International Solidarity Address to the National Conference for the Liberty of the Political Prisoners in Bogotá, Colombia

by James Jordan, Alliance for Global Justice

My name is James Jordan and I work for the Alliance for Global Justice and am a member of the Coordinating Committee of the National Network in Solidarity with the Political Prisoners (of Colombia).

There is nothing we want more for the Colombian people than an end to the violence and the internal and armed conflict. For those of us from the United States, this is not simply a result of our altruism. Our solidarity with Colombia is linked to our struggle for freedom and democracy.  It seems that in all the world, my country is fighting wars or advising, directing and supporting war and repression, and it is the same here in Colombia where we have invested more than seven billion US dollars in Plan Colombia.

And what a plan that does not include even one peso for a peace process neither for dialogue in the search for a political solution to this war! And why not? It is that the concep of a just peace seems to be in direct conflict with greed of transnational corporations. What these ones want is not sustainable agriculture, but monoculture and resource extraction; it is not people’s democracy, but the democracy of the rich; it is not an inclusive economy but an exclusive economy that gives to the few profits and power, and to the majority, slavery, misery and, for those who resist, displacement, prison and death. What these ones call democracy is liberal democracy, or better said, neo-liberal democracy in which the only votes that count are those of the bosses and multinational corporate investors. The truth is this is not a democracy, but a global oligarchy.

US military power constitutes a kind of insurance company for the oligarchy. The mechanism of the Empire acts to open markets and access to resources and to assure that any and all resistance be crushed in its crib. But, it is clear that the resistance to imperialism does not die.

If you think think for one moment that the Empire and its liberal “democracy” has an interest in peace and freedom, then listen to these words of Mark Plattner, a Vice-President for the National Endowment for Democracy, an agency created and funded by the US government. According to Plattner, “Liberal democracy clearly favors the economic arrangements that foster globalization ….The international order that sustains globalization is underpinned by American military predominance.”

What I want to say to you is that this is not what the working class nor the majority of the people of the United States desire. What we want is that our government would end its passage along the path of Empire and, in its place, invest in the needs of its own people.

With regards to the political prisoners, and to these torturous Colombian jails that were constructed with US funds and advise, I believe with all my heart that if the majority of the people of the United States knew what goes on in institutions like La Tramacúa, that my people would lower their heads in pure shame.

As a representative of the International Network, I want to say that the conditions in the jails here constitute a violation to the dignity of Colombia and, more, the entire world. When we hear that there are more than 7,5000 political prisoners and that 5,000 of these are peasant farmers, we must cry out in protest against this outrage.

These jails constitute an effort to control and to crush opposition movements and the hopes of the Colombian people for a just peace. In place of politics that uphold the good of the people, in place of free speech, in place of peace processes, in place of true democracy, the oligarchy constructs more jails and these are converted into theaters of war and repression. This fact is highlighted when we see that so many of the officials who oversee these institutions come from the Armed Forces and of these, many receive training at the infamous School of the Americas. More, these jails function to consolidate the dispossession of lands and the displacement of the people.

We of the International Network understand very well the importance of the political prisoners to the peace process. We understand that the first step to dialogue and the political solution will begin with the humanitarian exchange of Prisoners of War. But the majority of the political prisoners are not Prisoners of War, but peasant farmers, unionists, students and members of the political opposition–Prisoners of Conscience of and legal frame-ups. And the conditions that exist in the jails–the severe restrictions of access to potable water and clean food, the violence and the torture–these are aggressions that violate all conventions, all accords, all international law–and all concepts of human decency.

Thus, the International Network calls on the Colombian government to do the following:

  1. For their protection, the government must transfer the political prisoners to prisons near their families and held them in special units separated from common criminals and, particularly, from paramilitary prisoners.
  2. We call for the immediate improvement of prison conditions, including access to sufficient and clear water and food, and an end to the occurances of torture.
  3. We call for a humanitarian exchange of Prisoners of War as a first step toward a peace process.
  4. We call for the immediate liberty of all the Prisoners of Conscience and judicial frame-ups.

Finally, I want to recognize when justice and peoples’ victories occur. How wonderful it is that today we can celebrate the liberty of Rosalba Gaviria and Miguel Ángel Beltran! With anticipation, we call on the Colombian government to show its respect for the law and honor the decision of the Supreme Court concerning the “magic computers” of Raúl Reyes and, thus, put at liberty Joaquín Perez Becerra and my good friend, Liliany Obando.

Again, our solidarity is not simply a matter of altruism. It is rooted in the knowledge that peace in Colombia is a key to true democracy, to the liberty of our communities and families and the land of all nations, and to peace around the world.

Thank you.