Saturday, August 15, 2009

US & Colombia Rush Negotiations For Seven Military Bases As Dissent Grows

You live in a nice house in a tense neighborhood. Your neighbors haven’t been too pleased with you lately, and you have a terrible roach infestation running havoc in your house. But perhaps there’s hope. A big, strong guy lives down the street, and is offering to help out. He has big guns and says he has just the spray to get rid of those pesky roaches if you just let him crash at your place.

I’m not the first to have used the tough-neighbor analogy when discussing a current p
roposal for seven US military bases in Colombia, but others have failed to mention all the problematic side effects of inviting the neighbor to stay. This neighbor has a very sketchy reputation and just may try to take advantage of your sister, not to mention raid your fridge and clog up your toilet. His presence will really upset your neighbors, even the ones with whom you have been friendly. Though he says he’s only staying at your house to help with the roaches and maybe intimidate the troublesome folks next door a bit, he always seems to get involved in other things: he traipses around in the neighbors’ gardens and hassles his host’s family members. Besides, his record in getting rid of the roaches isn’t all that exemplary. Is it really worth it?

Perhaps this analogy simplifies matters too much, but I’m not the only one playing with rhetoric. Obama continues to defend the bases proposal, arguing that the U.S. is not establishing bases in Colombia but simply extending existing agreements with the country. Under U.S. military terminology – using euphemisms that call to mind Bush's "Clear Skies Initiative" - the proposals for Colombia would not be bases because they would not be property of the U.S, but instead be called Forward Operating Locations or Cooperative Security Locations. Nonetheless the U.S. would still have control over what happens in those installations, as it does in bases, and is insisting on immunity for its personnel under Colombian law. Argentine president Cristina Kirchner said it well when she joked to Uribe last week, “Come on, nowhere in the world is a General Fernandez going to give orders to a General Johnson!”

Monday, August 10, 2009

"Witness" paid to testify against Peace Community

Last week the demobilized paramilitary known as "HH" testified that he gave money to the Colombia army to in order to bride demobilized guerrillas into claiming that the FARC was responsible for the February 2005 massacre in which eight members of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó were brutally murdered.

From the moment Peace Community members learned of the massacre, in which 8 Community members, including a 21-month-old baby, were killed and dismembered, they attributed the crime to the Colombian military in cooperation with paramilitaries. The government and the army’s 17th Brigade, which operates in the region of Apartadó, were quick to refute the denouncement, instead accusing the Community of collaborating with the FARC and attributing the crime to the very same guerrillas. It was not until 2008, when paramilitaries and subsequently army officials started confessing their role in the massacre that the government began to admit that perhaps the guerrillas weren't responsible after all.

The testimony of HH, whose real name is Ever Velosa García, however, is key because it not only reconfirms the role of the military and paramilitaries but also demonstrates the lengths that military officials have and will go to cover up their crimes and discredit those who oppose them. In his testimony HH describes how he was asked for money by then-coronel Néstor Iván Duque López to pay demobilized FARC guerrillas: “On that occasion, he went with a bunch of papers and told me that he was defending himself from some denouncements from San José de Apartadó and asked me to give him 2 million pesos [about a thousand dollars at current exchange rates] to give to some witness who were going to testify about the massacre of San José de Apartadó,” Velosa testified to Colombia’s Attorney General’s office.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Just Economies and Societies on an Unjust Planet

The Peace Community isn't the only positive alternative to violence, greed and exploitation that I have had the opportunity to work with. Before coming to Colombia I worked with Other Worlds, an organizing collaborative that compiles and brings to light economic, cultural, and social alternatives that are flourishing throughout the world, and inspires and helps the public open up new pathways to adapt and replicate them.

Other Worlds recently published two reports and an article highlighting some of these exciting alternatives, several of which I helped research, write, and edit. Please read, distribute, and enjoy!

Who Says You Can’t Change the World? Just Economies and Societies on an Unjust Planet

Who Says You Can’t Change the World” is a groundbreaking report from Other Worlds that introduces nine grassroots alternatives to the current economic and environmental (dis)order, and gives examples of real communities and movements who are living those alternatives every day. The report touches on alternative education, water struggles, the right to health care, environmental justice, and solidarity economies, among other topics, and highlights organizing taking place on five continents and in countless communities. Also included are lists of resources for more information and contact info for organizations working on similar issues in the US. I helped write the sections on solidarity economies and worker cooperatives!

Mali's Gift Economy

Next is this article I helped research and edit about the gift economy in Mali. One of my favorite quotes from one of the Malian women: “Life is a cord. We make the cord between ourselves, and you have to hold on to it. One should not drop the cord.”

Changing the Flow: Water Struggles in Latin America

This 56 page booklet was produced by Food and Water Watch, Red Vida, Transnational Institute,The RPR Network and Other Worlds. It contains a dozen interviews of cutting-edge water warriors from the region, and documentation and analysis of the many exciting ways in which citizens' movements are safeguarding their waters - both so that all may have access, and so that this precious resource is protected. The report also offers insight into the role of gender, in its relationship both to public control of water and to water movements.