Displaced Continue to Occupy Red Cross HQ in Bogotá

On December 14, 1999, some 1,370 displaced persons occupied the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to protest the failure to address their needs. To this day, 350 remain at the ICRC offices, of all ages and mostly rural backgrounds, from all over Colombia. Specifically, the protest raised the issue of the failure to provide for their rights pursuant to Law 387 of 1997, on the Social Solidarity Network. Negotiations began on January 4, but broke down in mid-April; in mid-May official forces sought to enter the headquarters by violent means; and then the displaced occupying the offices agreed to withdraw from those offices that do not actually belong to the ICRC.

In a May 31 communique released in Bogotá, the displaced issued the following petitions:

A1. That the Pre-Agreement signed on January 14, 2000, be fully implemented, as a guarantee for being able to continue the conversations with the government. This pre-agreement makes reference to the minimum conditions of survival and the emergency humanitarian assistance for the persons at the ICRC offices.

2. That the Church, in the person of Monsignor Alberto Giraldo, come to the negotiating table, so as to resume the dialogue that was unilaterally cut off by the government on January 18, 2000.

3. To discuss, as the key issues, the solutions for (1) housing and (2) productive projects.@

The displaced went on to state: AWe reaffirm our will to withdraw peacefully from the ICRC offices so long as the government carries out its obligations in the framework of the negotiations proposed and with the signature of a Final Act of Reciprocal Commitments.

Finally, we raise our voice of protest and profound concern in the face of the imminent threat of forced eviction by the official forces planned for the coming days, and we ask that you send this communication to the international community so that, in solidarity, you may join our just struggle and so that together we can avoid a tragic outcome.

Of the 1,370 persons who occupied the ICRC offices in December, 350 of us remain, many of us children and women heads of household who have no resources, housing, or support whatsoever.

We invite you to come to the offices of the ICRC and to verify, first-hand, our situation, and then provide support and spread the word as you deem appropriate.@

This article is excerpted and translated from documentation provided by the Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos, based in Bogotá.


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