Monday, March 29, 2010

Colombia’s Government Wants a Country of Snitches

Check out my latest article, published on the international women's journalism site, The WIP.

A painting on the wall of the Medellín Youth Network’s office illustrates the group’s stand against militarism.
The other day I was translating at a meeting between a U.S-based NGO director and a Colombian human rights lawyer. The NGO director remarked how the situation in Colombia reminded him of the story of a frog that, placed in a pot of lukewarm water, doesn’t realize his awful plight as the water is slowly heated to a boil. I translated frog as sapo, which is more accurately the word for toad. Though it didn’t occur to me in the moment, it is also a colloquial term in Colombia for a snitch. “Ah,” said the lawyer, “that’s why Uribe wants sapos!” 

We laughed for several minutes at the joke but the fact is, it’s true. In the context of a decades-old internal conflict, dissent, opposition, and questioning are all repressed – often violently – here, and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe repeatedly attempts to draw civilians into the fray. The latest example, to which the lawyer referred with his joke, was a program announced in late January for students in Medellín to spy on each other and report to the Armed Forces in exchange for $50 a month.

Read the rest of the article here.

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