The Corporation for Humanitarian Action, Coexistence and Peace in the Northeast of Antioquia, CAHUCOPANA, is a campesino organization, whose primary objective is to “struggle and build solutions to the humanitarian crises and the human rights issues plaguing rural communities in the municipalities of Segovia and Remedios, Northeastern, Antioquia. It is a region rich in natural resources like water, valuable minerals, wildlife and gold, which is the main source of income for the region. Gold mining has triggered countless conflicts that have unfortunately claimed the lives of many campesinos and displaced thousands in the struggle to control their exploitation by large national and transnational companies. These companies use methods that are based on the environmental damage and the expropriation of campesinos’ lands. See video http://youtu.be/pJgx_XPOijg
After nearly seven years of hard work and peaceful resistance in the region, CAHUCOPANA has helped reduce the rate of human rights abuses and violations of International Humanitarian Law in Northeastern Antioquia. They have done this by carrying out different activities that support their struggle, such as humanitarian actions, refugee camps, educational workshops, denouncements and others.
However, the government does not have a clear policy which can generate equitable development for the populations in the region. On the contrary, those who have come and enjoyed the benefits have been foreign investors such as Frontino Gold Mines. Frontino Gold Mines is now in the hands of the Canadian multinational, which is now known as Gran Colombia Gold Corp and its subsidiaries are Capital Zandor and Anglogold Ashanti. They have developed several mega projects within the area such as mineral exploitation and deforestation, despite the fact that the territory is zoned as a forest reserve.
On July 20, 2011, in the municipality of Remedios, CAHUCOPANA launched a book entitled, Northeast Antioquia: Territory Under Dispute: Between the Accumulation of Capital and the Campesino Alternative. They sadly announce that history repeats itself. According to some reports from farmers in the region, the military is preventing the passage of food and demanding that people displace to neighboring villages to buy provisions. This situation is not convenient for the population because of the distance and poor road conditions makes it very expensive. It should be noted that in addition to these issue, which is endangering the lives of those that live in the region, the National Amy is using names of farmers to send packages.
At this event, various peace organizations attended, among them was a Christian Peacemaker Teams’ international delegation. CPT participated by performing a symbolic liturgical action. Young people from Medellin also participated presenting a theatrical play.
One of the greatest threats to the region are the “Black Eagles,” which is a illegal paramilitary armed group. In June, they raided the village of Santa Marta. The investigation into the situation is slow. Later, there was the assassination for Rafeal Tobon, a leader and the co-founder of Sintramienergética.
While it is true that different agencies dedicated to defending human rights have been present in the region, it is also true that there has been a lack of state’s presence in the middle of the conflict. The state’s presence is needed to monitor these situations and to ensure the security and peace for the communities. Also the state has tried to tarnish CAHUCOPANA’s humanitarian work by involving it in other types of negotiations that would damage its image with these communities and international agencies.
CAHUCOPANA is breaking new ground by visiting other towns and promoting direct participation in the work for peace. They are seeking proposals from the affected populations and not from government desks. They are searching for the respect and promotion of human rights that are holistically grounded in dignity and integrated into the farthest frontiers of a country that cries out.
As things are, the tasks of CAHUCOPANA mean defending human rights and the right to life and to not forget that in this intent some people have lost that precious gem such as, Sigifredo Castaño, Luis Horacio Guarumo, Miguel Angel Gutierrez Huepa. The hope is that these losses are not in vain, as well as the deaths of more innocent Colombians and that finally the country achieves its much desired and needed dream – peace.