There are more than 45,000 peace initiatives in Colombia, from different communities and sectors, according to research cited by Ricardo Esquivia, Mennonite and one of the leading figures of the Permanent Assembly of Civil Society for Peace of Colombia, when he came through Washington in December 1999. According to Esquivia, while this large number would appear to reflect both fragmentation and mutual distrust, it is also a clear sign that many Colombians are engaged in the project of bringing about peace and justice, absent in most corners of the country. He further reported that neither the Government of Colombia nor the guerrillas of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) have allowed Colombian society at large much participation in the peace talks they have been pursuing, limiting such input to persons who travel to the FARCs jungle base at San Vicente de Caguán.
Here in the United States, it is similarly difficult to get policy-makers and, in large measure, the media, to perceive the reality and positions of the non-armed actors in Colombia, relying on an analysis that inexorably leads to calls for increased military aid--more war--in the name of an ill-conceived drug war approach that barely touches the key actors in drug-trafficking activities.
Nonetheless, local communities continue to sprout grass-roots citizen initiatives--in the United States and Colombia, as well as other countries--to support non-violent initiatives to bring peace to Colombia. The October 15 conference Civilians Under Fire, Building Peace with Human Rights in Colombia, held at the offices of the U.S. Congress, in Washington, featured such initiatives, bringing seven Colombians representing different sectors--human rights defenders, labor, indigenous organizations, the displaced, the Afro-Colombian communities and including two Colombian Senators. This issue of Colombia Update presents a conference report (pp. 5 ff.). Note also the upcoming Spring 2000 Colombia Human Rights Network tour of a Colombian labor leader. Note also the critique of U.S. drug policy in Colombia by researchers Ricardo Vargas and Rodrigo Velaidez.
As always, we go to press acutely aware of the inability of these few pages to grasp the full extent of violence and terror for so many communities throughout Colombia today. We hope it will help you in your own efforts to support non-violence, peace, and justice in Colombia.
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