By Alix Lozano
Miguel Angel González Gutiérrez,1 the first school of peasant formation, dedicated to strengthening, promoting and defending human rights, was held from June 29th to the July 2nd in Medellin. Active in northeast Antioquia for the last eight years, the school has been advancing the work of CAHUCOPANA. The school leadership are campesinos who serve as regional coordinators, women’s groups organizers, youth representatives and regional communicators. The school also has teams based in Bogotá and Medellin to support in its development and in the formation of methodological processes.
The participants worked on four primary themes to deepen their understanding, analysis and knowledge of political theory. These themes were Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, Victims’ Rights to Truth, Justice and True Reparations, Historical Memory and the Rights to Land and Territory. CPT was invited to address the questions of “The Rights to Land and Territory: Agrarian Conflict and the Structures of Agriculture.” The teaching offered a perspective to further deepen the analysis and understanding of foreign interventions and transnational business interests which have been fueling the dispossession of land and territory from campesinos, indigenous communities and Afro-Colombians.
Medellin being the capital and administrative center of Antioquia made for a ideal location for the formation of the school. The farming communities of northeastern Antioquia through the school have been able to gain access into the political realities of the region and forge new alliances and political relationships with other social organizations working towards common goals. This birthed a new educational project in collaboration with LATEPAZ,2 an organization led mostly by female heads-of-household who have been displaced by violence to the La Cruz neighborhood in Comuna 3 (Manrique) from the Urabá region.3
Two thousand-two saw the beginning of paramilitarization of Medellin’s neighborhoods, and their growing collusion with the Colombian military as a response to the presence of the FARC and ELN4 guerilla groups in these areas of the city. This has led to the violent death of an untold number of women and men who have defended their right to a dignified life on their land.
On June 7th, earlier this year, Ana Fabricia Córdoba, a leader and founder of LATEPAZ was assassinated on a bus. She was shot in the head by a man using a silencer attached weapon who then fled.
Her assassination makes it clear, like those of other women, of the evidence of constant persecution and aggression directed at community leaders working in various regions of the country. In spite of all the reports and denouncements that have been made, the negligence on part of the authorities continues to fall short in protecting peoples lives.
Between July of 2010 and April of 2011, 206 individual acts of aggression were registered against human rights defenders, of whom 34 were assassinated. During the same period, 127 social or human rights organizations were victims of some type of aggression that put the lives and integrity of their members at risk and prevented them from carrying out their legal and legitimate work of defending human rights. This does not take into account the violent deaths of women in Northeastern Antioquia, whose life stories rip the hearts of those who listen to them.
This particular panorama playing out in a capital city like Medellín is evidence of the degradation that could spread throughout the entire country, when human dignity becomes an object, and certain citizens consider themselves the masters of others’ lives and destinies.
For this reason, it is necessary to develop more schools for community leaders who can build consciousness and sensitivity to the sacredness of life. Where the freedom of expression is a right of all people who live in transparent democracies, and where the lives of all men and women are protected.
1 A young man from Northeast Antioquia who was killed
2 Asociación de Líderes Hacía Adelante por un Tejido Humano de Paz
3 The region surrounding the Gulf of Urabá borders the departments of Antioquia and the Chocó. It is Antioquia’s route to the sea, the country’s most important banana /plantain region, and the route for the export of these fruits to international markets. It is a subregion that combines the charateristics of the Paisa and the Costeño, and a beautiful piece of countryside. Afro-Colombians, indigenous peoples, and mixed-race Colombians populate the area. It is possible to visit the indigenous communities, most of which are Cunas and Embera Catíos. In the local Katia language, “Urabá” means “promised land.”
4 The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia and Ejército de Liberación Nacional, respectively, are armed guerrilla groups.