Colombia Media Project, New York, and Colombia Human Rights Committee, Washington, DC, invite you to participate in a special people-to-people encounter in Colombia scheduled for June 21 to July 4, 1998.
The two-week delegation is part of an ongoing solidarity campaign with the people of Colombia in a period of intense internal conflict and a rapidly expanding U.S. military presence. It is intended to continue building links with some of the people most affected by the civil war: Indigenous and Afro-Colombian peasant communities.
As in our previous delegation in 1997, we will be hosted by two prominent Indigenous organizations: The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC, and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, CRIC. We will be visiting Indigenous communities in Southwest Colombia, as well as the Afro-Colombian communities in the department of Choco, which has recently become a center of paramilitary activity.
ONIC and CRIC, two of the largest Indigenous organizations in Latin America, have been at the forefront of the struggles for the rights of Indigenous, peasant and working people of Colombia. They have been organizing a number of major projects aimed at improving the conditions of the many communities of the region, including education, culture, environmental protection, women's leadership, human rights, traditional medicine, and economic development. In the department of Cauca, as in other parts of the country, these programs have been threatened by the damaging effects of the U.S. sponsored drug war, continuous government persecution, and outright neglect.
The northern department of Choco is located in a rain forest that contains one of the richest ecosystems in the world and is currently endangered by multinational mega-projects, as well as escalating paramilitary activity. We will visit some of the leading organizations, both Afro-Colombian as well as Indigenous, who are working for the defense of the natural resources, as well as for the titling of their collective lands.
The delegation includes four days in Bogota, where participants will meet with non-governmental human rights organizations, elected officials, Indigenous and Afro-Colombian lawmakers , and the ONIC leadership. This series of meetings is designed to get the delegates up to date with the ongoing sociopolitical crisis unfolding in Colombia, and the state of human rights, especially for Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities.
Delegates will also participate in the 5th Indigenous national congress of ONIC where over 2,000 Indigenous leaders from throughout the country meet every four years to discuss the direction of the Colombian Indigenous Movement, as well as national and local programs.
It will then be followed by a 4-day visit to the southern province of Cauca, where delegates will meet with CRIC leaders, visit Indigenous families, Indian schools, and industrial and agricultural cooperatives. Participants in the delegation will also visit some of the areas which have been targeted by the U.S.-backed illicit crop eradication campaign and see first hand how Indigenous communities have been affected by this policy. We will also take boxes of donated school supplies to the communities as gifts in a symbolic gesture to counterpoint the increasing amounts of U.S. military aid currently given to the country.
Colombia has achieved the dubious distinction of having one of the most horrendous human rights records, while being the recipient of the highest U.S.military aid in the hemisphere. The result has been an average of ten people killed daily for political reasons since 1989, along with systematic impunity that lets 97% of the cases go unpunished.
Despite this grim reality, U.S. policy makers and the public perceive the problems of violence in Colombia as relating primarily to the drug trade. In his visit to Colombia last year, U.S. Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey stated that U.S. military aid can be used to combat narcoguerrillas, thus throwing the U.S. in a counter insurgency war. The fact is that most of the targets of political violence and repression from the state and paramilitary forces allied with the military are human rights workers, union leaders, left-wing opposition politicians, peasants, ethnic minorities, and the poor.
We are hoping to bring together activists, journalists, students, academics, church and community leaders who upon returning from the trip will share their experiences with their local communities and media to call attention to the situation in Colombia. The cost is $1,550 and includes r/t airfare to Colombia, on-the-ground transportation in the country, lodging, two meals a day, Spanish/English interpretation and information materials. Initial applications deadline is May 1, 1998.
For application materials and for more information about the current situation in Colombia contact:
Colombia Media Project
PO Box 1091
New York, New York 10116
Tel (212) 802-7209
Fax (718) 369-4182
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or
Colombia Human Rights Committee
PO Box 3130
Washington DC 20010
Tel (212) 232-8148
Fax (202) 462-4724