How do you speak out when you are fearful for your life? What does democracy look like when people cannot show their faces? How do we seek justice when it can cost so much? Last week I was at a protest with people clamoring for justice in a place where there is very little of it. The protest was in Montería, a small city on the North Coast that has been one of the epicenters of Colombia's paramilitary rule. It is known the country over as one of the most dangerous areas - a region not mentioned when Colombia's recent 'makeover' is discussed. Montería, Cordoba is still in the grips of paramilitaries, large landowners, and narco-traffickers. So what happens when people show up for a good old-fashioned protest? The protest was about land, as is often the case in Colombia. Millions of acres of land have been stolen, mostly from small campesinos. Efforts to reclaim that land are very slow, often unfruitful, and always carry great risk. The government of Colombia has recently passed a law known as the Law of Victims and Land Restitution, which aims to provide some form of restitution to those who have been displaced. But as in all cases of good intentions, the devil is in the details, and the track record of this type of restitution is mighty slim here in Colombia. This law and its implementation is a complex process, one that our partners here in the IPC will be following closely in the months to come. But this post is not about the complexities of a law, or its relative pros and cons. It is about people gathering in the street, fearful for their lives, but exuding courage. It is about putting on a brave face, when for some that meant needing to put a mask on over it (see photo on left). (Videos of protests, funerals, and even meetings with government officials have ended up in the hands of paramilitaries and formed the basis for the many death lists that circulate.) Protesting the stealing of land and the collusion of the government in that process is a dangerous task. Doing it in Montería seemed nigh on crazy - but for the symbolic victory this represented for many. If there are people who are willing to plant a flag for justice and truth there, in Montería, then maybe more will follow in other parts of the country. In the areas where the violence has not hit as hard, or seems more distant, maybe others will speak out. If people are willing to protest in Montería, then surely people the world over will listen to their cries. I asked one woman who was marching, carrying a photo of her son who had been killed in Colombia's violence, why she had come. She said that she had been silent before her son's death, wishing the violence away. But after his death, she vowed to take every opportunity to speak out for justice where there is none and truth where there are lies. And so she came, with nerves and fears and hopes and memories, to say no more to the killing and stealing; no more silence in the face of injustice. In the city of Montería, there is a statue that pays homage to the paramilitary and military of the Colombian state. It shows them arm in arm, backed by an angel ascending, carrying up an open Bible. In the background is a wall with military weapons mounted throughout. The statue stands as a public tribute to the paramilitary - those who are responsible for the majority of grave human rights violations in this conflicted country. Because that statue stands, in plain sight of all, there is a need to protest. And until it comes down, and all that it signifies is dismantled, I pray there will be people brave enough to make that protest and others willing enough to hear it. Here is news article from Semana (Spanish) and a more parred down report from Colombia Reports (English). How flat things can seem in a reporters notebook...
Quick - what is the most violent country in the world? Hmmm... not sure, but it would have to be a war zone, right? Afghanistan? Maybe Iraq? What if I told you it was Honduras? Followed quickly by El Salvador and then Venezuela. Honduras' murder rate, expressed as the number of murders reported per 100,000 in population, ranks at 86 / 100,000. El Salvador and Venezuela's rates are 75 and 65 / 100,000. In fact, Latin America as a whole, and Central America in particular, virtually owns the title of the world's most violent countries, with a regional average four times the worldwide average. (from Bloggings by Boz) Here are the numbers for 2011:
- Honduras 86 / 100,000 (increase of 15%)
- El Salvador 75
- Venezuela 65
- Guatemala 36
- Colombia 30 (lowest in 35 years)
- Brazil 26
*********I find these numbers illuminating for several reasons. First, I think that most average readers of the news in the US would assume that the majority of violent deaths in the world occur 'over there', i.e. in far away places, rather than in the countries and cities of our shared border and continent. Second, following the US media's focus on the increasing drug violence in Mexico, I imagine no one would guess that Mexico is far behind the levels of violence in much of neighboring Central America. Certainly the violence in the high trafficking zones is real and critical, but it only matches the larger and wider problems of systemically astounding and morally disastrous levels of violence throughout the region. I do not believe it is only a casual association that these same high-violence countries are among the most unequal in distribution of wealth, nor that they are susceptible to the corrosion that the US drug trade brings with it. And while these damning statistics represent very complex underlying problems in these countries, it is the task of every thinking and faithful person to look at how we can be a part of changing these realities. US policy, through trade, drug and military relations, are very real parts of this story. In the coming months, I hope we can connect how these elements of US policy and society directly relate to the levels of regularized violence that permeate the region.
I've been thinking through the connections between poverty and violence recently, and gathering up a batch of links from around the web. While many policy attempts are made to reduce violence or protect certain populations, tackling the roots of this violence - the gross social inequities that are so prevalent in Latin America, are much harder projects. Here's a survey of stories that link these two fundamental issues Violence / Impunity Colombia is 5th most dangerous country on earth: Study - Colombia news | Colombia Reports Bloggings by boz: More dangerous than Mexico From a year ago, but the trend continues. I'll bet that almost no consumer of US news thinks that Mexico is safer, in terms of homicide rates, than all of Central America and much of South America. Interesting to compare actual statistics and our perceptions based on the nightly news. 2010 most violent year since paramilitary demobilization: Report - Colombia news | Colombia Reports Court reverses 10 army murder sentences - Colombia news | Colombia Reports Controversial plans for separate military courts to be included in judicial reform - Colombia news | Colombia Reports Violentology An interesting alternative view at the overall story of violence in Colombia over the past 10ish years.The author Stephen Ferry 's TED video is well worth a watch for Spanish speakers. Poverty Colombia is joint 5th most unequal country in region - Colombia news | Colombia Reports Why is inequality falling in Latin America? - Global Dashboard Reflecting the regions positive shift away from inequality, mostly based on left of center government's social spending. (Sounds heretical to US ears, right?) Human Development Index: how does your country compare? | Map | Datablog | News | guardian.co.uk
There are a lot of extraordinary people in Colombia. People here are kind and generous in the face of persistently frustrating circumstances. They are faithful and hardworking, creative and courageous. Below is a PC(USA) news service story written by Bethany Furkin (who came to Colombia on a delegation in January 2010) about a month-long speaking tour by Rev. Adelaida Jimenez and Rev. Gloria Ulloa about both violence and the IPC's stance against the Free Trade Agreement (not totally unrelated subjects...).
If you had the chance to hear them you know...they are two of the brightest crayons in the box.***
Colombian Presbyterian women seek to change culture of violence
‘bit by bit, people have discovered that they need a different way of living’MAY 11, 2011
Below is a reflection by two short-term accompaniers on the current debate in Colombia about a proposed law concerning the many victims of this country's violence. The law presents Colombians, and civil society groups such as the IPC in particular, with a difficult choice: to support the imperfect law as it is written, to oppose it outright, or to work for its improvement and the best implementation possible as an approximation of justice. We know persons and organizations on all parts of that spectrum.
~~~~~~~~~~Land Restitution? Wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves.
Today (16th March) the Colombian government announced a new “Center Integrated with Intelligence for the Restitution of Lands.” The Minister of Defense will coordinate the Center made up of five government entities plus an “ONG that represents victims of violence” according to the announcement. Its purpose is the protection of people who were displaced from their small land holdings particularly through paramilitary actions as they seek restitution and return to their land. President Santos has signaled in various ways that the return and restitution of stolen lands has the highest priority in his administration. He recently publicly acknowledged the role of government notaries in falsification of titles to the stolen lands... (continue reading)
Here is a batch of links that I've enjoyed reading recently. Many are from the British newspaper The Guardian's development blog Poverty Matters. All of the links are worth a read - they challenge many of our prior assumptions about charitable giving and aid work.
- Want to avoid financial crises? Reduce inequality, says IMF Surprising words from this global body. If you have ears to hear...
- Global Peace Index. Colombia, at number 138, shares some rough company with North Korea and Nigeria. Maybe most surprising is the US, at 85. We often fail to realize the violence in our own country.
- Would publicizing failures lead to better aid? Would social accountability, writ large, work in international aid? In the church, we're certainly slow to own our failures, but the 'new paradigm' of mission is fairly standard practice these days among mainline mission organizations. What do we need to open up about now?
- Poverty reduction or Industrial capacity as the end goal? Here's a key quote "Indeed, the Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz has advised developing countries: "Don't do as the US tells you, do as the US did." Should western rich countries dictate the pattern of development of the economies of poor countries? Might there be a small conflict of interest for the rich to benefit from an export- oriented 'Washington Consensus' approach?
- Is India ready to refuse aid? Moving past aid in low income countries.
- What is the best aid? Cash, credit, or a guaranteed job?
- Where is the US going on Foriegn Policy - What is the Obama Doctrine? From the "From Poverty to Power" blog, written by an OxFam Researcher, Duncan Green and another interesting read.
- Does Facebook deepen poverty? This is a interesting read on how global connections can raise the awareness of poverty - with challenging results...
Adam Isacson at Just the Facts has the break down of the 2011 foreign appropriations requests. Well (as he notes) most of it, since a portion of our funds remain obscured - mostly in military channels. Here is a key graph concerning Colombia:
This may be the first Foreign Operations aid request we have ever seen that would provide Colombia with more economic and social assistance ($201.7 million) than military and police assistance ($196 million).While officials here in Colombia are not pleased with the decrease in military and police funding, many of you who have trekked to Capitol Hill year after year to talk about Colombia and the misguided direction of Plan Colombia's military focus, will recognize this as a strong step in the right direction. Colombia's problems will not be solved with more guns (our military aid) or more cash (our drug money infusion). Isacson also has a thorough and telling reflection on the first six months of President Juan Manuel Santos' administration, complete with many of the surprising actions for the better, but many of the long lingering problems of the past (Just the Facts - Six Months in, Colombia's Santos faces a murky security situation):
Impunity for even the most egregious past abuses awaits signs of progress. The practice of “false positives” – killings of civilians, their bodies presented as those of armed-group members killed in combat – has nearly stopped, with five to seven cases recorded in 2010. But investigating and punishing past cases, most of them from before 2007, remains agonizingly slow: a recent piece in the Colombian newsmagazine Semana found a verdict reached in only 5.7 percent of 1,487 “false positives” cases (with a larger number of victims) before the civilian justice system.I recommend the full read for a good snapshot of the hopes and setbacks of the first six months of Santos' administration. My take away - better than before, but far from a just administration.
While the numbers of murders and massacres are the most obvious markers of violence, and while we often discuss the plight of the displaced as a result of Colombia's violence, the limbo of those with disappeared relatives is a terrible and perplexing state. Mamie wrote during Advent about our pain with the disappearance of our friend, James Nelson. Through that we have a small personal connection to the story of the thousands of family members of the disappeared of Colombia. It is a small window into the depths of pain that live below the surface of Colombian society... The Latin American Working Group and United States Office on Colombia, two organizations working on Colombian issues in Washington, DC, recently released the report highlighting the level of forced disappearance in Colombia - Breaking the Silence: In Search of Colombia’s Disappeared. Lisa and Kelly, the report’s authors, have been working with groups across Colombia for the past year to try and create something that really brings this often ignored tragedy into the spotlight and better support victims’ families, friends, organizations, and defenders. To read the report in English go to: http://lawg.org/storage/documents/Colombia/BreakingTheSilence.pdf To read the report in Spanish go to: http://lawg.org/storage/documents/Colombia/RompiendoElSilencio.pdf
Buy Omnicef Without Prescription, On Wednesday, the US State Department officially certified Colombia in regards to human rights. (See the AP report here) Tangibly, this releases about 30 million dollars in military aid that had been held up. Intangibly, this is a huge green light to Colombia, and other countries receiving US aid, that human rights are not a priority in US foreign policy.
The State Department's announcement is telling in regards to current US policy regarding Colombia:
"Though there continues to be a need for improvement, Omnicef from international pharmacy, Saturday delivery Omnicef, the Colombian government has taken positive steps to improve respect for human rights in the country."
Steps have been taken, and we'll hope for the best, buy no prescription Omnicef online. Omnicef in uk, The report clarifies many of the top concerns of human rights groups in Colombia. In fact, the press release reads much more like a reason for denying Colombia the certification than offering it:
"Despite years of improvements to Colombia’s justice system, Omnicef to buy online, Rx free Omnicef, impunity remains a concern. "
"Investigations into extrajudicial killings continue to proceed, order Omnicef from United States pharmacy, Buy Omnicef online no prescription, albeit slowly, and there are concerns that human rights cases are not being transferred from the military to civilian judicial system as often as they should."
"Alleged illegal wiretapping and surveillance by Colombia’s Department of Administrative Security (DAS) are unacceptable."
"Threats by criminal groups against human rights defenders (HRDs) and civil society in Colombia are also deeply troubling, Omnicef for sale. Omnicef discount, "
It is not that these problems are unknown, just not acted upon. None of the above violations, Omnicef overseas, Delivered overnight Omnicef, which have cost hundreds, thousands, Omnicef gel, ointment, cream, pill, spray, continuous-release, extended-release, Real brand Omnicef online, of Colombians their most precious human right, of their life, purchase Omnicef online no prescription, Buy Omnicef online cod, have been cause to stop US dollars from flowing to Colombia's military.
I am not a wide-eyed optimist that thinks the US should only deal with countries with Scandinavian-type sensibilities on human rights. But in fact, Omnicef craiglist, Buy Omnicef online without a prescription, US law has restrictions on how we can support foreign governments, particularly those tied to human rights violations. It does not specify hope or best wishes for future improvements; it specifies progress on elimination, purchase Omnicef online, Order Omnicef online overnight delivery no prescription, prosecution, and prevention of these grave violations. Because a new president is elected in Colombia, Omnicef tablets, Buy Omnicef from mexico, because we are hoping for closer relations - these are not reasons to give an official certification that a country is meeting basic standards of human rights protection.
US elected officials must hear from their constituents and know that human rights is a priority in our foreign relations. And that voice comes from you, buying Omnicef online over the counter. Online buying Omnicef hcl, See Lisa Haugaard's article on the Latin American Working Group blog reflecting on the certification and why human rights lobbies can only go so far. Pressure needs to come from your elected officials!. Omnicef in australia. Omnicef to buy. Where to buy Omnicef. Free Omnicef samples. Fast shipping Omnicef. Ordering Omnicef online. Where can i find Omnicef online. Over the counter Omnicef. Omnicef in usa. Where can i buy Omnicef online. Omnicef price, coupon. Where can i order Omnicef without prescription. Buy Omnicef online without prescription. Omnicef in us. Buy Omnicef no prescription. Where can i buy cheapest Omnicef online. Online buy Omnicef without a prescription. Omnicef buy. Omnicef prescriptions. Omnicef medication. Purchase Omnicef. Sale Omnicef. Order Omnicef from mexican pharmacy. Omnicef over the counter. Omnicef in india. Buy cheap Omnicef. Free Omnicef samples. Omnicef in australia. Buying Omnicef online over the counter. Order Omnicef from mexican pharmacy. Buy generic Omnicef. Where can i find Omnicef online. Buy Omnicef no prescription. Purchase Omnicef online. Over the counter Omnicef. Omnicef in india. Buy cheap Omnicef no rx. Real brand Omnicef online. Online buy Omnicef without a prescription. Omnicef tablets. Omnicef trusted pharmacy reviews.
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Buy Immunosin Without Prescription, "Not a word from their mouth can be trusted; their heart is filled with destruction. Buy Immunosin from mexico, Their throat is an open grave; with their tongue they speak deceit." Psalm 5:9
Recently the United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon announced in a press release that Colombia's outgoing President, Alvaro Uribe, Immunosin to buy online, Immunosin from canadian pharmacy, would be the Vice-Chair of the Panel of Inquiry into the flotilla incident between Israel and Turkey at the end of May. I must admit to being more than a bit surprised at this decision, buy Immunosin without a prescription, Immunosin in canada, so I was glad to see I was not the only one.
Shortly thereafter a European Parliament Member Willy Meyer said he was "completely indignant" that a leader of a country which "has the largest mass grave in Latin America" would be included in the UN panel, saturday delivery Immunosin, Sale Immunosin, because "it is like leaving the fox to guard the chickens." According to Meyer, "a man who has not investigated what is going on in his own country is not going to do it now" in the UN investigation, real brand Immunosin online. Immunosin medication, Meyer's reference is to a mass grave that has been found in La Macarena in the Department (State) of Meta right next to an army installation. It was supposedly reported by a number of citizens in the area, but no one followed up on it, Buy Immunosin Without Prescription. Richard went to a demonstration at that site about a month ago, Immunosin prescriptions, Immunosin tablets, and shortly afterward a denial of the grave's existence by the government was released. Officials stated that only individual graves were to be found at that site, Immunosin pills, Immunosin discount, and that the allegations were simply a ruse to get the European Union to cancel the Free Trade Agreement it has made with Colombia.
Now I don't know about you, Immunosin for sale, Buy cheap Immunosin no rx, but I am just not sure how you confuseindividual grave sites with a mass grave with over 2,000 bodies - many who are purportedly also victims of the false-positive scandals (citizens killed and later dressed-up as if they were guerrillas), Immunosin in india. Order Immunosin online overnight delivery no prescription, Then again, I am also not sure how you dig an 18 inch trench and proclaim that your investigation has proven there are no bodies buried in the area, where can i order Immunosin without prescription. Buy Immunosin Without Prescription, I am overwhelmed sometimes by the variety of disheartening news stories that can come from one country, but I am also keenly aware of the need to share them since they do not seem to make it into the US consciousness. Immunosin in uk, My fear is that so many tales of woe will cause people like you to sigh, flip to another website and begin to believe that things here will always be this way; that your compassion will be in lament but go no further, Immunosin in us. Cod online Immunosin, That desensitization has happened in many quarters here in Colombia as a result of some 60 years of this news, not to mention as a coping mechanism, Immunosin buy. Immunosin in mexico, My prayer is that it does not overcome you (and me) too.
There is an opportunity now for the United States to push the new Colombian President, order Immunosin from mexican pharmacy, Delivered overnight Immunosin, Juan Manuel Santos, to investigate further and to ensure protectionof human rights as central to his agenda, order Immunosin online c.o.d. There is an opportunity now for United States citizens to push our own government to investigate and comply more closely with the Leahy Law which prohibits U.S, Buy Immunosin Without Prescription. Immunosin from international pharmacy, military assistance to foreign military units that violate human rights with impunity. There is an opportunity for Christians to act upon the gospel call to stand by the widow and the orphan...so many of them living here in Colombia, buy Immunosin no prescription. Purchase Immunosin online, "Declare them [my enemies] guilty, O God, purchase Immunosin. Where can i buy cheapest Immunosin online, Let their intrigues be their downfall. Banish them for their many sins, buy Immunosin online with no prescription, Where to buy Immunosin, for they have rebelled against you. But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy, order Immunosin from United States pharmacy. Immunosin overseas, Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you." Psalm 5:10-11, fast shipping Immunosin. Immunosin trusted pharmacy reviews. Buy Immunosin online no prescription. Buying Immunosin online over the counter. Ordering Immunosin online. Immunosin in japan. Buy Immunosin online without prescription. Where to buy Immunosin. Immunosin craiglist. Online buying Immunosin hcl. Where can i buy Immunosin online. Purchase Immunosin online no prescription. Immunosin san diego. Buy Immunosin from canada. Buy Immunosin online cod. Immunosin discount. Buy Immunosin online without a prescription. Buy Immunosin without a prescription. Next day Immunosin. Buy Immunosin online without prescription. Order Immunosin online c.o.d. Purchase Immunosin online no prescription. Immunosin in japan. Delivered overnight Immunosin. Buy Immunosin no prescription. Immunosin paypal. Buy no prescription Immunosin online. Purchase Immunosin. Buy Immunosin online cod. Immunosin in india.
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