Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Social Justice in Colombia as Dangerous as Ever

 I'm on the Justice for Colombia mailing list, sadly despite the group (and its allies) hard work there e-mails often make for depressing reading. In particular was the sad evidence that the ongoing epidemic of violence against Trade Unionists, peace campaigners and social justice groups carried out by paramilitaries and often in areas controlled by the military is still at a world beating high.
1: 60% of all Trade Unionists killed are Colombian
2: 95% of these killings result in no convictions
3: 215 Trade Unionists were killed between January 2007 to December 2011

And that's just Trade Unionists, activism of any kind is level in Colombia.

As depressing as those statistics are it gets worse, one Dr Carlos Lozano a prominent member of Colombians for Peace a very active social justice campaign group thats part of the newly formed Patriotic March movement has been targeted for assassination

"Trusted sources have informed Mr Lozano that the Urabeno paramilitary group has put out a contract on his life. The contract for $200,000 US dollars is for a group of hired assassins, known as ‘sicarios’, to kill him in Bogota as soon as possible. Although used to death threats the latest threat comes after his bodyguard of 8 years was murdered last month, and after a series of threats to colleagues of Mr Lozano’s. As a result of recent mass mobilisations for peace, Colombian civil society members have faced a spate of threats and killings."

In response Justice for Colombia is asking for supporters and concerned citizens to write to there Colombian Ambassadors to put pressure on the government which has signed numerous pledges to put an end to paramilitaries and the murder of activists to actually take steps to ensure his safety. So please do.

I don't like to end on a sad not so heres some good news from the e-mail. Despite all the obstacles groups like Justice for Colombia are making some progress, the group has had high level meetings in Britain, Ireland and Northern Ireland and obtained cross party support from all three territories. And one of the reasons why Dr Lozano is being targeted more forcefully then ever despite years of dedicated work is because the newly formed Patriotic March movement is gaining support and successfully allying oppositional groups that were in past bitterly divided.

"Over 1,500 civil society organisations have created a new political movement in Colombia. Grass roots organisations from the most conflictive rural zones, as well as national trade unions, student groups, leading peace activists and many more, have declared the formation of the Patriotic March: a new social and political actor giving voice to the concerns of some of the most marginalised sectors of Colombian society."

There's an old saying in politics that goes like this "Good and bad responses don't really tell you much about how well you're doing. Its whose giving you the good and bad responses that tells you that". As horrendous as the situation is in Colombia the vicious response shows that those whom profit from this poor state of affairs in a beautiful South American nation fear the power of the Patriotic March and those dedicated souls whom strive to end the cycle of violence and injustice there.

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