My body is my house, my house is my territory.. I will not give away the keys

International Summit of Women and People of the Americas against Militarization

In August, Colombia hosted the first “International Summit of Women and People of the Americas against Militarization,” which was attended by almost 3000 people, including around 200 international delegates from the Americas and Europe. The event provided a unique space for organizations and social activists to come together to share, denounce, and visibilize the effects of militarization and war on the bodies of women, territories, and civil society, with the objective to systemize the experiences of resistance against militarization and to define a strategic agenda to coordinate a social movement of women and people for the defense of territories. Although the Colombian Constitutional Court deemed the agreement leasing seven Colombian bases to the U.S. unconstitutional on the second day of the summit, the focus of the attendees remained centered on building a strong opposition to the rise of U.S. military presence in Latin America.

The summit, convened by the Social Movement of Women Against the War and for the Peace, came out of a long process involving 60 Colombian social organizations that have spent the last four years developing a common agenda against militarization. According to Betty Puerto of the Women’s Popular Organization (OFP), the goal of the movement is to eventually present a proposal of peace from women to the Colombian national government urging a political negotiation to the armed conflict, along with various measures to assure that human rights are protected in Colombia. The Social Movement of Women was spearheaded ten years ago by the OFP, when they began to collect information about the suffering of women caused by the effects of the internal conflict. Jacqueline Rojas, the Barrancabermeja regional coordinator, said that they later opened to the movement to other regions of the country, where other organizations already had initiatives, and began a campaign of popular education in schools and neighborhoods, teaching the effects of militarization on the bodies of women and civil society.

The movement now includes indigenous communities, labor unions, housewives, Afro-Colombian communities, political organizations, church organizations, academics, student movements, displaced people, small-scale farmers, community mothers, and regional peace processes, all of whom were represented in the summit, united under the slogan “We do not birth sons and daughters for war.”

The summit took place at a moment when U.S. imperialist forces are carrying out aggressive strategies of re-colonization to reposition and recuperate from the crisis of the capitalist system, according to the women of the movement. This has had dire effects on the people of the entire region; inequality, unemployment, violence, sexism, and poverty are becoming endemic in Latin America.

Colombia is no exception – a country abundant in natural resources such as minerals, petroleum, carbon, water, and biodiversity, where 65% of the population lives in poverty on less than $5 a day and 56% of Colombians are unemployed or underemployed, according to Felix Posada of the Popular Center of Communication in Latin America, who gave a talk on the Colombian context the first day of the summit.

The territories of Colombia, and likewise all of Latin America, are being exploited by transnational companies, who use the tactics of militarization, war, displacement, and murder of the people to claim control of territories. U.S. economic interests are protected by U.S. military bases, which are strategically positioned all over the continent, and have been used to exert influence and control over the region. Although the history of U.S. military intervention in Latin America is well known, many feel the trend continues – the plane that carried the Honduran president out of the country after a military coup last year stopped at a U.S. base, suggesting U.S. participation. Berta Cáceres, a summit atendee and resistance leader in Honduras, thinks the CIA was behind it.

Violations of human rights are further aggravated by U.S. presence – in Colombia, U.S. military personnel contracted by an oil company to protect a pipeline participated in the massacre of 17 civilians in 1998. A recent study published by FOR found that despite legal mechanisms to prevent U.S. military aid to Colombian army units that commit human rights violations, not only has the U.S. provided assitance to such units, the number of extrajudicial executions went up in more than half of the units after they received aid linked to Plan Colombia.

The implications for women living around bases are even grimmer, where the number of rapes goes up dramatically, with a 98.6% impunity rate for the perpetrators, according to summit speaker Ana Maria Diaz, the sub-director of Investigation at the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ). A 2009 annual report released by the Interamerican Court of Human Rights shows the state can be held responsible for 65.8 % of sexual violations in Colombia (committed by both public forces and paramilitary groups linked to the public forces). Diaz claims that other sources point to an even higher rate, with the military as the major perpetrator. Another concern of Diaz’ is that U.S. soldiers in foreign countries generally receive diplomatic immunity, meaning they can’t be tried for their crimes in foreign countries, and there are numerous cases of sexual abuse committed by U.S. personnel, sometimes to young girls, that remain in impunity. Prostitution rates also skyrocket around bases, with military-sanctioned “entertainment houses.”

To see these effects first hand, international delegates from 19 different countries participated in humanitarian commissions to twelve different heavily militarized regions around Colombia in the first days of the summit. They found evidence of multinational companies around the country allied with police, military, and paramilitary forces to end social organizations and gain control of territory, according to the report written and presented during the summit. They found women to be extremely victimized in these regions due to the militarization, and social movements to be severely stifled by the state.

 

In Barrancabermeja, the delegates joined over 2000 Colombian activists from the organizations that make up the Social Movement of Women Against the War for two days of seminars, workshops, and speeches. Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, who has been involved with the Movement for sometime, told the effects that the largest business in the world, war, has brought to Colombia – cadavers floating down the Magdalena River, women’s corpses missing a head or arms, and more than 5000 false positives, civilians killed and dressed up as guerrilla by the army.

Women presented the topic and talked about the issues they faced from various perspectives: indigenous, small-scale farmers, Afro-Colombians, urban dwellers, union leaders, artists, and internationals were all represented. One afternoon the Movement held the largest march to happen in Barrancabermeja in 8 years; participants carried banners, candles, and rocks to remember those who had lost their lives in the conflict.

On the last day of the summit, the group caravanned to Puerto Salgar, home to the air base Palenquero, one of the seven bases “given” to the U.S. in the 2009 agreement. According to a study contracted by the Social Movement of Women and released at the summit, prostitution has grown at an alarming rate in Puerto Salgar since the installation of the base. The study also showed the strong influence the base has had on cultural, political, and social life in Puerto Salgar. The women held an 8-hour vigil in front of the base, complete with musicians, speakers, dancers, and theater acts. One impressive youth dance group from Barrancabermeja highlighted the devastation to the environment and civilian life in the city due to oil company control.

Colombian Senator Gloria Ines Ramirez spoke of the need to continue the struggle, and a message of encouragement to the Movement was read aloud, written by Clara Lopez, the president of the Polo Democratico, the only major Colombian political party to oppose to the U.S.-Colombia bases agreement.… Read More

Welcome Supporters of Colombia

March 20th: From Baghdad to Bogota: No More Blood for Oil!
On March 20th the Colombia Action Network stands in solidarity with the anti-war movement! We join with the anti war movement to demand an end to US intervention in the Middle East and an end to the occupation of Iraq! Unfortunately, while the US increased its attacks on Iraq, it also quietly escalated a conflict in another part of the world: Colombia.Since 2000, the US has been funding a war against the Colombian people through its aid proposals entitled Plan Colombia.Colombia, after Israel and Egypt, is the 3rd highest recipient of military aid from the US, and their government is using American tax dollars to kill trade unionists, human rights workers, and civilians.This is a brutal effort by the US government, just like in Iraq, to push forward another agenda determined by corporate economic interests.

Plan Colombia
Since 2000 the U.S. has invested three billion dollars in Colombia’s civil war. Most of the aid is fumigation chemicals, attack helicopters,weaponry, hi-tech surveillance planes and equipment. U.S. military aid to Latin America has more than tripled in the past 5 years. In 2003, the Bush Administration won more increases in military aid and involvement, including a $100 million military aid project to protect Occidental’s oil pipeline in northern Colombia.That money was attached to the Bush administration’s request for funds for the war in Iraq. Bush states his goal is to arm the Colombian government in an effort to fight “terrorism” and to defeat the rebel armies. Bush is attempting to connect his military interests and his rhetoric with the U.S.’ ongoing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Colombian human rights, labor and other activists are calling for an END to U.S. military aid and intervention. Paramilitary death squads work hand-in-hand with the Colombian military, and reap the benefits of US military aid.The paramilitaries and military are responsible for 80% of Colombia’s human rights violations—the worst record in Latin America. Political assassinations and disappearances are all too common, and trade unionists are the hardest hit.U.S.corporations even employ paramilitary groups to intimidate, threaten and murder Colombian union leaders. Coca-Cola is now the subject of an international boycott campaign, because of its use of paramilitary violence against its union workers.

The US’ interests in Colombia
Much like Iraq, Colombia has oil. Mexico,Venezuela and Colombia provide a substantial amount of the oil the US uses. Corporations like BP Amoco and Occidental Oil want to increase their holdings in the country,however Colombia is not a ‘safe place for investment’ with a long-standing civil war. Both guerrilla armies feel that Colombians should receive the economic benefit of their natural resources and fight against the oil industry’s expansion into new territory—including swindling Indigenous lands.

US Out of Colombia!
On Feb.2nd Bush proposed a federal budget for 2005,which includes a proposal for 700 million in aid to Colombia— including 109 million to finance a special Colombian military brigade to protect an oil pipeline and to train and equip new military leaders. Call Congress and the president to say NO to continuing Plan Colombia! Call 202-224-3121 for the Capitol switchboard.Call to say money for human needs not for war in BOTH Colombia and Iraq!

Join the Boycott of Killer Coke!
In response to the call from workers, the Colombia Action Network has been leading a boycott of Coca-Cola products from coast to coast.They have organized two days of student protest in 2003 with over forty campuses and eighty student groups participating in one or both of the national days of action.The national days of action have given students the opportunity to stand together at their separate campuses and demand that their universities break their exclusive contracts with Coca-Cola, and to educate other students on the connection between Coke and the right wing paramilitary death squads in Colombia. Join the CAN in our next day of national coordinated action on April 15th!. Stand with people across the country against the U.S.’ sponsorship of the murder of trade unionists!… Read More