Tag Archives: Latin America

Colombia: Schools for Peace deliver their first results

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An article from La Nacion

Schools for Peace, providing a diploma to children, adolescents, youth, parents, teachers and community leaders have delivered their first results in Villa de Los Andes, in La Plata; Silvania, in Giant; La Arcadia, in Algeciras; and Carlos Ramón Repizo, in San Agustín.

According to the Secretary of Education, Gloria González Perdomo, the project carried out forums and workshops, and the product was the publication of a pedagogical primer.
She added that these have been delivered to the educational communities in subregional forums in the educational institutions referred to. The fourth and last forum was held in

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Question related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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“These primers, as a pedagogical product of the project, should serve as a reference for all the educational, private and public establishments of the department, to address the problems related to peace. Coexistence is one of the pillars of the Development Plan ‘The Way is Education”, said Gonzalez Perdomo.

Peace: transversal theme

Humberto Montealegre, coordinator of the transversality programs of the Departmental Education Secretariat explained, “The purpose of the project of Schools for Peace and Participatory Democracy is the construction of a basic curricular document to develop the Chair of Peace in all educational institutions, not as a single subject, but as a transversal theme.”

He concluded by saying that in this way and in accordance with the curriculum of each educational establishment, all teachers, from preschool to eleventh, should develop teaching programs that promote culture of peace, coexistence and democracy

Argentina: XIV World Congress of Mediation and Culture of Peace

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

An article by Alexis Rafael Peña Céspedes in El Dia

Every year the world announces a World Mediation Congress, where hundreds of mediators from the five continents of the planet meet and share experiences. This time it will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

All citizens and professional people interested in knowing the mechanisms, of conflicts and mediations are invited to participate in this event that will interest those who want to train as mediators, conciliators, arbitrators and resolvers of conflicts.

According to the organizer of the event, Dr. Jorge Pesqueira Leal, “in the course of this century, we have met in Africa, the European Union and the American Continent, always with the commitment to contribute our knowledge and experience to open spaces for the harmonious and peaceful solution of conflicts.”

He adds that the world mediation congresses “have become the place where brilliant minds converge, bringing the latest advances in the most valuable methodology so that the protagonists of conflicts can unleash their creative potential and solve their disagreements.”

On this occasion, Argentina will host the XIV World Congress of Mediation and Culture of Peace, where citizens of the world will be promoters of peace in family spaces, neighborhood, work, sports, religion and others.

The organizing team of this event, highlighting Alternative Methods of Conflict and Dispute Resolution, indicate that “the XXI century opens space to fraternal, solidary and cooperative societies with peaceful coexistence, social justice and the common good. However, these have been weakened over time, so it is necessary to strengthen spaces designed to promote the culture of being, among which are new strategies of dialogue, mediation and conciliation at the intrapersonal interpersonal and group levels”.

They emphasize that “A person is violent or is peaceful depending on how she relates to herself. The family, the school or the community, are violent or peaceful depending, also, on how their protagonists are related, and the same thing happens with society in general. ”

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Question for this article:

Mediation as a tool for nonviolence and culture of peace

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What is needed are commitments from states, international organizations, local governments and civil society, so that together they can make commitments aimed at fostering other mechanisms for resolving conflicts.

The organizers propose that, from this perspective, it is “urgent to change the way we relate, for which, mediation, in principle, but also dialogue, conciliation and restorative practices, are ideal mechanisms. They can deactivate the social construction of personalities prone to solve conflicts through force.” Force, as a mechanism, generates negative consequences for people and societies.

Therefore, “it is urgent to redouble efforts through the mediation world congresses, to contribute to society” in all continents “viable alternatives so that violence in the family, in the school and in the community, and conflicts are deactivated in all areas, including those that harm the life and evolution of nations and that place global security at risk ”

General objective

The general objective of the XIV World Congress of Mediation and Culture of Peace is to “Contribute to generate reflection spaces, promote initiatives in the private and public sphere and promote public policies that allow the prevention, management and transformation of situations and conflict spaces in Argentina, Latin America and the rest of the world, favoring the construction of more dialogue, tolerance and inclusive, equitable societies “.

Specific objectives

In addition the Congress has very clear and precise specific objectives to promote alternative methods of conflict resolution, as well as mechanisms of mediation, arbitration, conciliation, restorative justice or other viable methods.

These specific objectives, as described below, are proposed by the organizers ” to promote the exchange of experiences in mediation, conciliation, restorative practices and conflict transformation, which serve as input for the improvement of the different practices of dealing with conflicts.” These include the following:

Expand the fields of application of mediation, conciliation and restorative practices based on the experiences acquired in different countries of the world.

* Identify good practices for the prevention of violence, for social dialogue and for the transformation of conflicts on our planet.

* Analyze the achievements of state initiatives to strengthen alternative dispute resolution or self-regulatory justice mechanisms.

* Generate public policy guidelines that allow a more comprehensive and sustained management of conflicts by states.

Brazil: Cotia organizes the 1st Walk for the Culture of Peace

.. DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION ..

An article from Visão oeste

The first Walk for the Culture of Peace, organized by the Sports, Culture and Leisure Secretariat of Cotia, is scheduled for Sunday (26/08) in partnership with a commission of representatives from different religious groups in the city.

The objective of the event is to spread peace, respect and interreligious dialogue, bringing, through culture, respect for the other, showing that intolerance has generated daily suffering around the world.

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Questions for this article:

Can festivals help create peace at the community level?

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The event will begin at 9:30 am in Praça da Matriz, with departure scheduled at 10:00 am. The course will feature music, poetry and dances. The arrival point will be at Joaquim Nunes Square and participants will be welcomed by a cultural feast with food stalls, handicraft exhibitions, open microphone, dance performances, capoeira wheel, samba wheel, among other attractions.

“The proposal is to pave the way for the promotion of respect for cultures. The involvement of different religions in a single event is a way to combat prejudices with expression, fight against segregation, and combat prejudice in a general way, “said Gilmar de Almeida, deputy secretary of the Ministry of Culture.

Still according to him, the goal is that this is a movement that perpetuates in Cotia.

Colombia: Fundación Escuelas de Paz: Illustrating the Art of Peace

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Special to CPNN from the Fundación Escuelas de Paz

The Colombian Government is moving forward in the implementation of the Peace Accord with the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (FARC) political party and is working to secure a peace deal with the National Liberation Army (ELN). With the peace process in place, Colombia is setting an example to the world for peace and reconciliation after over half a century of armed conflict and severe violence. However, the government cannot alone bring peace to this nation.

That is why the Bogotá-based peace-building NGO, Fundación Escuelas de Paz (FEP) has been supporting peace development in Colombia since 2001. FEP plays a vital part in the emerging multi-level and multi-dimensional approaches to peace-making in Colombia by working with civil society, government, and foreign partners to discuss the importance of diverse paths to peace and promote programs that educate youths on peace-building through a multitude of projects.

FEP employs a range of actions such as research, publication, and peace-building projects, and works closely with conflict resolution field experts to support the fundamental principles of “Culture of Peace” to make peace a right and a responsibility for all citizens, especially for the new generation of Colombians. FEP operates through an interdisciplinary team that works in stimulating environments that strengthen youth networks, teachers, and schools of peace.

Every year, FEP designs and executes conflict resolution and reconciliation type projects. From May 2018 to December 2018, FEP is performing a project titled “Música, Arte y Memoria: Jóvenes del Meta transformando el tejido social” (Music, Art, and Memory: Youths of Meta transforming the social fabric), which is funded by USAID Human Rights Program and FEP. The project includes a series of eight workshops to teach peace-building skills to youths through the use of the arts. Today, recognition of the contributions of arts and culture to peace is real and quickly evolving. It is fueled not only by artist-peace-builders and cultural facilitators, but the interest is also increasing from practitioners of more traditional peacebuilding approaches, such as mediation, facilitation, negotiation, transitional justice, and human rights advocacy.

This year, FEP is getting help from two current graduate students, Valentin Castro and Evan Tueller. Valentin and Evan are both candidates in the Masters of Conflict Resolution Program at Georgetown University. Last December, both students received a fellowship through Georgetown University to go abroad during the summer and work with an organization on peacemaking themes. Valentin and Evan arrived in Bogota, Colombia on June 2, 2018, to begin their 10-week internship at FEP and help design their first peace-through-the-arts workshop for youths living in rural Colombia.

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Question related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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The project takes place in the Department of Meta in two small towns: Mesetas and El Castillo, territories once plagued by extreme violence and armed conflict. Valentin and Evan will help execute peace workshops and develop two products to leave behind with FEP: a video documenting the execution of the first workshop and a template for monitoring and evaluation (M&E) that FEP can use to analyze and measure their overall success better.

The goal of this project is for youth groups belonging to the municipalities of Mesetas and El Castillo to become peace ambassadors for their communities by carrying out non-violent collective actions using mediums such as art and music. Other essential themes within this project include education on human, civil, and political rights, and promoting responsibility and leadership roles at individual and group levels. Upon the completing these peace workshops, the follow-on intent is for the youths to use the skills and lessons learned to replicate and teach smaller peace workshops to other youth groups in their communities. This project will help influence and raise the competence of the young people of Meta as peace representatives on the issues of human rights, conflict transformation, peace-building, and intercultural dialogue.

The first peace-building workshop entailed two parts: one part in the morning and the second one in the afternoon. The first phase is titled “El Canto de Nuestra Memoria: Tu Cancion” (The Song from our Memory: Your Song) and the second half is “Desvelando tu lienzo interior a traves del arte, la danza y la creatividad” (Unveiling Your Inner Canvas through Art, Dance, and Creativity). The first half of the workshop uses music to help individuals understand themselves better by using the space to express themselves through musical instruments, vocal sounds, and dance. These techniques also help enable trust within the students since music is known to have the potential to bring people together. The second half of the workshop entails more dancing and concludes with designing a mural that exhibits how the students view the future in their community. Art is fundamental to the development of a child’s imagination because they cannot create nor achieve anything unless they imagine it first.

Our experience at FEP has been remarkable and eye-opening. The FEP team goes beyond being our colleagues—FEP is our family. Professor Amada Benavides is an excellent leader and seasoned professional with many years of experience in constructing peace. We feel lucky to have had the opportunity to work with the FEP team here in Bogotá and the remote regions of Mesetas and El Castillo. The internship with FEP surpassed our expectations and gave us a chance to work in the field and help execute these art peace-building workshops. This internship experience left us thinking of what Aristotle once said, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”

We leave FEP and Colombia with a better understanding of how to achieve peace through the culture of the arts and with a new positive perspective of how Colombians are finding ways to make their tomorrow better.

Colombia: Where there once was war is now the Route of Peace

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An article for El Tiempo

A family weekend to the beat of drums in San Basilio of Palenque, or to the rhythm of porro by the composer Lucho Bermúdez in El Carmen de Bolivar, and do not return home without bringing a hammock from San Jacinto.

These towns are part of the Ruta de la Paz, a strategy promoted by the the Ministry of Culture and the departmental government of Bolivar as part of the project ‘Bolívar si avanza’. The project promotes tourism and cultural development in regions and municipalities that were affected by the Colombian armed conflict. Today they are areas full of life, progress and courage, where the inhabitants show their natural beauty, share their cultural wealth and generate economic development.

The Route of Peace includes the municipalities of Santa Catalina de Alejandría, Turbaco, Arjona, San Basilio de Palenque (Mahates), María la Baja, San Juan Nepomuceno, San Jacinto, El Carmen de Bolívar, Magangué and Mompox. Here the traveler will find natural beauty and cultural wealth, such as the filigree artisans in Mompox, the magical port on the Magdalena River, whose renowned colonial architecture still breathes the spirit called Macondo by Gabriel García Márquez.

The route, as a tourist product, is articulated with the Caribbean Corridor that has been designed by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism to strengthen employment, productivity, competitiveness, sustainability, formalization, safety and education through the schools for tourism.

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Question related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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In Magangué, for example, work has started at the José Francisco Chico Cervantes Cultural Center, under the project ‘Bolívar si avanza’ and Icultur. Here, 343 young people have begun their studies in different cultural programs, among which are vocal technique, piano, guitar, percussion, dance, theatrical performance and communication. All this with teachers hired by the Office of the Mayor.

Julio Rojas Cultural Center

One of the jewels of the Montes de María, a land full of folklore and traditional costumes, is San Juan Nepomuceno. It already has a cultural center named Julio Rojas Buendía, in honor of the famous musician and lawyer who was born in those lands on July 9, 1959 and died in Barranquilla on June 20, 2016, accordionist and twice the king of the Festival of La Leyenda Vallenata, in 1983 and 1994. The center was inaugurated two months ago by the Government of Bolivar and Icultur in an event attended by the director of the National Planning Department, Luis Fernando Mejía; the director of the National Federation of Departments, Carlos Felipe Córdoba, the mayor and other personalities.

As explained by the general director of Icultur, Lucy Espinosa Díaz, “this inauguration consolidates the Departmental Network of Music Schools in Bolívar, It was made with resources of the General System of Royalties (SGR), In general, there will be six cultural centers in Bolívar, of which four have already been established by the the departmental government and Icultur. The Municipalities of Santa Rosa de Lima, Magangué, Cicuco and now San Juan Nepomuceno already have a cultural center. Those of Regidor and Tiquisio remain to be established. Thus we have cultural infrastructure at the service of all in Bolivar, above all for children, who are the ones who hope to take advantage of these spaces for culture.”

Now the people of San Juan will be able to advance artistic vocational training in the programs of band music, accordion music, acoustic guitar, bagpipes, whistles and drums, folk dance and plastic arts.

Brazil: Culture of Peace will be the theme of a free lecture in Guarujá

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

An article from Resenhando

The Legislative School of Guarujá (ELG) will hold a free lecture on ‘Culture of Peace’ next Thursday, 16th, from 7 to 9 pm. The activity will be open to all concerned and will be the responsibility of the director of ELG, journalist and psychologist Vanessa Ratton.


Vanessa Ratton

It will be part of the Popular Legal Promoters (PLPs) course, which has been held since the first semester, through a partnership between the ELG and the Guarujá Municipal Government Coordination Office (Segov).

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Questions for this article:

Where is peace education taking place?

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It is not necessary to pre-register. Just come to the City Hall (Av. Leomil, 291, Center, 2nd floor) at the scheduled time. More information can be obtained by e-mail at escoladolegislativo@camaraguaruja.sp.gov.br

According to Vanessa Ratton, the Culture of Peace is a set of values, attitudes, traditions, behaviors and lifestyles based on respect for life, the end of violence, the practice of non-violence through education, dialogue cooperation.

“It helps us to get along better at home, at work and in society, and teaches us to dialogue and avoid conflict, and makes us think about how to eliminate violence from ourselves, and promotes reflection about how to welcome different ideas and cultures without denying that there is conflict, but making it an opportunity for everyone to learn.”

Date: Thursday, 16/8
Hours: From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Location: Av. Leomil, 291, Centro

Brazil: Petropolis-Peace celebrates one year and 400 mediations

. . DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION . .

An article from Diario de Petrópolis

The Community Mediation project of Petropolis is celebrating one year of activity in the municipality. There have been more than 400 visits among students, education professionals and family members. The project began on August 17, 2017, as an initiative of the Mayor Bernardo Rossi through Law n ° 7,532. According to the coordinator of the Municipal Program for the Restoration of Peace Petrópolis da Paz, Elsie-Elen Carvalho, the main objective of the project is to seek solutions to conflicts that are presented and to search for inclusion and social peace.

The major success of the program has been the work in the Public Chamber, located at Av. Koeler, 206, Center. The site, an arm of the project, serves people who are referred by partners such as the Reference Center for Women’s Assistance (CRAM), the community and people who seek the service spontaneously. The Chamber receives cases to be mediated such as conflicts in families and among neighbors, among others. The action consists of listening to both sides and seeking a satisfactory, peaceful solution for both. Mediations can sometimes take more than three months to complete.

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Discussion question

Mediation as a tool for nonviolence and culture of peace

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“In a year, we have had a lot of results with the mediation here in the Public Chamber. It is a free tool, using voluntary mediators, including some with legal expertise,” said the coordinator.
The program has three projects: School Mediation, Community Mediation and Restorative Justice. The work begins with teaching units, where the team assists and empowers students and teachers in a social and emotional way. Existing conflicts are mediated and guided by the volunteers of the program.
This benefits the school as a whole, since the students themselves learn to solve conflicts by means of the tools presented by the project.
Three schools participate in the school mediation actions: Carlos Chagas Liceu Municipal School, Amélia Antunes Rabello Municipal School and Governador Marcelo Alencar Municipal School. Restorative Justice is practiced in the Municipal Schools Germano Valente, Hercilia Henriques Moret, Pope John Paul II and Professor Nilton Coast.

“The main idea of ​​School Mediation is to stimulate a collaborative atmosphere in schools by creating the habit of dialogue and conflict resolution through solutions presented by those involved who are the main stakeholders. It is hoped that through the use of conflict mediation, the culture of peace will be diffused in school, and in life in society,” according to the pedagogue and psychologist and head of the Department of School Mediation, Vanessa Siqueira.

The program has partnerships with the Secretariat of Health and Citizenship Office, in addition to the Court of Justice, Petropolis police stations, the State and Municipal Councils of Public Security, Procon, Tutelar Council and Universities.

Chiapas, Mexico: Arms exchange supports peace and security, says Velasco

. DISARMAMENT & SECURITY.

An article from NVI Noticias (translation by CPNN)

With the aim of raising awareness among Chiapas families and as a preventive measure, Governor Manuel Velasco Coello has presided over the Exchange of Arms 2018 campaign, highlighting how the active participation of citizens contributes to Chiapas having one of the lowest criminal indices in the country.

Accompanied by the Commander of the VII Military Region, Carlos Ramón Carrillo del Villar and the Attorney General of the State, Raciel López Salazar, the State Executive said that since the beginning of his government, a security system has been established by which various institutions safeguard the tranquility and harmony, thereby promoting a culture of peace in all the regions of Chiapas,.

He noted that year after year the Government of the State together with the Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena), have conducted this campaign in which Chiapas families deliver some weapon they have in their home in exchange for household appliances or food pantries, process in which, said the president, women have played an important role with a 70 percent presence.

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Question related to this article:

“Put down the gun and take up the pen”, What are some other examples?

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“The initiative has been coordinated among the three orders of government. Household appliances are exchanged for all possible weapons in the municipalities with the highest crime rate.

Fortunately, the response of the citizens has been great, especially the participation of women who do not hesitate to bring arms which are then destroyed by the Mexican Army,” he said.

On this occasion, the arms exchange has taken place in Tuxtla Gutiérrez and Tapachula, where since the beginning of the campaign, 54 weapons have been exchanged, including14 loaders, 472 cartridges and three grenades.

It is worth mentioning that from 2013 to 2017, more than 95 thousand weapons and artifacts have been collected, with the participation of 24 municipalities.

Participating agencies include the Sedena, the General State Prosecutor’s Office, the General Secretariat of the Government, the Secretariat of Civil Protection, the Secretariat of Security and Citizen Protection, the Executive Secretariat of the State Public Security System and the Town Councils.

The General Secretary of the Government, Mario Carlos Culebro Velasco, assisted in this event, along with Octavio Lozoya Uribe, Secretary of Security and Citizen Protection; Neftalí del Toro Guzmán, Mayor of Tapachula and Moisés Grajales Monterrosa, Secretary of Security and Transit of the municipality of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, among others.

For Afro-Colombians, a Slow March Toward Peace

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An article by Kati Hinman for NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America

On Colombia’s Pacific coast, paramilitary violence has engulfed Afro-communities and their leaders in the wake of the peace accords. But resistance at the grassroots level remains strong.


Photo source: comité paro civico Buenaventura facebook

On April 17, three community leaders from the Naya River, south of the city of Buenaventura on Colombia’s Pacific Coast, were kidnapped by an unnamed armed group. The group was also searching for another leader, Iber Angulo Zamora. On May 5, Angulo Zamora was kidnapped from a boat in the presence of officers from the Human Rights Ombudsmen. The two attacks generated terror along the Naya, trapping people in their villages or displacing them to the city of Buenaventura.

Men claiming to be dissidents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) released a video  in June, claiming responsibility and stating that the leaders were killed because of their involvement in “illegal activities,” most likely referring to drug-trafficking. There has been no evidence  to substantiate the accusations against the leaders, but residents have been reluctant to suggest motives for the attack in fear of repercussions. Paramilitary groups are also present in the zone, and there have been reports of combat between armed groups, adding to the danger and confusion for civilians. 

These attacks are unfortunately only a few examples of the violence that continues to plague the majority Afro-Colombian communities in the city of Buenaventura and the surrounding rural areas, despite the reforms promised in the 2016 Peace Accords between the FARC and the Colombian government. The Peace Accords has been hailed as one of the most progressive and thorough peace agreements in history, promising  rural land reform and development, a comprehensive effort to replace illegal crops such as coca with legal sources of income, reparations to the conflict’s victims—ranging from individual payments to collective land titles and social projects—and truth and justice commissions. However, the first two years of implementation have fallen behind expectations, especially for Colombia’s Afro and Indigenous communities, who are some of the principal victims of the conflict.

The Naya River zone is home to 64 Afro-Colombian and two Indigenous communities. Afro-Colombians have lived on the river for over 300 years, and were first brought there as slaves to work in mines. After the abolition of slavery in Colombia, they created independent settlements in the region. After paramilitaries committed a brutal massacre in 2001, killing more than 70 people, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights implemented a series of precautionary measures to protect these communities. Today, Afro-Colombian communities along the Naya are governed by one democratically elected Community Council. Just three years ago, the Community Council was granted a collective title to the 64 communities’ lands under Law 70, which protects the ancestral territories of Afro-Colombians.

Government response to the recent violence has been slow and mainly focused on further militarizing the zone  by sending in more troops and pushing for additional military bases within the communities. Community leaders advocated  for a thorough criminal investigation into the crimes and respect for their rights as civilians to remain neutral in the conflict. They are concerned that military presence in their public spaces might put them at risk for more attacks.

The Battle for Puente Nayero

The continued violence is not limited to the rural areas around Buenaventura. On July 1st, a group of known paramilitaries entered Puente Nayero, a humanitarian space in the city of Buenaventura, where they remained for several hours as residents hid in their homes. Humanitarian spaces are designed as places where civilians can remain neutral and free from engaging with armed actors. Puente Nayero, created four years ago in response to terror and brutality as successor paramilitary groups were dividing the city, received legal and financial support from the Inter-Church Commission of Peace and Justice, a Colombian human rights organization, and protections from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Elisabeth [last name withheld] was one of the community leaders behind the space. “One thing that pushed me personally [to act] was my son,” she said. “He is very big, people think he is older than he is, and they started looking at him to become part of the [paramilitary] structure [when] he was 13 years old.”

The protections for the space call  on the Colombian government to adapt effective measures to preserve the lives of the 302 families who live in the humanitarian space and to respect their rights as civilians. Elisabeth explained that through the declaration of the humanitarian space and better community organizing, they were able to decrease the violence and remove a “chop-house” from their street, which were houses utilized by paramilitaries to torture and murder.

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Question related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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Elisabeth still feels that as a leader, just stepping outside the humanitarian space leaves her feeling vulnerable and scared for her life. She has reason to fear; social leaders in Colombia are being targeted and killed at alarming rates. In January of 2018, Temistocles Machado, an Afro-Colombian activist, was killed in the city. Machado was one of the most prominent leaders of the civil strike that took place in Buenaventura in 2017.

Buenaventura is home to Colombia’s principal port, surrounded by a Free Trade Zone that allows most of the wealth generated by the port to flow directly to international companies. Corruption is rampant in the city, and in 2017 64% of the population lived in poverty, with unemployment at 62%. When the violence between warring paramilitary groups in Buenaventura escalated in 2013-2014, much of it occurred in neighborhoods that were part of development plans for a tourist boardwalk, airport, and other projects that would have to displace residents.

José, a 67-year-old from the humanitarian space, explained that the paramilitaries, with support of corporations, “wanted us to de-occupy this territory [Puente Nayero] so they could take it, so they started doing things to terrify us, to get rid of us.” The residents of Puente Nayero still worry that city development projects might lead to their displacement, and the recent presence of paramilitaries in the neighborhood has elevated these concerns.

The battle over land rights is an ongoing and central concern for Afro-Colombians in Buenaventura and the surrounding rural regions. Colombia has the highest rate of inequality in land ownership in Latin America, with just 0.4% of holdings encompassing two-thirds of agricultural land. Meanwhile, 60% of Colombian farmers have no formal titles to their land. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, over 7.6 million Colombians are internally displaced, forced to leave their homes because of violence or threats from armed groups, many without formal titles to prove their ownership and right to return.

To address this, land restitution was a central tenet of the Peace Accords. But many people remain uncertain that they will recover their ancestral lands. The rural Afro-Colombian community of La Esperanza was displaced to Buenaventura due to paramilitaries in 2004. Although they won collective title to their land under Law 70 in 2008, as well as provisional protective measures from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, their land has been parceled off and sold, and community leaders stated that local politicians were involved and now own some of the plots. Florenina, a community leader, emphasized repeatedly that logging and construction companies were responsible for the damage to their lands since their displacement. “True peace for me is defined as when people can return to their lands, when they are given reparations, beginning with the land because the territory is very damaged.”

Sara, a young woman and teacher on the Naya, is particularly disappointed with programs intended to combat illicit crop substitution, referring to financial support and training for farmers to replace coca with other crops, and the Development Plans with a Territorial Focus (PDETs). The PDETs are rural development plans for the areas hardest hit by the conflict, based in the community’s needs and priorities. These plans are critical for the Naya, as the river is utilized by criminal networks, not only for illegal mining and coca cultivation but also for the production and transit of cocaine directly to international waters. Other community members I spoke with agreed with Sara, adding that the government has not helped to provide needed social services, such as health centers and schools.

There is also concern that the “peace” era will bring extractive development projects that could drive the people of the Naya from their lands. Despite the Community Council’s collective land title, the Colombian government still holds legal rights over anything beneath the earth’s surface. Community leaders worry that their authority might be usurped to move forward with large-scale mining projects, since the area is rich with gold. The natural riches in their territory have become a source of danger for the communities.

As people have become disenchanted with the implementation of the accords, they have continued to build peace in their own ways. In May 2017, the residents of Buenaventura and the surrounding area shut down the city in a civil strike, demanding a recognition of their rights. Despite the assassination of leaders such as Temistocles Machado, the strike committee continues to implement the agreement reached with the government, which includes overseeing the funds to build a hospital and an aqueduct for the city.

Residents have also created local peace-building initiatives. For example, Niridia, a member of a collective of 300 women in the Naya River region, helps run political advocacy workshops and leadership schools, focusing on various themes from globalization and multiculturalism to gender and nature. “We are all family members of disappeared persons,” she said of the collective. “Although we might consider our family members dead, they still give us the possibility to exchange the tears for smiles for new generations.”

Sara, the teacher, said that keeping up the traditions that communities on the Naya have practiced for 300 years is an important part of peace-building. As an educator, she works to ensure an emphasis on protecting the environment. They use practical lessons to teach the children how to take care of their water and natural resources. In Puente Nayero, leaders continue to organize around their principles of dialogue and fair treatment.

President-elect Iván Duque has been critical of the Peace Accords and seems committed to obstructing their implementation, generating further doubt that there will be reparations and justice for Afro-Colombian victims on the national level. This has not deterred grassroots commitment to local peace-building processes, giving people hope and strength while they continue to resist violence and advocate for their rights and their lands.

Colombia’s peace deal: Where is the peace? Interview with outgoing President Santos

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article and video from Deutsche Welle

In an exclusive interview on DW’s Conflict Zone, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos denied his low level of public approval would jeopardize the peace he negotiated for over four years and said the process was already underway. “Peace is irreversible. There is no way back,” he said.


Video of interview

Asked whether history might suggest otherwise, Santos told Conflict Zone host Tim Sebastian: “The agreements have been ratified by Congress, by the constitutional court. And the people will not allow the peace process to go back. Some people would like to bring war back, but that is something which will not happen.”

Rising violence

But violence has spiked in Colombia following the peace agreement, with dissident rebels and drug gangs seeking to take over in areas formerly under the control of FARC guerrillas, who waged an insurgency in the country for more than half a century and have largely been demobilized under Santos’s peace deal.

Human rights defenders, activists and protesters have also been targeted with 441 attacks recorded in 2017, including 121 murders.

Santos won a Nobel Prize in 2016 for his peace agreement, but his international plaudits have not translated into popularity at home. In March, his approval rating was 14 percent, with just 17 percent expressing support for his amended peace deal. 

He narrowly lost a referendum on his original peace plan in October 2016, when 50.2 percent voted against it, on a turnout of less than 38 percent of voters.

Santos told Tim Sebastian he had underestimated the opposition to the deal, which he signed along with FARC leader Rodrigo Londono, known as Timochenko. “I was wrong … Referendums are answered for reasons different from the particular question,” Santos said.

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Question related to this article:

What is happening in Colombia, Is peace possible?

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After the failed referendum, an amended deal was passed by Congress without going back to voters. It includes a guarantee of five seats for the FARC in Colombia’s Chamber of Representatives and Senate. 

False positives

Of the recent violence, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in March voiced its concern over accusations that the army and police had contributed by committing 11 extrajudicial murders in 2017.

However, Santos challenged the commissioner’s account: “The High Commissioner has not signaled any member of the armed forces as being responsible, right now, for extrajudicial assassinations. They were before. … I made a stop to that when I was minister of defense.”

Thousands of innocent civilians were systematically killed by the military in the early 2000s and presented as rebels to inflate statistics and gain promotions or bonuses.

Santos told Conflict Zone the “false positives” policy was “shameful” and one he ended when he was defense minister from 2006 and 2009 when the killing reached its peak. “I stopped those false positives. …

And those responsible for false positives, they have to go to the transitional justice and be judged and condemned,” Santos said.

In May, a former police colonel said approximately 10,000 may be have been murdered as “false positives” between 2002 and 2010, a figure which Santos disputed on Conflict Zone.

Drug trade

On the ongoing war on drugs, Santos said the world has a “wrong approach to the drug problem,” costing Colombia dearly and keeping it the world’s biggest exporter of cocaine.

In June, a US government report said cocaine production in Colombia had increased by 19 percent, prompting a warning from Donald Trump to reduce it.

“And I said to him,” Santos told Conflict Zone, “that 81 percent increase in coca consumption in the US is also unacceptable. This is a problem that the world has and it’s a problem that the world has to address in a different way.”

When Tim Sebastian confronted the outgoing president about blaming consumers when Colombia’s drug market makes huge sums of money for many people in the country, Santos said it was “a co-responsibility” and that he wanted more support from countries consuming cocaine.