Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Indigenous massacre demonstrates cycle of violence

On February 4th, 17 members of the Awá indigenous group, including women and children, were massacred on their reservation (resguardo) in the southwestern Colombian state of Nariño. A week later, on February 11th, 10 more Awá were killed. Families throughout the resguardos have been displacing since the massacres occurred, out of fear of further attacks.

As the news arrived here to the Peace Community, shock and sadness were accompanied by doubt about the media and government’s attribution of the crime to the FARC. Several community members commented that they figured the Uribe administration wanted to accuse the FARC in order to stymie calls for the negotiation of a humanitarian accord after the recent unilateral release of 6 hostages held by the FARC. Such doubt is not just general skepticism about the government’s constant quickness to blame the FARC for nearly any and all crimes committed in the country. When the Peace Community suffered it’s own massacre of 8 community members in 2005, the Uribe administration immediately blamed the FARC. The community maintained that paramilitaries in collaboration with the army were the perpetrators, and finally, years later, soldiers and paramilitaries are confessing their responsibility for the crime.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My commute

Since I arrived in the Peace Community, I've wanted to post about my commute - to demonstrate with photos just what it means for me to get home from the nearest town. So, the other day my new teammate Peter and I took photos as we hiked home, lugging backpacks filled with the week's groceries. Take note that by "nearest town" I'm not talking any kind of metropolis - if i want internet access and an actual restaurant, I have to take a 45 minute jeep ride on a dirt road in addition to this hike!

minute 2: just outside of town, crossing a little creek

minute 14: carefully balancing on a log-crossing

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A real-life legal thriller, gone bad

For the Peace Community, threats and dangers don’t always come in the form of massacres and extrajudicial executions. The international attention and outcry that recent massacres and killings have generated isn’t all that convenient, so the army and the state have had to look elsewhere for ways to attack the Community’s stance of neutrality and non-cooperation with armed actors. In looking elsewhere, the “testimony” – often coerced or purchased – of demobilized armed actors has come in quite handy. The state has used these montajes (false evidence) to launch investigations into Community leaders for things like “rebellion”, murder, and other preposterous claims.

The Peace Community’s most recent comunicado (Community bulletins denouncing actions against them) describes what it fears to be the state’s most recent efforts at using legal means to discredit and weaken the Community. In early December 2008, a former commander (he had just been demoted) of the FARC’s 5th front (one of the two fronts that operates in the region near the Peace Community) turned himself in to the army’s 17th Brigade. Usually when a guerrilla turns him or herself in, the military shouts it from the rooftops (or at least broadcasts it via the major news outlets) as a demonstration of their presumed success in combating the guerrilla groups.

This time, however, there was no news broadcast – only the initial rumors that alias “Samir” had turned himself in, then whispered warnings about Samir and the 17th Brigade planning something against the Peace Community and some of its Colombian supporters. Concern and suspicion continued when it became clear that even as the weeks passed, the Brigade had not handed Samir over to the Fiscalía (Colombia’s equivalent of the U.S.’s Justice Department) as is required for the demobilization process for armed actors who turn themselves in. The Peace Community continues to worry that montajes will be launched based on “testimony” from Samir – likely either under intense pressure, threats, or offers of cash – for use against Community leaders. Recent phone calls from someone claiming to be a colonel in the 17th Brigade offering upwards of 2 million pesos (just under a thousand US dollars) to a community member in exchange for collaborating to destroy the Community confirm many the Community’s fears and suspicions.