Tag Archives: colombia

Colombia’s breadbasket feels the pinch of free trade

By Helda Martínez, April 8, 2014. Source: Inter Press Service

The home of a poor farming family in the mountains of Cajamarca, in the central Colombian department of Tolima. Photo: Helda Martínez/IPS

The home of a poor farming family in the mountains of Cajamarca, in the central Colombian department of Tolima. Photo: Helda Martínez/IPS

“Things are getting worse and worse,” Enrique Muñoz, a 67-year-old farmer from the municipality of Cajamarca in the central Colombian department of Tolima, once known as the country’s breadbasket, said sadly.

“Over the past five decades, the situation took a radical turn for the worse,” activist Miguel Gordillo commented to IPS, referring to what is happening in Tolima, whose capital is Ibagué, 195 km southwest of Bogotá.

“Fifty years ago, Ibagué was a small city surrounded by crops – vast fields of cotton that looked from far away like a big white sheet,” said Gordillo, head of the non-governmental Asociación Nacional por la Salvación Agropecuaria(National Association to Save Agriculture).

“In Tolima we planted maize, tobacco, soy, sorghum and fruit trees, and the mountains that surrounded Cajamarca were covered with green coffee bushes protected by orange trees, maize and plantain, and surrounded by celery,” Muñoz said.

His voice lost in the past, he said the farms in the area also had “piggies, chickens, mules, cows; everything was so different.”

Gordillo said, “In the north of the department we had fruit trees of all kinds, and the rivers were chock full of fish. There’s still rice, some maize, coffee…but even the fish have disappeared.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, Politics, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Colombia: Farmers protest free trade agreements, violation of agriculture agreement,

By Marcela Estrada, March 19, 2014. Source: PanAm Post

Farmers march in Colombia. Poto: MDZ.

Farmers march in Colombia. Poto: MDZ.

On Monday, representatives of indigenous communities, Afro-Colombians, and campesinos held demonstrations in Plaza Bolívar, Bogotá, to demand a new agriculture policy seeking solutions to the problem of land access and greater protection from free trade agreements.

The movement was launched following the conclusion of the “Cumbre Agraria Campesina, Étnica y Popular” (Agrarian Summit of the Campesino, the Ethnic, and the Masses), which hosted 11 organizations, including the National Agrarian Coordination (CNA), the Black Community Movement (PCN), the Congress of the People, the Patriot March, the Roundtable of Dialogue and Agreement (MIA), and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia.
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Indigenous humanitarian commission attacked in Colombia

By Robin Llewellyn, February 26, 2014. Source: Intercontinental Cry

Members of the Indigenous Guard during the 43rd anniversary of the CRIC (Photo: Robin Llewellyn)

Members of the Indigenous Guard during the 43rd anniversary of the CRIC (Photo: Robin Llewellyn)

Guerrillas targeted the car of the Humanitarian Commission of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN) on 20 February, injuring Yoiner Medina Talaga, an Indigenous Guard and Manager of ACIN’s human rights monitoring system; Germán Valencia Medina, ACIN Human Rights Coordinator; and Nelson Pilcué, Legal Advisor to ACIN’s Women’s Program.

The Commission had been attending to over 50 families displaced by an upsurge in fighting prior to their being attacked in Jambaló, Cauca, by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Yoiner Medina Talaga, who was shot in the chest, remains in intensive care. Germán Valencia was shot in the arm while Nelson Pilcué was injured by shattering glass and metal.

The Nasa people of northern Cauca have consistently demanded that all armed groups leave their territory, which continues to be fought over by the FARC, theArmy, and paramilitary groups including the Aguilas NegrasUrabeños, andRastrojos. Nasa communities have developed the Indigenous Guard as an unarmed force that counters illegal activities in their territory, and also confronts all armed actors and asks them to leave. Continue reading

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Colombia: Ecologists cut off talks on alpine mining

January 12, 2014. Source: WW4 Report

Photo: Archivo / VANGUARDIA LIBERAL

Photo: Archivo / VANGUARDIA LIBERAL

The Páramo de Santurbán Water Defense Committee, made up of local residents in high Andean communities straddling the Colombian departments of Santander and Norte de Santander, announced Jan. 11 that they are walking out of talks with the national Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development aimed at securing consent for gold-mining operations in the high-altitude zone. The statement said the government failed to provide “clarity” on the proposed projects, or “security guarantees” for those participating in the dialogue.

The Páramo de Santurbán, an alpine plain above the timber line, protects the headwaters of several local rivers, and the Defense Committee says mining there could impact access to clean water for up to three million people in northern Colombia. The Ministry is currently demarcating the limits of watershed for supposed protection as a new Santurbán Regional Natural Park, with Vancouver-based gold company Eco Oro (formerly Greystar) awaiting the results to proceed with mining operations outside the protected zone. (Vanguardia Liberal, Bucaramanga, Jan. 11; Dinero.com, Bogotá, Dec. 30)

Mining opponents in Colombia have recently faced a wave of threats and assassinations. Protection of paramós is also at issue at pending projects in Huila and Tolima departments.

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Water Festival of El Carmen de Viboral: Communities resist water privatization and multinational mining in Colombia

By Gina Spigarelli, 13 November 2013. Source: Upside Down World

Photo: Gina Spigarelli

Photo: Gina Spigarelli

“Queremos agua! Queremos maíz! Multinacionales fuera del país!” yelled the protesters on October 26th as they marched through the streets of El Carmen de Viboral in Eastern Antioquia, Colombia. The small town, about an hour east of Medellin, is located in a highly water-rich region of Colombia, and one where the local populations are fighting the threats of multinational companies taking over their territories. Around 1,000 people representing 60 grassroots organizations from 17 municipalities of the region traveled to participate in the fourth annual Water Festival, “for the autonomy, defense of territory, life and peace.”

Water privatization is the central theme of the annual festival, which intends to compile and share information about local social problems and human rights violations associated with the use of land for large scale multinational mining, electric, and water initiatives. The festival also serves to unite the communities from the various municipalities so they can struggle as a collaborative and united regional front against the threats to their territories.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Mining, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Water

Colombia: Gains seen as peasant strike ends, teacher strike begins

September 16, 2013. Source: World War 4 Report

Colombian campesinos on Sept. 10 ended their national strike after more than two weeks, and lifted the road blockades they were still maintaining, chiefly in Cauca, Nariño, Putumayo and elsewhere in the south of the country. The organization coordinating the strike in this region, the National Agricultural and Popular Table of Dialogue and Accord (MIA), agreed to recognize a pact already won in talks between the government and campesino organizations in Boyacá, Cundinamarca and elsewhere in the central region of the country. United Nations observers who had been brought in for the dialogue process confirmed that all protest roadblocks had been dismantled. (EFE, Sept. 11; El Tiempo, Bogotá, Sept. 7)

Among 15 demands of the campesino movement that the government agreed to under the pact are compensation to small domestic producers for income lost due to imports of potatoes, milk and other products under the Free Trade Agreement with the United States, and a two-year suspension of the most onerous provisions of the controversial Resolution 970, concerning the “intellectual property rights” of corporate seed producers. Resolution 970, approved in 2010, prohibited farmers from saving seeds, ostensibly to protect patented hybrids and GMOs. But the law applied to all seeds, essentially forcing farmers to buy new patented varieties each season. The law will still apply to imported seeds, but Colombian farmers will be free to save domestically produced or indigenous seed stock for two years while the law is rewritten. (El Tiempo, Sept. 7; GRAIN, Sept. 4)
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Mining, Political Repression, Politics

Colombia farmers’ uprising puts the spotlight on seeds

Note: For more on the nation-wide uprising in Colombia, as well as the violent crackdown that has been initiated by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, click here.

In Colombia, we see the very real implications of privatization and free trade.  The neoliberal doctrine threatens lives and livelihoods in the most tangible way when peasants and union leaders are murdered by state or private security forces, and when largely popular movements are met in the streets with military force.

-The GJEP Team

September 4, 2013. Source: GRAIN

On 19 August, Colombian farmers’ organisations initiated a massive nationwide strike. They blocked roads, dumped milk on cars and basically stopped producing food for the cities. The problem? Farmers are being driven out of existence by the government’s policies.

Colombia-ProtestasCacaoculturasThe state provides almost no support for the small-scale farming sector.1 Instead, it embraces a social and economic model that serves the interests of a wealthy elite minority. Recent free trade agreements (FTAs) signed with the US and the EU are undercutting Colombian producers, who can’t compete with subsidised imports.2 The Colombian government has been actively promoting land grabbing by large corporations, many of them foreign (Monica Semillas from Brazil, Merhav from Israel, Cargill from the US), to promote export-oriented agribusiness at the expense of family farming oriented towards food sovereignty.

But the farming sector needs real support, especially in the form of access to land and lower costs of production, protestors argue. Otherwise, Colombian potato and coffee farmers, dairy and meat producers, not to mention small fishers, will not be able to keep up. They are being evicted and exterminated.

With their backs against the wall, a movement of mobilisation began in one part of the country in June and grew into a coordinated national action for August. The farmers’ strike was soon supported by other sectors: oil industry workers, miners, truckers, health sector professionals and others. On 29 August, ten days into the strike, more than 20,000 students joined the movement and shut down the capital city, Bogotá.
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Brutal repression of national strike in Colombia – Santos declares militarization of Bogotá

By James Jordan, 30 August, 2013. Source: Alliance for Global Justice

fotprincipalColombian Armed Forces have brutally attacked members of the “Paro Agrario” National Farmers and Popular Strike, with at least four to five persons dead and reports of hundreds wounded. Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, dismissing strikers as vandals, has ordered the militarization of the capital city of Bogotá and places throughout the country, vowing to deploy 50,000 soldiers. Santos accused the popular peace movement, the Marcha Patriótica (Patriotic March) of fomenting the violence, saying, “We know the Marcha Patriótica seeks nothing but a situation without exit to impose its own agenda. The interests of the peasants don’t mean anything to them, nor do regional accords: the only thing that matters is their political agenda.” What Santos does not seem to understand is that the Marcha Patriótica is largely made up of peasant groups, including Colombia’s largest agricultural union, FENSUAGRO. The fact that Marcha Patriótica leaders have been chosen to represent strikers, and the widespread participation in the strike itself, both expose the lie of Santos’ declaration. Continue reading

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Colombia nationwide strike against ‘free trade,’ privatization, poverty

By Sarah Lazare, 26 August 2013. Source: Common Dreams

Protests in Sincelejo. Photo: Marcha Patriotica

Protests in Sincelejo. Photo: Marcha Patriotica

A nationwide strike in Colombia—which started as a rural peasant uprising and spread to miners, teachers, medical professionals, truckers, and students—reached its 7th day Sunday as at least 200,000 people blocked roads and launched protests against a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and devastating policies of poverty and privatization pushed by US-backed right-wing President Juan Manuel Santos.

“[The strike is a condemnation] of the situation in which the Santos administration has put the country, as a consequence of its terrible, anti-union and dissatisfactory policies,” declared the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT), the country’s largest union, in astatement.

The protests and strikes, largely ignored in the English-language media, have been met with heavy crackdown from Colombia’s feared police, with human rights organization Bayacareporting shootings, torture, sexual assault, severe tear-gassing, arbitrary arrests, and other abuses on the part of state agents. Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon recently claimed that the striking workers are being controlled by the “terrorist” Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in a country known for using unverified claims of FARC connections as an excuse to launch severe violence against social movements. Continue reading

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Colombia: Peasants attacked, 2 killed by military and police

Note: For extremely graphic and sobering video of the events that unfolded in Colombia last weekend, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IS0S6CrFNGk

http://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article11199

Send a message to the Colombian government demanding an end to the violence against peasant protestors here: http://bit.ly/17HQkAQ

-The GJEP Team

By W.T. Whitney, J.R., June 27, 2013. Source: Upside Down World

Photo: TeleSur

Photo: TeleSur

Adjoining Venezuela, the Catatumbo region in Colombia’s Norte de Santandar department is remarkable for coca growing and almost exclusive use of Monsato’s Glyphosate product for aerial fumigations of the crop. Also noteworthy is the presence of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla forces and heavy deployment there of soldiers, paramilitaries, and police.

Since June 11, some 14,000 protesting peasants from eight municipalities have demonstrated and obstructed traffic throughout the area using highway blockades. Many belong to the Campesino Association of Catatumbo (Ascamcat). The reaction of the Colombian government has been to mobilize police and army units, especially elements of its “Esmad” mobile riot police. Chaos marked by killings, injuries, and arrests has attracted world attention.

The Catatumbo background is of poverty, populations displaced from land, and government neglect of dire social problems. Paramilitaries controlled the area for many years and oil production and industrial agriculture expanded due in part to foreign funding and backing by multi-national corporations.

Flare-up of conflict there coincides with government – FARC peace talks underway in Cuba. There, negotiators recently reached agreements on agrarian reforms and are dealing with future political participation of insurgents.  Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos inflamed the situation on June 22 by accusing the FARC of having organized the uprising. He was reacting to FARC negotiator Ivan Marquez who earlier had called upon him to “ease up on pressure against peasant protesters.”  Santos publically labeled that communication as “stupid” and claimed it proved that “those demonstrations are infiltrated” by the FARC. Reporting on the killing of two protesters, Prensa Rural interpreted the President’s remarks as signifying, “Santos today ordered an open-fire on the peasants.”
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