Friday, January 13, 2017

Marcia Mejía, activista indígena que participa en el proceso de la paz y defiende a los derechos de la mujer

Un artículo escrito y traducido por Alice Driver después de una entrevista con Marcia Mejia Chirimia durante una gira de conferencias de Acción Permanente por la Paz en octubre del 2016.
Este artículo es una traducción de la versión original, publicada en inglés el 3 de enero del 2017.
Foto: PBI Colombia
El 20 de abril, Marcia Mejía Chirimia, de 28 años, activista colombiana de paz y derechos de las mujeres, recibió este mensaje de texto de alguien que ella cree pertenece a un grupo paramilitar.
Les recuerda a Marcia Mejía y otros indios ijeputas sapos taponadores de vías, milicianos informantes de guerrilla que se mueren…guardia de ratas, ya los tenemos ubicados y son objetivo militar. Ojo no hay tiempo. Se mueren.
Poco después de recibir la amenaza, un hombre no identificado fue encontrado rondando alrededor de la casa de Mejía cuando sólo su hijo estaba en casa.
Estos son sólo algunos de los varios tipos de intimidación que Mejía y otros colombianos han experimentado en sus difíciles carreras como activistas indígenas.
Nacida en la remota jungla del Valle del Cauca, en la costa suroccidental del Pacífico de Colombia, Mejía creció con poca educación formal y habló sólo Wounaan, un idioma que comparte con su comunidad indígena Sia. Su vida cambió en 2010. Grupos paramilitares en la zona amenazaron a los líderes de su pueblo y finalmente los obligaron a huir con la esperanza de hacer una apropiación permanente de tierras de la región rica en minerales y recursos. Mejía y 24 familias se trasladaron a la ciudad costera de Buenaventura, donde durante 11 meses vivieron en un almacén abandonado. Tenía 22 años.
Mejía, baja y voz suave y con ojos amplios y expresivos, comenzó a estudiar español y comenzó a reunirse con miembros de la Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (CIJP), una organización de derechos humanos que apoya a organizaciones comunitarias de ascendencia indígena y africana. Dado que el español no es su lengua materna, cuando está buscando una palabra en particular, utiliza gestos con las manos para ilustrar sus pensamientos.
Aprendiendo desde el nivel lingüístico, Mejía se comprometió a encontrar maneras de proteger las tierras indígenas y su comunidad. Después de todo, su país y su comunidad estaban en medio de una guerra.
La guerra entre las Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) y el gobierno colombiano ha continuado durante más de cinco décadas y ha dejado cientos de miles de muertos. Entre 4,9 y 5,5 millones de personas están desplazadas en Colombia, el número más alto del mundo, según la Agencia de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados. Y, a medida que la violencia progresaba a lo largo de los años, también lo hizo el uso de tácticas como el terrorismo, la violación y los secuestros.
Pero Mejía quería proteger a su comunidad de este conflicto. Así, tomando las lecciones que aprendió de CIJP, ayudó a su comunidad a elaborar un plan para hacer de su territorio un refugio humanitario y evitar que la violencia entre paramilitares, guerrilleros y el ejército les representara una amenaza. Esta táctica también fue empleada con éxito por la activista ambiental colombiana Nidia Becerra. Una gobernadora tres veces elegida de la comunidad Inga de Yunguillo, en el suroeste del país, Becerra negoció la extensión y protección de su territorio indígena cinco veces más grande, que es rico en minerales y biodiverso.
Durante los últimos cinco años, Mejía ha servido como líder del grupo de mujeres y género de la Asociación de Consejos Indígenas del Valle del Cauca, organización que representa a casi 100 pueblos indígenas de la región del Cauca, en el occidente de Colombia. Como parte de su trabajo, trata de abordar las preocupaciones de las mujeres y las niñas en las comunidades indígenas. "Empecé a trabajar no sólo en defensa de los derechos humanos, sino también en defender los derechos de las mujeres, mis compañeros, de mi comunidad y defender nuestro territorio", me dijo.
Ella a menudo lleva a su hijo, 9, y su hija, 7, con ella como una manera de enseñarles sobre la importancia de estar  activo en la comunidad. "Les digo a mis hijos que el gobierno quiere quitarles la tierra, y los traigo conmigo cuando trabajo para educarlos", dijo Mejía. "Quiero que vean que decir la verdad es lo único que nos puede sanar, que puede reunirnos".
¿Por fin la paz?
Durante el proceso de paz de cuatro años que culminó con la aprobación del Congreso en 2016, Mejía encontró que ella y otras mujeres de su organización estaban desempeñando un papel importante en la representación de comunidades indígenas que fueron víctimas de la violencia causada por las FARC, el ejército y los paramilitares Grupos. Quería asegurarse de que las voces y las historias de los grupos marginados -incluidos grupos indígenas, mujeres y niños, especialmente afectados por la violencia- se tuvieran en cuenta en el proceso. Como portavoz de las Comunidades Construyendo Paz en los Territorios (CONPAZ), ella trabajó para integrar las voces y preocupaciones de las víctimas en el proceso de paz, incluyendo la priorización de la verdad y la reconciliación sobre el tiempo de cárcel para los perpetradores. Muchas de esas recomendaciones se reflejan en el acuerdo final.
El proceso de paz, sin embargo, se ha estancado o fracasado muchas veces, incluso cuando el ex presidente colombiano Andrés Pastrana trabajó para negociar un proceso de paz entre 1999 y 2004, que finalmente fracasó.
"La gente ha vivido con esta guerra durante años, y es a nivel familiar y comunitario que la gente forja una paz duradera y sostenible", dijo Kimberly Theidon, profesora de estudios humanitarios internacionales en Tufts que trabajó con comunidades de paz en Urabá, en el norte de Colombia Bordeando el Caribe. "Esto no puede ser impuesto desde arriba".
Parte del problema ha sido que hay demasiados que se benefician de permitir que la guerra continúe. "Hay gente en el proceso de paz que no está interesada en la paz", dijo Theidon, describiendo cómo la guerra permitió a los grupos militarizados tomar tierras, especialmente en territorios que tenían minerales u otros recursos naturales que podrían ser vendidos.
Luego, en septiembre de 2016, después de cuatro años de negociaciones, el presidente colombiano Juan Manuel Santos y Timoleón Jiménez, líder de las FARC, firmaron un acuerdo de paz que pondría fin al conflicto armado. Pero el acuerdo necesitaba ser ratificado por los colombianos, y en octubre, los votantes dijeron que no. La votación por la paz fracasó, dijo Mejía, porque, en su opinión, los de la ciudad -que votaron abrumadoramente "no "- habían experimentado menos violencia directa y desplazamiento que las poblaciones más pobres y más rurales.
"El proceso de paz colombiano intentó involucrar a las mujeres mismas en las negociaciones de paz e incluir temas de género en la agenda", dijo Roxanne Krystalli, directora del programa de pruebas humanitarias del Centro Internacional Feinstein de la Universidad Tufts y una investigadora sobre género, Justicia en Colombia. Específicamente, dijo, "no está claro si los logros en términos de la inclusión de las mujeres en las negociaciones y el género en la agenda se preservarán a medida que avance el proceso de paz. Debemos construir la paz, y las mujeres tienen que tener voz en el proceso ".
El presidente Juan Manuel Santos, impulsado por ganar el Premio Nobel de la Paz, trabajó en un acuerdo de paz revisado, y el Congreso lo aprobó el 30 de noviembre -un voto El New York Times calificó "probablemente el último obstáculo para ratificar el problemático acuerdo" Álvaro Uribe, presidente de Colombia de 2002 a 2010, prometió buscar un nuevo referéndum contra el acuerdo aprobado por el Congreso.
Además, a finales de diciembre, el Congreso aprobó una ley de amnistía para miles de miembros de las FARC desmovilizados y algunos miembros del ejército que perdonarán los delitos menores, que no incluirán asesinatos y actos de violencia sexual.
Por ahora, el proceso de paz sigue en marcha.
"No podemos permanecer en silencio"
El trabajo de Mejía es más importante que nunca. Después de todo, ella está entrenando a niñas y mujeres indígenas y afrodescendientes para que participen en roles de liderazgo en el país. Sin embargo, el período de transición hacia la paz trae oportunidades y riesgos para las mujeres: la investigación de Theidon, por ejemplo, ha demostrado que las mujeres ex-guerrilleras no quieren verse obligadas a desempeñar roles domésticos tradicionales. Queda por ver si los ex-guerrilleros pueden negociar un papel de liderazgo en el futuro del país.
Jóvenes activistas indígenas como Mejía esperan que la diversidad de voces garantice que la transición a la paz también genere una mayor igualdad para las mujeres. "Tengo que ser un ejemplo para las mujeres y mostrar que seguiremos hablando", dijo Mejía. "Las amenazas son enviadas para hacernos callar".

Pero, a pesar de estas amenazas, Mejía planea continuar su trabajo como líder comunitario y apoyar el proceso de paz en los próximos años. "Pueden matarme, pero al menos es por la verdad", dijo, y calló por un segundo antes de añadir: "Siempre les digo a las mujeres que tenemos que seguir hablando, que no podemos permanecer en silencio".

Monday, January 2, 2017

Witness for Peace joins Honduran Social Movement Organizations in Condemning Raid on Cafe Paradiso

Photo Courtsey of MADJ

On the night of December 22, 2016, the Honduran Military Police for Public Order and the National Directorate for the Fight Against Drug Trafficking raided Cafe Paradiso, a restaurant, bar, bookstore, and performance venue in Tegucigalpa.

Cafe Paradiso is a well-known gathering place for Honduran artists, actors, musicians, organizers, and students. Since the 2014 dissolution of the Ministry of Arts and Culture, it has unofficially taken on the role of preserver of Honduran art, theater, literature, and other cultural output. It was among the organizing spaces used by the resistance movement after the 2009 coup d’etat.

On the night of the 22nd, a youth poetry reading hosted by the cafe was wrapping up when, according to one eyewitness who Witness for Peace declines to identify for security reasons, military police stormed the premises.

“They entered just after the event ended without a judicial warrant,” the eyewitness told us, “all of them with ski masks and well-armed. They separated the men from the women.”

Members of the military police have been accused in recent months of a litany of human rights abuses, including the killings of unarmed civilians and the use of violence in suppressing political opposition. One elite unit of the military police is alleged to have a hitlist which included the name of Berta Cáceres, and a military police instructor is among those who have been arrested in conjunction with her assassination.

The military police’s justification for the raid was a search for narcotics, an increasingly common tactic used by Honduran security forces to discredit their political opponents.

According to our eyewitness, “They recorded us, and alleged that we had drugs but what we had was alcohol. They didn’t find guns, only books.”

No arrests were made, and no contraband was found. Our eyewitness, however, remains wary:

“After some deliberation, they left. But they took photos of some of us, and they stationed themselves afterwards... to see the order in which we left,” the eyewitness told us.

“We have to tread carefully.”

Photo Courtsey of MADJ

The Broad Movement for Dignity and Justice  (MADJ, for its initials in Spanish,) a Witness for Peace partner organization, condemned the raid:

“(MADJ) condemns this act of barbarism...by the military bodies who repeatedly show their inability to combat the delinquency and insecurity that increases every day in this country, but who attack art and culture.”

Witness for Peace joins MADJ and others in condemning the use of warrantless searches, as in the raid on Cafe Paradiso. The United States provides millions of dollars in aid every year to Honduran police and security forces. The military police have received funding from the State Department, and training from the FBI, Marines, and US Border Patrol. HR 5474, the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, which Witness for Peace has supported and hopes will be reintroduced in the next Congress, would cut all military support to the Honduran government pending an improvement in Honduras’s human rights record. Witness for Peace strongly encourages its supporters to ask their members of congress to co-sponsor HR 5474. Incidents like the raid of Cafe Paradiso remind us of the urgency.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How Does One Explain the Murder of a Child in the Middle of Such Pain and Fear? Also at a Time When Nests are Being Woven to Shelter the Children of Peace?


How does one explain the murder of a child in the middle of such pain and fear? Also at a time when nests are being woven to shelter the children of peace?

By Marino Córdoba
Translation from the original Spanish by Gimena Sanchez 

With the deep pain of a father and with the sadness of an infinite void that leaves one in the death of a son, I write about the death of my son Wilmar Cordoba Forero, who passed on October 19.
I would like to begin by thanking all the people who send messages of condolences, solidarity and support. I express my most sincere thanks for all the many voices that offer help. I ask that all of you help me by urging the correspondent authorities that they investigate and identify those responsible for this crime. My silence these days corresponds to the deep pain I feel as a Father. Also a feeling of impotence when I think of the persons that continue in that area without any guarantees of protection.

Wilmar was killed while he was tending to his mother in law’s store. He had fled to Belén de Bajirá due to paramilitary death threats after the killing of his younger brother on his mother’s side in Riosucio Choco. He was staying at his girlfriend’s mother’s house. There he lived with his girlfriend and their 5 month old girl. Wilmar was finishing his bachillerato and in his free time worked with his mother in law selling plantains. He was 21 years old. A calm youth that avoided problems who was very dedicated to this work, study and family. With his daughter he felt his responsibility as a father. On that day while he was working in order to meet his obligations to his daughter his assassins were plotting his death. There were four men who ended his life. One of them came from Riosucio. The other three from Turbo. I was informed that the formed part of a criminal band of paramilitaries who are known for the delinquent actions in Riosucio and Turbo. The day of the incident they waiting for Wilmar to be alone at this job in order to attack him with a machete. This is a new way of killing someone that has become common practice in this region in order to hide responsibility and not cause anxiety within the residents. Wilmar knew his aggressor because they had a fight earlier in the day. However, he never thought that this aggressor would have the intention of killing him. Also because he had done nothing wrong.

With Wilmar’s death that makes a total of three persons murdered in his family on his mother’s side in recent years. His mother’s husband was killed 7 years ago. Only three months ago his younger brother who was 17 was killed. Both were murdered in Riosucio and Wilmar killed in Belén de Bajira, all at the hands of paramilitaries. Belén de Bajirá is a municipality in the Choco that Antioquia claims as its own and where paramilitaries exert control.

His family has not wanted to criminally denounce the incident because these groups because of these illegal armed groups have with some of the civilian authorities and the police in this part of the country. They are afraid of continued persecution but at the same time feel impotent because they see how the war is eliminating their relatives. They have information that the authorities, despite knowing the incidents and material authors, have not acted to identify and punish those responsible.

Wilmar was buried in Turbo, Antioquia on Saturday, October 22. At dawn on that day I traveled from Bogota with the purpose of getting to his funeral. The first leg of the flight stopped in Medellin and the second leg went to Carepa airport. From there I took a taxi to get to Turbo by road. On that road I passed Apartado, a city that I had not visited since 1994. How could I not remember this region where I lived and worked during the most difficult time for Uraba. I was a trade unionist and here my first two children were born. This is where I was miraculously saved from assassination due to the simple fact that I was a trade unionist. For this reason my relatives could not believe that I was back in Uraba. My parents warned me that for security reasons I should not travel. I decided to go to his funeral despite the security situation. I told my parents only once I was in Turbo.

Prior to the funeral I met with some relatives who became displaced due to the war that live in that city. With them we remembered the cruelty of war and the family members that we’ve lost. Wilmar had told one of them a few days prior that he knew that men had reached Bajira from Riosucio looking for him. For this reason he felt fear. He remained locked inside his mother in law’s house. But on the 19th he left to cover the basic necessities his small daughter needed due to health problems. At the moment his mother in law left is when the four men came to the store and wounded hi with a machete. Some neighbors informed his mother in law but by the time she got there Wilmar was unconscious on the floor. She and the neighbors immediately lifted him into a car with the purpose of taking him to Apartado hospital. He died on the way to the hospital due to the severity of his wounds.

Wilmar was born in Riosucio in 1995. A year later due to military and paramilitary operation, Operation Genesis, that took place in that municipality I had to flee the area to save my life. Operation Genesis marked my life forever. It distanced me from Wilmar, mi parents, brothers and other relatives. It led me to live in the United States for the past 14 years. Despite this I am back in my country with constant death threats and risks due to my job. The lives of riosuceños also changed. According to reports more than 20,000 were forced to flee that municipality to different parts of the country in 1996 and 1997 in order to save their lives. They remain dispersed and under their own destiny while they dream of returning someday. Those that live in Turbo say that there are no security conditions and guarantees from the State to guarantee their returns. As displaced they do not receive any economic assistance and live off of whatever they can find.

The pain of the riosuceño is deep because of the historic poverty, abandonment of the state and for the armed actors’ control of the civilian population. War was utilized to impose an extractive economic model that was not consulted with them. This model has altered the traditional economy and culture of the ethnic groups adn rural farmers. It has destroyed its comunal leadership and created a dynamic of subjegation, fear, death and terror. Riosucio is the cradel of Maderas del Atrato, Pizano S.A, Maderas del Darién and other companies. The later remains in the region dedicated to extracting forest species like the Cativa, which is at risk of extinction. They benefit from forestry concessions and are protected by armed groups. Paramilitaries arrived in Riosucio in 1996 pushed by the 17th Brigade of the Army under the command of General Rito Alejo del Rio and under the approval of Alvaro Uribe Velez, the then Governor of Antioquia. Their purpose was to protect that company from threats that according to them were present after the ajudication of collective titles to the black and indigenous communities. These rights are recognized under the Political Constitution of Colombia, law 70 and 1993 and indigenous legislation.

The paramilitaries in association with the companies took over the territories of the communities in the region. During the Uribe government the companies received financial credits to cultivate oil palm (African palm). Today the communities report that during past years there is a significant increase of public forces in the region. Yet the paramilitaries transit freely without any control by the military who could stop their criminal actions. At the beginning of this year, it was denounced that at least 1,000 armed men who form part of the paramilitary structure of the gaitanistas. Under this reality there are few civilian deaths denounced. When they are it’s done by persons who are not inhabitants of the zones. Under this world of impunity Wilmar’s family lives which is why they do not want to legally denounce the situation. This repeats itself in many other families.

“The war has been and will continue to be painful for fathers and mothers, for poor families that have no other option but to live in the middle of it. Their children are either victims or victimizers. In the meantime millions of Colombians work tirelessly for it to end. Others persist in their intentions to maintain alive as a way to protect their political and economic interests without this pain affecing their lives in any way.”

We live in times when the country seeks peace to get out of the nightmare of war and pain. Millions of us dream with a better country capable of overcoming fear to get to the truth. Truth and justice are more powerful than terror and impunity. The peace dialogue between the government and the insurgents should take us to that country of tranquility and respect. But most of all a country where victims find justice to find out the truth. I am resistant of losing hope, I will always follow that path despite its adversities.

What do I ask for? Justice is clarifying the truth about the crime committed against Wilmar. Security measures are needed to guarantee that his mother and relatives, my relatives do not remain at risk. For this it is necessary that the authorities including police and army cut their criminal relationships with the paramilitaries and that justice authorities guarantee that justice for victims is guaranteed. This would facilitate victims of human rights violations from coming forward and facilitate their clarification of the facts.


To everyone that asks how they can help, they can do so by helping to solicit the authorities for results in efficient and swift investigations. I call on the competent authorities so they take investigative actions to clarify the facts that led to Wilmar’s death and the other deaths. Relatives informed me that Wilmar’s principal aggressor was wounded. Wilmar wounded him when he was defending himself. This information has not been totally corroborated by the Inspector General. The act of confirming this would be a step towards finding the full truth.


Last week with a prominent group of afro, indigenous and rural farmers’ leaders, I met with President Juan Manuel Santos. There he stated: “victims should always be assured that I am not going to fail tem with the peace accord.” Those words remain in my heart and mind. I add that we the victims are not going to defraud the President and the guerillas in their commitment for peace in Colombia. Wilmar will give me strength to continue to dream in this path.

From Afrodes we work convinced that we the victims deserve a country without war in order to have a more just society. We teach young victims to not respond with the same pain but to give their love to art and culture, to learn about their rights and appropriate them. Those who only live in war in order to maintain their power, maintain innocent youths who exert terror and death. They should think that they are also fathers and that the same as their children those who assassinate have fathers and children.

Bogotá, Octubre 27 de 2016

Marino Córdoba B.
Asociación Nacional de Afrocolombianos Desplazados-AFRODES cordoba.afrodes@gmail.com