Just Peace Coffee Brigade CANCELED — Dolores Detainees are being released in time for coffee harvest!
The Alliance for Global Justice, working with the Colombian human rights group, Lazos de Dignidad, and the Tolima Association of Peasant Workers (Astracatol), has been invited to organize a coffee picking brigade to Dolores, Tolima, a community threatened by repression and displacement related to the discovery of oil in the region. The Just Peace Coffee Brigade will be in two, week-long segments, and delegates are invited to participate in either or both. The first segment will be from May 24-June 1, 2014; Segment two will be from May 31-June 8, 2014. For more information, send an email to email@example.com.
Appeal from an Eyewitness–Alliance for Global Justice’ James Jordan:
I want to appeal directly to you to consider joining the Just Peace Coffee Brigade to Colombia and help farming families there keep their farms and not be displaced. If you aren’t able to go, would you consider making a contribution toward a scholarship for someone who wants to participate but can’t afford the costs? For more information, please send me an email for more information to firstname.lastname@example.org .
I recently went to Colombia on behalf of the Alliance for Global Justice to investigate troubling reports of increased repression. Our closest friends there are among the most impacted. Since implementation of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and despite the ongoing peace process, displacement of rural communities is on the rise as are assaults on human rights workers. AfGJ is especially alarmed because of the all too frequent politically motivated detentions, threats and assassinations that have been directed at the Fensuagro agricultural workers union, and the Patriotic March (Marcha Patriótica) movement for a just peace. Astracatol is Fensuagro’s Tolima affiliate, and Fensuagro is, in turn, one of the founding members of the Patriotic March. In less than two years, 30 leaders of the Patriotic March have been murdered, including several Fensuagro leaders. In each and every case, repression is strongest where there exist conflicts between farming, indigenous and/or Afro-Colombian communities with the interests of transnational corporations and big landowners.
One place I visited was the village of Las Vegas, part of the municipality of Dolores, Tolima ,in the heart of Colombia’s coffee country. Since the discovery of oil in the region, there has been a permanent presence of the Colombian Armed Forces. The military has detained labor and community organizers and it has been implicated in at least five assassinations. Indeed, Dolores is one of Colombia’s most targeted communities.
What I heard over and over during my visit was that families in Dolores are facing the possibility of displacement if they are unable to bring in the coffee harvest in May and June. It was in response to this situation that the idea for the Just Peace Coffee Brigade was born.
This brigade is not only about this particular coffee harvest and these particular families. It is also a way of bringing international attention to what is going on in Dolores and throughout Colombia, and letting the powers that be know that the world is watching. It is a hands-on way of acting locally AND globally at the same time. And it is a way to take direct action to contradict billions of dollars and thousands of lives lost due to US support for war and repression in Colombia.
It is also a way to take a stand in favor of the current peace process and the idea of a truly viable and durable peace based on justice and popular democracy. There are many interests that want to destroy this process by drowning it in blood. This is what happened in the 1980s and 90s when a process was derailed after 5,000 candidates and officials of the Patriotic Union were assassinated over a ten year period.
As I was told by community organizer, Guillermo Cano, “Capitalism has a world character, and we must, too. When I think about the genocide against the Patriotic Union* and the threat to the whole peace process – I believe that it was the lack of international solidarity that made that genocide possible and that led to the failure of the peace process back then. Well, it is happening again. … But I think in this moment, we have to seek peace. … We want peace and therefore we have to open the space and not hide ourselves. … As many sister organizations that want to accompany us … this is what has to be done.”
* The Patriotic Union was a political party formed as a result of the peace process of the 1980s and ’90s and destroyed because of repression and violence directed against it. The Patriotic Union has been recently re-formed.