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La Vía Campesina International issued on Thursday a letter to European Union governments (EU), European countries in general, the US and the public opinion in which they warn about the lack of guarantees for social leaders in Colombia and especially about the numerous death threats by paramilitary groups.
The network of peasant organizations welcomes the peace process between the national government and the leftist guerrilla of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) while it encourages a similar process with the also leftist National Liberation Army (ELN).
Nevertheless, they warn that it won´t be possible to reach peace if the government does not dismantle the groups that attempt against social organizations and individuals who “are working to defend social rights and to oppose an economic model that is deepening inequality and that violates fundamental rights”.
According to La Via Campesina, on October 6, a threat signed by the paramilitary group Aguilas Negras was delivered to 8 people and 3 organizations. They especially highlight the targeting of Eberto Diaz, member of the Agricultural National Union Federation (FENSUAGRO), member of La Via Campesina, and several leaders and spokespeople of the Agrarian, Peasant, Ethnic, and Popular Summit, as well as of representatives of the trade union movement and social organisations, and independent journalists.
Some of the leaders were Javier Betancourt, Andrés Gil, Carlos Ancízar Rico, Guevara Robert Daza, Jaime Cortez Suarez, la Guardia indígena, Prensa Rural, Julio Roberto Gómez, Jesús Elkin Rodríguez Moya and the CGT (General Confederation of Labour), and also the Indigenous Guard (a force of protection that aims to protect the ways of living of native peoples) and Prensa Rural news outlet.
According to La Via Campesina, the threat of October 6 is not an isolated incident. It explains that at the end of September, a pamphlet was circulated bearing the signature of “the capital bloc of the águilas negras”, where they threaten over 100 members of social and human rights organizations, members of the office of the Mayor of Bogotá, and other people connected with local peace processes. They also threaten renowned communication media.
La Via Campesina´s letter has the support of organizations such as: Attac France, the Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA), the Confédération Paysanne of France, Ecologistas en Acción of Spain, the Global Forest Coalition, GRAIN, the Inter-American Human Rights, Democracy and Development Platform, Solidaridad Suecia – América Latina and the Transnational Institute of the Netherlands.
The network of peasant organization highlights the need to join and denounce the murders, disappearances and threats against social leaders from different Colombian regions. “These incidents raise the question as to whether the limited security measures offered by the government are sufficient or effective. Conversely, the incidents are evidence of the absence of safeguards for the essential work of human rights advocacy”.
Along these lines, La Via Campesina adds that if these criminal groups “are not disbanded and brought before the law - together with those members of the public security forces who maintain ties with them – we are certain that they will become the seed from which renewed conflict will grow”.
“Only a Peace with guarantees of respect for human rights, and real guarantees for the work of social organisations in the defence of human rights, is a Peace with prospects of lasting. It is imperative that the Colombian State take decisive action and that it disband the paramilitary groups”, they add.
At the end of the letter, they demand “the international community of friends of the Colombian peace process” to “state firmly and clearly their opposition to the actions of these groups and their support for the legitimate and democratic activities of the different political forces and social movements. We invite the European Union, in accordance with its own commitment to human rights, to observe and accompany the work of human rights defenders in Colombia” they conclude.
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