growing banana workers’ unions, a total lack of official state presence, and the thick jungle cover perfectly suited for guerrilla warfare. The state response to the growing power of the rebels was fierce and by the 1980s Urabá became known as one of the most violent areas of the country.
A leftist political party called the Unión Patriótica (UP) emerged in 1985 out of failed peace negotiations between the government and the largest guerrilla group, the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). The UP was made up of unionists, campesinos, and leftist social organizations of all kinds that sought to integrate the guerrillas into a legal, non-violent political movement. The UP became a formidable political force throughout Urabá and San José was a bastion of UP support until the late 1980s when the party dissolved after state security forces and paramilitaries assassinated or disappeared more than 3,000 of its members, including two presidential candidates.
Since San José de Apartado had been a UP stronghold, the right-wing paramilitaries, or “paras” as they are known locally, came down like a hammer on the small town. From 1994 to 1998, paramilitaries, backed by the military, initiated a campaign to “cleanse” Urabá of guerrillas. But much of the violence was directed at non-violent, social organizations deemed “subversive”—namely, unions, left-leaning political movements, farmers’ organizations, and clergy members. The military and paramilitaries proudly refer to this process as the “pacification of Urabá.”
“The Peace community was born out of this context of confrontation and extermination that social organizations suffered at the hands of the state and the paramiltaries,” says Pedro Rodríguez, a community lead- er. “When the exterminations began to increase is when we started thinking about a neutral community.”
The community fiercely protects its neutrality from the state and the other armed actors. In 2004 the government proposed to install a police outpost in San José in direct violation of the community’s rules. At first, the government seemed receptive to the community’s counter-proposal of a peripheral police presence, but deadlines on decisions set by the talks continued to pass without results.
Then came the massacre of eight community members in February 2005. Eyewitness accounts and human rights reports implicate the Army’s 17th Brigade in the massacre. The government used the massacre, which it falsely blamed on the FARC, as an excuse to station the police within San José, illegally occupying the house of a community resident.
In response, the entire Peace Community left San José and reestablished itself a few miles down the road, naming the new settlement San Josecito, or little San José. San Josecito became the new headquarters of the Peace Community. The move marked another of at least ten mass displacements community members had been forced to endure by the armed actors.
“Returns,” as the resettlements are called, are complicated and dangerous endeavors. In other parts of Urabá and throughout Colombia the government has sanctioned and administered returns, but as one community member mentioned, “We don’t believe in the returns done by the state. We do ours autonomously.”
It’s not hard to understand why: on the trail between the different hamlets of the Peace Community there are a group of one-room brick shacks built by the government for one of its sponsored returns. The community says they were built for a photo-op during the visit of an international diplomatic delegation. The huts remain unoccupied.
The Community devised what could be called a “lily pad strategy” in which the closest areas to San Josecito are resettled first, from which they can then “leap-frog” to more distant resettlements at a later point. La Unión in 1998 was the first resettlement and is nearest to San Josecito, followed by Arenas Altas in 2000 and La Esperanza in 2006.
The return process takes months to complete. The Community starts by surveying the area to determine the security situation and to find out what infrastructure remains. Usually, next to nothing is left since these are areas that were subject to bombings and scorched earth tactics by the military and paramilitaries. The next step is planting crops and building rudimentary structures, all of which is done as quickly as possible by collective work groups. Finally, when the crops are ready for their first harvest a huge contingent of the community will accompany the first pioneer families to the resettlement and help them get situated.
Mulatos and Memory
The next return will be to Mulatos, which is particularly symbolic, painful, and dangerous because Mulatos was the site of the February 2005 massacre. It was in this area that eight people, including a founding leader of the community, Luis Eduardo Guerra, and his family were hacked to death by machetes.
When news of the killings arrived, a 100-person search party left San José with the hope of at least recovering the bodies. Guerra was found facedown in the mud with his 17-year-old partner, Beyarina Areiza, next to him. She had been cut in half. Next to her was Deiner, Guerra’s 11-year-old son.
Thirty minutes walk from this macabre scene, the Community found a mass grave with the bodies of the other five campesinos: a field worker, a couple, and their two children—Santiago was not even two- years-old, Natalia was six. As the bodies were pulled out of the mass grave, members of the 17th Brigade stood nearby laughing and were seen washing off a blood-soaked machete they had found on the scene. “It was used to slit throats,” explained the soldier. After the killings, 120 families decided to leave Mulatos.
Two years after this atrocity, the attorney general’s office called 69 members of the 17th Brigade in for questioning. To date, no formal charges have been filed. (The army’s 17th Brigade is one of the few army units that had been decertified by the U.S. government for human rights abuses. This means it is officially cut off from receiving U.S. military assistance through Plan Colombia.)
“We’ll make an initial return with eight families to Mulatos. And we’ll be holding our heads high because we won’t allow our lands to be stolen,” says Acosta. The return is planned for February 21, the second anniversary of the massacre. One community member adds, “We’ve always had one thing clear: at any moment we might die. That’s our reality. We know we’re going to a complicated area.”
Verbal threats from paramilitaries have increased recently, particularly around the more isolated hamlets. Their methods have changed, but the threat remains: “The paramilitaries have a presence in every municipality of Urabá. They no longer enter a town in huge blocs. Instead, they do it in groups, small groups. And they still do constant and permanent roadblocks and kidnappings. That’s how they control the area, economically, socially, and physically,” Rodríguez observes.
But the Peace Community remains hopeful. Says Rodríguez, “We’re a strong community. In ten years of struggling, not the guerrillas or the state has been able to finish us off.”
Teo Ballvé is NACLA’s web editor. A journalist based in Colombia, he edited, with Vijay Prashad, Dispatches From Latin America: On the Frontlines Against Neoliberalism (South End Press, 2006). Juan Ricardo Aparicio contributed to this article.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.