Diary from Colombia

The new strategy of suppression doesn’t use bullets, but money…


Tuesday, March 24th 2015: First meeting with the Internal Council (consejo) of the Peace Community. General Political Situation, and of the community

Arley, one of the leader, opens the meeting with deep gratitude from the whole Consejo towards Tamera and our accompaniment. “You didn’t only accompany us in a close way, but we have walked together” are his words.

Since the last visit of Sabine alot has happened. i.e. the loss of Eduar in 2012, historical accompanier and visionary of the Peace Community. This left a huge void. Nevertheless they always continued, but they always felt this bereavement a lot.
He was incredibly important for them on the internal level, but also on the political and strategical level. And of course he was a beloved friend. Also we feel his miss a lot! Actually this is still one of the unsolved issues with the universe in my soul!

They share how they discover more and more the fierce strategy of the government, which for many years was to commit massacres and displacement and the attempt to destroy the community on the physical level (see footnote). 350 murders, half directly of the community. The others were close friends, relatives and neighbors.
In the last years they observe how this strategy changes and becomes even more dangerous. The new strategy doesn’t mainly use bullets, but money. Now they mainly focus on “social intervention”, which has many faces and the main aim is to buy the consciousness of the people, to destroy community, civil disobedience and autonomy.
The State sends people to manipulate the population and offers for example “social projects” to the farmers: houses, cultivation of cacao etc. Even organic so they could enter the ecological market.
People who take these offers, and are thus “bought” in this way, of course can’t or will rarely resist, if the State commits injustices again because they are afraid to loose the support if they oppose. Farmers are being “tied” and made dependent in this way. Like this, people even start to agree with the State and the police.
i.e. A huge school was built in the region. People wanted that the Police and the Army stations leave the region because it was putting the civilians in danger, as living near one side of the armed conflict. So at the beginning everybody was against the school because of the risk. Now the civilians want the Police and the Army to stay in order to protect the school. In this context the neighbors even start to speak against the Peace Community, because they still want the Police and the Army to leave.
In general the presence of the State increases in the region. By this they also prevent the farmers to gather and advocate for their own rights.

Another example is the compensation payments. The State offers money to the families of the victims of the war, as reparation. Paying for the dead ones, like an “economic reparation” for the bereaved, so that the families will not claim their victims in the Courts.
The Peace Community says as long as there is no justice and no truth, they cannot accept this reparation. Otherwise they would support the impunity and the legitimation of further murders.

The State also tolerates that the Paramilitary groups buy land, build houses, hamlets, roads and bridges, in order to settle their economic network (drugs, natural resources).
The State doesn’t go against the Paramilitary force and civilians start to think that these illegal and armed settlers aren’t actually that bad: “They build streets and bring progress to the region”. But they continue to kill people, just like the Army.
The Paramilitary buys more and more farms and offer the former owners to work for them. The State doesn’t interfere. It is difficult to survive as a Peace Community in such a surrounding and confronted with such powers.

Sabine Lichtenfels then spoke in a very powerful way, how we can observe similar strategies in Europe. There is almost no more movement of resistance. It is the war of the economy. People are bought and through this they consume more and more things.
Resistance movements usually gain strength through obvious crimes. Nowadays the strategy is to more and more conceal the enemy, make it ever more invisible and disguised (as progress, culture etc.).
And at the same time the longing in the people to live in community is growing worldwide! When we zoom out, one can think and see, how the community here could become a real model case, a role model. The global network has to grow together with the understanding that these are no local conflicts but global ones. And that the strategies and methods, with which people are made governable, are the same everywhere.

Then the Padre Javier Giraldo, the Jesuit priest and human rights advocate who has accompanied the community from the beginning, speaks about the national context:
The peace negotiations for Colombia are happening since more than two years in Cuba.
Now there are six points for the peace negotiations. Three of them were already decided. Another two are worked on right now. There were pre-requirements in order to be able to start with the peace negotiations at all, concerning land, drugs and political participation (meaning the possibility for the Farc to form a political party in the future). The State offered support on the financial level as well as advertisement for these requirements.
Right now they speak about the issue of the victims and the ending of the armed conflict in Colombia.
To him all of this is very concerning. In his perception the language of the negotiations and the way of dealing with the issues is absolutely abstract and has no ground at all. Nobody knows how, when and who will hold those promises that are discussed. And even more disturbing is that it seems that nobody is really aware of the scale of the conflict.
The Farc put out a petition: some kind of re-acknowledgment of their rights. This would change the current laws and rights. For example they demand a limit in the allocation of land to contain foreign infiltration, especially towards Multinationals. The same applies for the natural resources, such as coal, petroleum and gold. Which in my opinion are great demands! The State completely denied this petition of the Farc.
There are about 28 of these points that the Farc proposed and the government neglected. They are called ‘Salvedades’.
Before the Farc will finally sign any peace agreement these points have to be negotiated and discussed again with the State. This shows how far apart the two sides are. And that it won’t be easy to find an agreement and will take for sure years.

The Farc won’t hand their weapons back to the Army, but they speak about putting them down and to not use them anymore for political claims. They request the same commitment from the State. But the weapons were always used for political interests, so they don’t see that this point is any realistic.

On the judicial level it is quite clear, that the Farc don’t want to set into the legal framework of the State, which they fought for many years. They are searching for a Court outside of the country. (i.e. somewhere in UNASUR -Union of South American Nations-) but this is not easy.
As they see it the peace that Santos speaks about is a peace that shall serve the foreign penetration, allowing more Multinationals in, and this is contrary to the true interests of the people. In this peace the State wants to simply integrate the guerrilla into their way, together with a legalization of the Paramilitary groups. A process, that ex-President Alvaro Uribe has started already, and Santos continues it. Uribe’s strategy was to pretend that the paramilitary doesn’t exist but in reality to work towards its legalization. He had a whole network of informants (around 5000). He founded companies the paramilitary could collaborate with, especially in the area of palm oil. So they think, this peace everybody talks about at the moment won’t be built easily or fast.

Behind all this we also find a global strategy: globalization!
A huge bank of registered land is individually given back to displaced and poor people for reparation. But those properties are not allowed to be used for growing food. There is a free-trade agreement with the commitment to import food. Because of this, more and more people give their land to the Multinationals. In the region Putamayo, almost 100% of the properties were already handed over to Multinationals, in the Quindío 80%.
And the State wants to exclude from the peace negotiations in La Havana this whole economic and political strategy. This is why the people here in the community think that they are not very relevant or realistic.
Also of course the mainstream medias are controlled by the State and the Multinationals. And they ensure the strategy of the State in the public opinion. This is a huge manipulation.
There exist some groups, farmers etc. who discuss other suggestions. Of course they don’t have a big publicity.

After sharing about the reality of our globalized system and being moved together about it, the vision for building a model of peace in the midst of this reality becomes even stronger and necesarry. As Arley said: “We have different conditions but the same aim of peace and creating spaces for peace!”. Eighteen years ago the Peace Community was founded by around a thousand of farmers. Nowadays the number decreased representing the committed people for a non-violent present and future, beyond revenge.
The question keeps on moving us: What is the power stronger than all violence? We need to become more precise in the vision and profesional in its manifestation.
The Peace Community became since the creation of this global mutual educational plateform, a core member as a base-station. In that sense Tamera invited the Peace Community to join our think-tank and education time of the Global Campus in Tamera this summer. Other base-stations are active in Brazil, Israel-Palestine, Mexico, Portugal and Kenya. This years ‘reunion’ of the core elements of the existing base stations will serve as a time to share our experiences and learning over the past years, and listen more to the visions and needs of each base station. We will also use the time to co-create our 2016 gathering, create a solid base for collaborative fundraising and curriculum design.



Footnote: See report “10 Years Later Justice Continues Favoring the Perpetrator” from dhColombia (Network of Colombian Human Rights Defenders, March 16th, 2015 //peacepresence.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/dhColombia10yearslater.pdf

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