I travelled in that region in November 2014, and of course I took a four-day camel trek. It was plenty hot that time of year, so much so that we had to take a three hour siesta each day under whatever bushes we could find. We were in the Thar desert of Rajasthan if you really must know.
Chennai is out of water now.
Time lapse satellite photo of Chennai reservoir disappearing:
News from India says that 21 cities with about a hundred million people, will run out of groundwater by 2020. Yes folks, that’s next year.
Twenty one cities in India including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Hyderabad – will run out of groundwater by 2020, affecting around 100 million people, claims a report by NITI Ayog.
The report also says that 40 per cent of India’s population will have no access to drinking water by 2030.The situation is alarming, given the fact that year 2020 is not very far. Three rivers, four water bodies, five wetlands and six forests have completely dried in Chennai despite having better water resources and rains than any other metro cities, the report said. (from www.republicworld.com/…)
I looked up NITI Ayog, wondering how legitimate they are. Turns out they are part of the Government of India.
National Institution for Transforming India, also called NITI Aayog, was formed via a resolution of the Union Cabinet on January 1, 2015. NITI Aayog is the premier policy ‘Think Tank’ of the Government of India, providing both directional and policy inputs. While designing strategic and long term policies and programmes for the Government of India, NITI Aayog also provides relevant technical advice to the Centre and States.
The Government of India, in keeping with its reform agenda, constituted the NITI Aayog to replace the Planning Commission instituted in 1950. This was done in order to better serve the needs and aspirations of the people of India. An important evolutionary change from the past, NITI Aayog acts as the quintessential platform of the Government of India to bring States to act together in national interest, and thereby fosters Cooperative Federalism.
And a report by an international team of scientists started with: The Hindu Kush Himalayas (HKH) is a crucially important region for South Asia and China. These mountains are the ‘Water Towers of Asia’, providing water to 1.3 billion people. However, the warming trend in the HKH is higher than the global average –a cause for grave concern. There is no other place in the world where so many people are being affected by climate change so rapidly.
The change is here folks, faster than we ever thought!!
By Rev. William Alberts – June 23-23, 2019 – Information Clearinghouse
A Boston Globe story highlights Wellesley College alumnae Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton’s return to the College for their 60th and 50th respective reunions. The story states that “their early days at Wellesley College were marked by uncertainty and feeling out of place.” But they “overcame their trepidation and went on to illustrious careers including serving as the country’s top foreign diplomat under different presidents.” Wellesley College president Paula A. Johnson asked them questions for over an hour, with the audience giving “Albright and Clinton an enthusiastic reception, including three standing ovations.” What created the enthusiastic response? Albright and Clinton “urged the audience to speak up and take action to protect democracy from the threat of fascism under President Trump.” (“At Wellesley, Madeleine and Hillary Clinton encourage protest, political action.,” By Laura Crimaldi, June 9, 2019)
“Speak up and take action to protect democracy.” Okay. The country certainly needs to be protected from “the threat of fascism under President Trump.” But such honoring of Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton’s “illustrious careers” is quite a commentary on The Boston Globe and Wellesley College and the selective morality of many Americans. Trump can serve to distract attention from war crimes committed by other, respectable, U.S. political leaders, among them Madeleine Albright and Hillary Clinton.
Consider Madeleine Albright. The U.N. imposed draconian sanctions on Iraq, pushed by the U.S. and Britain after it invaded Kuwait. Before that, in 1989 Iraq was reported to have “one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world, as well as universal, free healthcare and education.” (“Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq,”johnpilger.com, 1-15-05) Iraq’s remarkable health was due to President Saddam Hussein nationalizing the country’s vast oil resources, and investing certain of its revenue in the Iraqi people. This policy did not set well with Western oil corporations, which saw Iraq’s bountiful oil reserves as a gold mine to be controlled and tapped.
The sanctions prevented Iraq from importing supplies of food and medicine and other necessities. A survey by two scientists, Drs. Mary Smith Fawzi and Sarah Zaidi, found that “as many as 576,000 Iraqi children may have died since the end of the Persian Gulf war because of economic sanctions imposed by the Security Council.” (“Iraqi Sanctions, Kill Children, U.N. Reports,” By Barbara Crossette, The NewYork Times, Dec. 1, 1995)
In 1996, President Bill Clinton’s U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Madeleine Albright appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes with reporter Lesly Stahl, who said, “We have heard that a half a million children have died [because of sanctions against Iraq]. I mean that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And – you know, is the price worth it?” Albright replied, “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it.” (“The price is worth it,” By Edward S. Herman, msuweb.montclair.edu) Evidently the harsh criticism she received led her to apologize for her words years later, but not for the brutal sanctions against Iraq she helped to enforce as America’s U. N. Ambassador.
Edward S. Herman, now deceased American economist, media scholar and social critic, wrote that “the ratio of dead Iraqi children to deaths in the WTC/Pentagon bombings was better than 80 to 1,” but “the mainstream media and intellectuals have not found Albright’s rationalization of this mass killing of any interest whatsoever.” Their interest is about “who” not “why.” Herman asked, “Is it not morally chilling, even a bit frightening, that he [a liberal historian] and the great mass of citizen compatriots, can focus with such anguish and indignation on their own 6,000 dead, while ignorant of, or not caring about, or approving his (their) own government’s ongoing killing of scores of times as many innocents abroad?” He also said, “Because the media make the suffering and death of 500,000 children invisible, the outrage produced by the intense coverage of the WCT/Pentagon bombing victims does not surface on their behalf. . . . The media . . . are not interested in root causes.” Herman concluded, “This reflects the work of a superb propaganda system.” (Ibid)
Evidently the Wellesley College president did not ask former U.S. Ambassador Madeleine Albright questions about the U.S.-driven U.N. sanctions and the deaths of over 500,000 Iraqi children. The “superb propaganda system” was obviously on display at Wellesley College — and in The Boston Globe.
Nor could Osama bin Laden’s words penetrate America’s “superb propaganda system.” He wrote a “letter to America,” in which, he cited the “whys” of the 9/11 attacks. Among the U.S. government’s sins against Muslim nations: “You have starved the Muslims in Iraq, where children die every day,” he said. “It is a wonder that more than 1.5 million iraqi children have died as a result of your sanctions, and you did not show concern. Yet,” he continued, “when 3000 of your people died, the entire world rises and has not yet sat down.” (“Full text: bin Laden’s ‘letter to America,’”The Guardian, Nov. 24, 2002)
The U.S. government’s answer to Osama bin Laden was to send a Special Forces team to silence him, killing him in his compound — as President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and others watched his assassination, and also the killing of three men and a woman, from the safety of the White House’s Situation Room. Bin Laden’s body was then dumped into the sea – to prevent his burial in a known grave where mourners could gather and be inspired to engage in more protests against U.S. imperialistic policies. (See “Death of Osama bin Laden Fast Facts,”CNN Library, www.cnn.com, April 18, 2019)
The assassination of Osama bin Laden is merely one example of The U.S. government silencing people who dare to expose America’s war crimes. In an extensive In These Times article on “The Crackdown on Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange Is About Protecting U.S. Empire,” Chip Gibbons writes about the fates of whistleblowers Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks publisher, Julian Assange: “army Intelligence analyst Manning shared massive troves of Iraq and Afghanistan War logs with Assange, who released them. Videos showed American soldiers’ needless killing of Iraqi civilians, in what WikiLeaks called “Collateral Murder.” Gibbons cites American journalist Dahr Jamail’s report from Iraq: “The WikiLeaks cables from Iraq displayed the brutality of U.S. polices that were ongoing throughout the occupation.” (May 14, 2019)
Chip Gibbons also quotes “Phillis Bennis, a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.” She stated that “the Afghan War Logs ‘were crucially important,’ as they showed ‘Afghanistan was and is a real country where hundreds of thousands, millions of people with no connection to 9/11 would be killed or see their lives and families destroyed.’ ” Gibbons also pointed out: “The Guantanamo leaks revealed the U. S government knowingly held 150 innocent men.” (Ibid)
Mr. Gibbons states that “this massive insight into U.S. foreign policy apparatus showed ‘the world according to U.S. empire.’ But,” he said, “for much of mainstream U.S. media, there is little if any true reckoning with the civilian cost of war.” And “exposing the U.S. empire comes at a cost. . . . WikiLeaks is currently in the crosshairs of the U.S. government, because it challenged this secrecy head on.”(Ibid)
Chelsea Manning spent seven years in prison, before President Obama commuted her 35-year sentence. But she is back in prison for refusing to testify against Julian Assange. Assange himself in now in a British prison, after being hounded and spending seven years in refuge in Ecuador’s Embassy in London. The U.S, is eager to have him extradited, to face a number of charges under the Espionage Act, with his case possibly used to erode press freedom by criminalizing journalists who expose governmental crimes for the public good.
Enter Hillary Clinton. Her 2016 presidential campaign was victimized by WikiLeaks disseminating communications obtained from her campaign and the Democratic National Committee. Her response to Assange’s arrest: “I think it is clear from the indictment that came out it’s not about punishing journalism, it is about assisting in the hacking of a military computer to steal information from the United States government.” (“Hillary Clinton says Assange ‘has to answer for what he’s done,’” By Julie Gallagher, CNN, April 12, 2019) Never mind that the “information” hacked was about the U.S. government’s concealed war crimes.
Hillary Clinton also said about Julian Assange’s indictment: “The bottom line is he needs to ‘answer for what he’s done.’” (Ibid) Clinton herself needs to answer for what she’s done. In 2002, she voted to authorize the George W. Bush administration’s falsely-based, unnecessary, illegal invasion of Iraq, and still needs to answer for contributing to that horrible, unending war crime. Obviously, Wellesley College President Johnson did not ask Clinton about the reported “4,500 American soldiers killed and thousands more permanently disabled, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths; the destabilization of the region with the rise of ISIS; and a dramatic increase in the federal deficit, resulting in major cutbacks to important social programs. “ (“Clinton’s Iraq War Vote Still Appalls,” by Stephen Zunes, progressive.org, April 14, 2016)
During her run for president in 2016, Hillary Clinton expressed regret for her Iraq war vote when New York senator. An obvious and strategically voiced regret, because the basis for invading Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, had long been proven a lie peddled by the George W. Bush administration. The reported reality then: “Clinton ignored information provided by U.N. inspectors, reports by independent strategic analysts, and articles in reputable arms control journals that challenged the administration’s claims.” (Ibid) The 2016 election demanded moral hindsight from Clinton.
Hillary Clinton’s immoral “foresight” is seen in her response to Libya as Secretary of State. In the Black Agenda Report, Solomon Comissiong, educator and founder of the Your World News Media Collective, writes that Clinton and President Obama “orchestrated the destruction of what was once the African nation with the highest living standards – Libya!” Clinton especially “was a strong proponent and vocal cheerleader of the barbaric bombing of Libya, a bombing campaign that destroyed tens of thousands of civilian lives.” As a result, “Libya continues to be submerged in a quagmire of slavery of Black Africans, civil war, death and destruction.” (“How Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton Contributed to Libya’s Slavery Crisis,” Dec. 6, 2017) And Libyan refugees have flooded European countries.
Along with “bombing Libya into oblivion,” Mr. Comissiong states that the Obama administration used “racist and terrorist rebel groups to do their dirty deeds on their ground.” These groups “often targeted Black Africans for rape, torture and public lynching simply because they were seen as allies of Muammar Gaddafi – who had provided a safe haven for those same Black Africans.” (Ibid)
Mr. Comissiong says that the justification for toppling President Muammar Gaddafi was based on a lie: “that he “was planning to murder Libyan civilians.” His real sins included being “resistant to the United States’ neo-colonial machinations with Africom,” and calling for a United State of Africa. . . . just the kind of leader and (Libyan Jamahiriya) government the United States hates and loves to overthrow.” Comissiong concludes “Both parties are unapologetic imperialists, hell-bent on global domination. “ (Ibid)
Hillary Clinton provides a window into her own soul in response to learning that Col. Muammar Gaddafi has been captured by rebel forces, beaten and sodomized by a bayonet. In a CBS News interview, she gleefully said, “We came, we saw, he died” – then raised her hands in laughter. (“Hillary’s War Crime,” By Paul Craig Roberts, Foreign Policy Journal, Oct. 24, 2016)
There are a number of respectable American war criminals – on both sides of the aisle. Former vice president and now leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, along with 28 other Democratic senators, voted to authorize then President George W. Bush’s criminal invasion of Iraq. There is Bush himself, who used his Jesus “changed my heart” profession of faith and lies about President Saddam Hussein having weapons of mass destruction to justify his preemptive war against Iraq. And he is still respectable, with a library and museum named after him at Southern Methodist University, and dominant media covering his commentary on President Trump’s falsehoods and nativism.
Add President Bush’s still respectable Vice President, Dick Cheney, who also falsely charged Iraq with having weapons of mass destruction and was a strong advocate for war. Cheney later wrote a memoir, In My Time, that was a #1 New York Times best seller.
Include respectable Gen. Colin Powell, Bush’s Secretary of State, who lied to the U.N. about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, thereby selling the U.N. Security Council on the case for war. His book, It Worked for Me: In Life and Leadership, is billed as written by “one of America’s most admired figures, reveals the principles that have shaped his life and career in this inspiring and engrossing memoir.”
Then there is respectable President Barack Obama, whose use of drone warfare has killed countless civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Syria and Somalia. Obama also created a “kill list,” giving himself the presidential authority to order the assassination of anyone without due process, including Americans, who are suspected of terrorism. Innocent children became victims of Obama’s “kill list” and drone warfare. Sixteen-year-old American Abdulrahman, son of American Imam Anwar al-Awlaki, and the youth’s teenage cousin and other innocent friends, were killed in Yemen by an Obama-ordered CIA drone strike, just two weeks after America-radicalized cleric al-Awlaki was assassinated and silenced in Yemen, also by a CIA drone strike. (See “Obama Killed a 16-Year-Old American in Yemen. Trump Just Killed His 8-Year-Old Sister,” By Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, Jan 30, 2017)
Like George W. Bush’s Presidential Library and Museum at SMU, Obama will have his Barack Obama Presidential Center near the University of Chicago campus.
President Donald Trump followed in President Obama’s respectable footsteps, ordering a Navy Seal 6 commando raid in Yemen, that resulted in the killing of “30 people including 10 women and children,” one of whom was “the 8 year-old daughter . . . of Imam Anwar al-Awlaki.” (Ibid) Trump specializes in brutalizing powerless children and their families for political gain, hence his 2020 presidential campaign vow to deport “millions of illegal aliens.” With Iran also in his psychopathic lying sights. The list of respectable America war criminals continues.
These respectable American war criminals reveal that many Americans live in an alternative reality, where their government’s war crimes, if ever mentioned by mainstream media, are usually called “mistakes,” and rarely investigated or persistently challenged. In calling America ”the greatest nation on earth” and “the exceptional nation” and saying “Make American Great Again,” Presidents Bush and Obama and Trump are attributing to America a moral superiority, which conveniently serves to cover up the U.S. government’s imperialistic war crimes. A moral superiority which many Christians especially have been conditioned to believe because of their own exceptional Christian self-image. People need to be morally diminished to justify their subjugation.
Respectable American war criminals count on respectable people of faith. These political leaders could not get away with their war crimes and then be honored in high – and holy — places without the accommodation of people of faith. This is not to discount the immeasurable good works people of faith perform. But when it comes to speaking truth to the U.S. government’s criminal global wars against so-called “terrorism,” more often than not people of faith remain respectable chaplains of the status quo, rather than prophets of all the people. It is about power, not morality.
Rev. William E. Alberts, Ph.D., a former hospital chaplain at Boston Medical Center, is both a Unitarian Universalist and United Methodist minister. His new book, The Counterpunching Minister (who couldn’t be “preyed” away) is now published and available on Amazon.com. The book’s Foreword, Drawing the Line, is written by Counterpunch editor, Jeffrey St. Clair. Alberts is also author of A Hospital Chaplain at the Crossroads of Humanity, which “demonstrates what top-notch pastoral care looks like, feels like, maybe even smells like,” states the review in the Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling. His e-mail address is email@example.com.
Honorable Parliamentarians, we address you as Colombian defenders of human rights, with the help and collaboration of sympathetic Canadians, to shout loudly that in Colombia THEY ARE KILLING US! They are killing our leaders, our human rights defenders, and our defenders of life, of our communities, our waters, and our territories.
566 social leaders and human rights defenders have been murdered in Colombia between January 1, 2016 and January 10, 2019. In the first 100 days of the present government of Ivan Duque, 120 social leaders have been killed. Every three days a social leader is murdered in Colombia. More than four thousand leaders are presently registered with the National Protection Unit (UNP), a Colombian Government agency that tries to protect people at risk of being killed. One of them, Isabel Cristina Zuleta, reports she cannot count how many times her life has been threatened (Entrevista con Isabel Cristina Zuleta, Daniela Garcia Chestnut. May 8 of 2019).
Here today, before the Parliament of Canada, we would like to introduce to you three cases, among many, that link Canada and Canadian companies with this dramatic situation in Colombia: the relentless struggle of Isabel Zuleta against the NEFARIOUS HIDROITUANGO megaproject, which has important capital support from the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ); the struggle of France Marquez, prominent leader of the black community, Premio Goldman Ambiental en 2018, on whom a recent bombing attempt was witnessed by Canadian Professor Sheila Gruner; and the case of the Tobie Mining Mining, which is using a perverse investment clause in the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement to claim the colossal sum of US $ 16.5 billion dollars, to the detriment of the national treasury of the country.
______________ Allow us to ask you, ladies and gentlemen, would anyone in this chamber be willing to risk his or her life to defend the water? Would any of you be willing to risk your life to defend their territory? Would any of you in this chamber be willing to risk your life to defend the rights of your community? Every day of her life, Isabel Cristina Zuleta -leader of the Rios Vivos community- risks her life to defend the water, the territory, and the rights of her community. She struggles against a hydroelectric megaproject HIDROITUANGO , which has important Canadian funding.
The HIDROITUANGO hydroelectric megaproject was imposed with a great violence in Colombia. With the aim of clearing the territory and thus lowering production costs associated with compensation of displacing people, a campaign of terror was fomented upon the population of territories established in that area of the Cauca River where the dam was to be built. The Cauca is the second most important river of Colombia, and on it depend for water close to 10 million people. According to some sources, in the 12 municipalities near where the Dam is being built, there have been 62 massacres perpetrated by paramilitaries (Contagio Radio, 23 March 2018). Other sources speak of ” 100 massacres, targeted killings and enforced disappearances” (La muerte de Hugo y Luis, dos líderes que se enfrentaban a Hidroituango, Revista Semana, 14 May 2018). With the inundation of the canyon of the River Cauca, Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) seeks to bury the truth: “It is believed that there are between 300 and 600 victims buried in 62 massacres committed by paramilitaries” (Contagio Radio, 23 March 2018).
The last ordinance that was signed in 1997 as Governor of Antioquia Province by Álvaro Uribe Vélez – former President and current senator of Colombia- was the creation of the Sociedad Promotora Hidroelectrica Ituango. That same year occured the massacre at Aro (Luis Montenegro, Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo. (see video). According to William de Jesus Gutierrez, a human rights activist living in Rios Vivos, Antioquia “Alvaro Uribe coordinated a series of murders and massacres in the Bajo Cauca Antioqueño to impose the HIDROITUANGO project” ( see video).
On May 15, 2019 – 10 years after this Parliament ratified the Canada-Colombia FTA signed by Uribe and Stephen Harper, former Attorney General Eduardo Montealegre alerted the country about national and international investigations into the conduct of former President Uribe, to whom are attributed war crimes and crimes against humanity during his “nefarious administration”, and said that in the next few days he will deliver a thorough investigation to prove the responsibility of senator Alvaro Uribe Velez in the massacres of the ARO and of La Granja (Humana Radio, 15 de mayo de 2019).
Isabel Zuleta sums up the current crisis in communities affected by this nefarious hydroelectric megaproject: “Despite the fact that we have suffered the terrifying way that EPM (“Empresas Publicas de Medellin”) and the National Authority of Environmental Licenses (ANLA) have debased all the beauty of the territory, have destroyed our culture and our community, the fishing, the small-scale pan-mining, the tranquility, the forest, the animals… we never imagined that they would go so far as to suspend life, to sow confusion and anxiety with the hammer of lack of a future for our people. More than a year without knowing what will happen with a vast territory, as if Colombia has forgotten us, or as if simply we are not part of Colombia” (Colombia carece de consenso social sobre lo inadmisible – Colombia lacks social consensus on the inadmissible, Revista Semana, Semana sostenible, 19.05.24).
______________ On 4 May 2019, FRANCE MARQUEZ, a prominent leader of the black community and 2018 co-recipient of the Premio Goldman Ambiental, survived an assassination attempt in the region of Cauca, Colombia (Semana, Contagio Radio, El Tiempo, El Espectador, France24). It is likely that this attack is associated with the recent statements by the former president and now senator Alvaro Uribe Velez in in which he incites a massacre of the members of the Minga, according to Luis Fernando Arias, senior advisor of the Colombian National Organization of Indigenous Peoples ONIC (Luis Fernando Arias, consejero mayor de las ONIC).
“If the Authority, serenely, firmly and with social criteria implies the need for a massacre, it is because on the other side there is violence and terror more than Protest”, stated Senator Uribe on Twiter on 7 de abril de 2019, approximately one month before the attack.
Witness to this attack was Sheila Gruner, associate professor at the University of Algoma (Ontario, Canada) and visiting professor at the Universidad Javeriana (Bogotá). Professor Gruner narrates her experience of this serious attack:
“The attack – with grenades and shooting- was directed against some of the most prominent social leaders of the black movement and of the ethnic-territorial movement in Colombia. France Márquez represents the group “Mobilization of Afro-descendant Women for Care of Life and of the Ancestral Territories”. Carlos Rosero, a member of the Black Communities Process (PCN), played a key role in the preparation of the Law 70 of 1991, and is a highly regarded leader inside and outside of the black movement. There were also gathered important men and women belonging to organizations recognized at regional, national and international levels, including Victor Hugo Moreno Mine, Senior Advisor of the Association of Community Councils of Northern Cauca (ACONC) and Clemencia Carabali of the Association of Afro-descendant women of Northern Cauca (ASOM) and of the Social and Political National Movement of Black Women, Afro-colombian, Palenqueras and Aboriginals in their diverse identities, among others. Three of the leaders already had security protection (armoured cars and bodyguards) because they had previously received threats against their lives for for their ongoing work on human, ethnic and territorial rights in the country. Thanks to the reaction of their security escorts, they managed to avoid a massacre. Three juveniles were present, including a three year old girl. All leaders(as) present formed part of the National AfroColombian Peace Council (CONPA), which as an integral part of the Ethnic Commission for Peace and Territorial Rights played a key role in the development and insertion of the Ethnicities Chapter of the final Peace Agreement. This armed aggression is considered an attack against the peace agreement, against the Ethnicities Chapter and an attempt to erase the significant progress of the black movement with regard to political and territorial rights achieved during the last 2 decades.
“The Northern Cauca is an area where there is illegal mining and unconstitutional mining (without free and informed prior consultation with the communities), as well as where there has been an increase in coca production for illegal use. It is a region marked equally by mega-projects and industrial parks. The male and female leaders and the organizations they represented that day have struggled for years to put an end to illicit and harmful economies in their territories and communities. They were also part of the Minga – a major mobilization to demand that the national government comply with the agreements reached in 2016. On May 4th they were gathered for the purpose of preparing for a negotiation with the Colombian government which would take place a few days later, where they would demand the enforcement of the agreements reached previously. The reaction of the national government against the attack of 4 May was to offer to provide increased security frameworks, but they have failed to make a real commitment to address the reasons for the violence in that area of the country. There has been a lack of enforcement of Law 70, no compliance with the orders of the clause 005 and no progress in implementing the Chapter on Ethnic Origins”.
Very soon after this attack, one of the spokespersons received a threat of extermination: “this is only the beginning of what will be the extermination of all of you” (Semana, 6 de mayo de 2019).
____________ The perverse investment clause, conceived in the Canada-Colombia FTA , allows Canadian mining companies to file leonine lawsuits against the Colombian State. Canadian Cosigo Resources Ltd (Tobie Mining) sued Colombia for the colossal sum of US $16.5 billion dollars, equivalent to about 50 billion pesos, or one fifth of the national budget in 2017. After the mining company invested a mere US$ 20,000 dollars, it alleged a supposed “expropriation” of a claim which was without effect, since it had been granted in the protected Yaigoje-Apaporis National Park and a few days later was withdrawn by the Colombian environmental authority. According to the multinational’s calculations of the “crime”, their damages would be equivalent to the fabulous sum mentioned (La minera que pide 16.500 millones de dólares de indemnización a Colombia. Semana, 6 November 2017). The Tobie Mining will not be able to take the gold that it planned to extract for 20 years, so now it seeks to take this fabulous sum of money that represents 20 years of extraction of gold.
This is a perverse play under the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement!
How much desolation and death will this colossal financial plunder the coffers of the Colombian State produce?
According to Francia Márquez, “until the year 2016 there had been issued in the department of Cauca 236 mining titles, covering 40% of the territory, and located largely in the Colombian Massif, on lands traditionally occupied by indigenous people and by people of Afro-Colombian descent. The extractive companies are pushing us out of our territories. When communities have won litigations, arguing their title rights as per the Consulta Previa Law (aboriginal title), as was the case of La Toma, municipality of Suarez, Judgment T1045A of 2010, where the Court revoked the license of the AngloGold Ashanti, we begin to receive the types of death threats that made it necessary for me to leave the territory. When the Courts have ruled in favor of the community then there has been an increase in the killings, the forced displacements, the stigmatization of our leaders(as) by armed actors, as well as increases in judicial persecution on the part of the same State, with the intention of ensuring and protecting the interests of the big companies. Those mining companies not only expel us from our or territory, not only destroy our lives, but also want to have us pay them for such destruction. The 50 billion pesos that are being claimed as ‘compensation’ to TOBIE Mining could instead be used pay reparations to all victims of the armed conflict in the Pacific region Colombia” (Interview 19.05.27).
_________________ The ongoing murders of social leaders in Colombia can be characterized as genocide, worse than occurred against the Union Patriotica (Patriotic Union) in the 1980s and 1990s, when a concerted attack claimed the lives of more than 1,500 members of this political movement throughout the country. The former president Juan Manuel Santos, who was Minister of Defense under Uribe, acknowledged the responsibility of the State in this persecution, death and disappearance of hundreds of members and supporters of Union Patriotica:
“I want today to express in this public act, as President of the Republic, as Head of State, that the extermination and the disappearance of the Patriotic Union should never have occurred; and to recognize that the State did not take sufficient measures to deter and prevent the murders, attacks and other violations, despite evidence that this persecution was underway.”(Exterminio de la UP fue un genocidio. Verdad Abierta, 15 September 2016).
Colombia is not a democracy. NO! In Colombia we lived through a most bloody dictatorship under Álvaro Uribe Vélez, former president and current senator in Colombia who is “clinging on to power so that power will protect him”. This dictatorship and its legacy are vividly symbolized in
“…massacres such as those in El Salado, in El Aro, in the false positives (young men rounded up, killed and then dressed in “subversive” clothes so as to be counted as dead guerrillas), in Barrancabermeja, Tierralta, Chengue, Montes de Maria, Tame, Saravena, Soacha, Ituango, Orion Operation; thousands of living dead in hospitals; in the fate of hundreds of leaders and peasants who have fallen victim to bullets or have died due to the indiscriminate spraying of glyphosate or have been killed for belonging to opposition parties; in countrysides emptied to make way for cattle raising, sending millions of internally displaced persons to die in the cities and towns; in the more than 2,000 women killed so far this year” (La dictadura más sangrienta. Beatriz Vangas ATHIAS, professor at the Universidad Javeriana. The Viewer, 2 March 2019).
Every three days a social leader is murdered in Colombia. Since the signing of the Peace Agreement – January 1, 2016- 508 social and community leaders have been killed in Colombia. They were defenders of human rights, of life, of their territories, of programs for the substitution of illicit crops, or mere land claimants. Since the signing of the Peace Agreement, we note an increase in violent actions against and of murders of social leaders in Colombia. According to the annual report 2018, of the Lawyers’ Collective “Somos Defensores” (We Are Defenders Program), in 2013 there were 366 violent actions against activists, 626 in 2014, 682 in 2015, 481 in 2016 and 560 in 2017. In 2018 there were reported 805 violent actions. According to the same source, in 2018 there were 155 murders, which represents an increase of 43.75% in relation to 2017.
The international community, human rights organisms, civil organizations and democratic governments all witness with great concern the escalation of low intensity war that is being once again unleashed upon the civilian population of Colombia, similar to what was experienced during the two periods of the nefarious government of Álvaro Uribe Vélez, 2002-2010.
According to Erika Rojas, Rapporteur for the Americas of Amnesty International , “The murder of those who defend human rights is destroying the social fabric of communities that have historically faced the cruel consequences of armed conflict, and now are at greater risk because of the reorganization of paramilitary groups that are being recycled and reemerging with force, reviving the suffering caused in the country”. Amnesty International, the UN and the International Red Cross have all called attention to the fragile situation of social leaders and defenders of human rights.
President Iván Duque, in his less than one year in power, has promoted a strategy essentially of militarization of the Colombian territory within the so-called “Peace with legality”. Despite this militarization, paramilitary groups continue to operate with almost complete freedom, threatening not only social leaders but also political opponents, as has been the case of the members of opposition political movement “Colombia Humana” and of many peasants who defend their territory, who call for compliance with the Peace Agreement, or who lead community processes in defense of their communities.
As noted in the report on human rights within the framework of the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (TLC-CC), impunity in the country is among the highest in the world, occupying 9th ranking within the set of nations. The judicial authorities do not exercise their task of investigation and prosecution of the intellectuals actors, a factor that increases the latter’s capacity for criminal activities against social leaders.
The government party systematically attacks defenders of human rights and social leaders, stigmatizes their protests and hinders the development of the institutions agreed upon to achieve peace . As you yourselves also pointed out in your report about the FTA-CC, their actions generate strong security problems for people in the regions who continue to support the peace process.
In a recent article, the New York Times described current repression by the Colombian Army as being at a level similar to that unleashed during the period of Álvaro Uribe Vélez, which was characterized by the murder by the Colombian Army of thousands of innocent young people who were later presented as guerrillas in order to inflate statistics. (Colombian Army’s Kill orders put civilians at risk, officers say. New York Times, May 18 of 2019 ).
__________Throughout the process of the adoption on the part of the Canadian Parliament of the Tratado de Libre Comercio Canadá-Colombia (TLC-CC), SOS-Colombia, a coalition of different movements and of social and trade union organizations in Quebec and in the rest of Canada, along with political opposition groups, notably the New Democratic Party (NDP) and the Bloc Québécois, led a strong opposition to the TLC-CC.
Peter Julien of the NDP denounced before the Canadian Parliament the fact that the Harper government, with the support of the liberals, was extending the red carpet to the regime of Alvaro Uribe, whom he described as having the worst record in the hemisphere in violation of human rights and who, according to a 1991 report by the US Central Intelligence Agency, was described as a politician who was dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin Cartel at high government levels, and who was then a personal friend of Pablo Escobar (U.S. Intelligence Listed Colombian President Uribe Among Important Colombian NarcoTraffickers” in 1991).
Extractive processes in Colombia – of gold, coal, wood, etc. – accelerated and intensified following the signing of the Canada-Colombia FTA, have exacerbated the violence against the leaders and communities who oppose such processes. As conceived, the Canada-Colombia FTA is contributing to the plunder of the resources of our country, to the impoverishment of communities, the destruction of the environment and the exacerbation of violence.
Shouldn’t the government of Canada be seriously concerned about investments in Colombia? Shouldn’t it not only protect big economic interests but also help protect the lives and human rights of Colombians?
When business exchanges are clean, sustainable, and carried out with honest counterparts for mutual benefit in pursuit of the common good, they can play a positive role in the development, beyond that of private companies, of society in general and should be supported by governments. When business is conducted with dark counterparts involved in serious crimes against humanity, in violence, looting of resources, displacement and destruction of communities, we must ask ourselves if government is rather acting as an accomplice!
What position do the political leaders of this Parliament wish to play in the face of this genocide? On what side of history does the government of Canada want to be?
We demand that the Parliament and the government of Canada act immediately and as effectively as possible to ensure the protection and life and the human rights of social leaders in Colombia who are exposed to violence related to extractive processes, and that they review carefully any process to develop bilateral trade between our countries.
LIFE AND HUMAN RIGHTS ARE ABOVE BUSINESS!
In light of the above, the organizations of Colombians here signatories, ask the Honorable Parliament of Canada and those of other countries in the Americas:
– To initiate an emergency session on human rights in Colombia.
– That a Commission of Verification be named to investigate the compliance on human rights undertaken by Colombia at the signing of the Free Trade Agreement with Canada, taking into account the annual reports on human rights submitted since the signing of the FTA-CC on 21 of November of 2008 and its entry into force on 15 August 2011.
– We request the reopening of the Shelter Program for Colombian leaders who have been threatened and are in danger of death in Colombia.
– We ask for monitoring, control and surveillance through the implementation of an Ombudsman on mining companies abroad, of the economic damage and the social and environmental impacts that Canadian financial and mining companies are producing in certain regions of Colombia, which are the subject of denunciations by defenders of human rights whose lives are then endangered, a fact to which the Government of Canada should not be indifferent,
Ríos Vivos – Antioquia
Cabildo indígena Káamash Hu de Barranquilla
Colombia Humana New York
Colombia Humana New Jersey
Comité pour les droits humains en Amérique latine (CDHAL)
Saturday, November 24, 2018 – Casa Maíz, 1280 Finch Av. # 204 – 2nd Floor (Subway: Finch West)
Doors open @ 8:00 pm with Solidarity messages; 9:00 – 2:00 Celebration
Performance by 2018 JUNO Award Nominated Ruben ‘Beny’ Esguerra and the New Tradition Music, releasing their first official music video: “Bounce Right Back”
Special Guest performance by Lady Son
DJs La Rumba Buena and
DJ Siez Swift
SOLIDARITY MESSAGES — MENSAJES DE SOLIDARIDAD
Francisco Ramirez Cuellar, internationally known trade unionist leader and lawyer. Former president of SINTRAMINERCOL and current member of CUT, legal Dept. Francisco is also a member of the national executive committee of FUNTRAENERGETICA, and lead the process which condemned US based coal company Drummond for their involvement in the assassination and displacement of thousands of Colombians. Having already escaped eight attempts on his life, Canadian solidarity organizations are asking the government of Colombia to protect his life and to identify those responsible for the attacks and threats against him.
María Ubilerma Sanabria, is one of the “Mothers of Soacha”. The children of these mothers were murdered by members of the Colombian National Army and presented as guerrillas killed in combat. Today, they denounce the death of 19 young residents in the municipality of Soacha and Bogotá, whose bodies appeared in a common grave in the north-east of the country, in the department of Norte de Santander, more than 700 kilometers from Soacha. Since 2008, the Mothers of Soacha, denounce the murders and the impunity of the crimes committed against their children, today sadly known as “False positives”.
Kathy Price is a campaigner responsible for Amnesty Canada’s work on Mexico, Colombia and Honduras. She works closely with human rights defenders in those countries and believes passionately in the importance of visible action from Canada in support of their inspiring efforts.
Dear friends, I wish I was here to celebrate with you tonight but sadly, I am not able because of a death in my family. However, I am with you in spirit and solidarity. I send warm greetings and heartfelt congratulations on this important anniversary, on behalf of your friends at Amnesty International Canada.
The commitment, creativity, profound solidarity, and tireless work of the members of the Colombia Action Solidarity Alliance over these past 15 years is deeply inspiring. You have opened many eyes in Canada with your events, vigils and rallies and mobilized many people to take action with you. Your activism and your voices are so, so important.
At Amnesty International Canada, we share the same goal of working to support courageous grassroots organizations in Colombia and their efforts to achieve rights, justice and dignity. It has been a great privilege on countless occasions to collaborate and join our energies to make visible terrible human rights violations and press for action to bring them to justice, with the hope of ensuring they never happen again.
Sadly, despite the signing of a peace agreement, our collective energies are still urgently needed as armed conflict and paramilitary repression continue in Colombia. Those who courageously defend human rights and social justice in Colombia are under relentless attack, with a wave of assassinations of social leaders. Indigenous peoples and Afro-descendant communities are facing new forced displacement from land desired for its economic potential.
They do not give up and neither do we. There is no doubt that the work of the Colombia Action Solidarity Alliance is needed now more than ever, not only to focus on the responsibilities of Colombian authorities. But also to focus on the obligations and responsibilities of Canada and Canadian corporations.
Congratulations CASA for your history of struggle! Animo for the struggles yet ahead! We look forward to collaborating again and strengthening our solidarity.
Abrazos y saludos,
Kathy Price, Colombia Campaigner, Amnesty International Canada
Bill Fairbairn became deeply involved with solidarity work – in particular around Latin America – after spending time with Argentinean and Chilean refugees fleeing the military regimes in their countries in the late 1970’s and studying in Guatemala in the early 1980s during the Lucas Garcia dictatorship. Since then, his work has largely focused on the defense of human rights in Latin America and the promotion of Canadian solidarity. He has worked with the Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America (ICCHRLA), KAIROS, York University’s Centre for Research on Latin America and the Caribbean (CERLAC) and Horizons of Friendship. Bill joined the staff at Inter Pares in 2011 and is part of the Latin America team with main responsibilities for Inter Pares’ work in Peru and Colombia.
Dear compañeras and compañeros, I am sending warm greetings to you from Colombia where I have been for the past two weeks, visiting a number of Inter Pares’ partners throughout the country. As always, it has been a very moving time: hearing stories of profound courage from activists coming from many different social movements – women, Indigenous, Afro-Colombian, campesino and LGBTQ2, among others – who continue to persevere in the midst of an ongoing human rights crisis.
The important work that the Colombia Action Solidarity Alliance has undertaken over the past fifteen years has helped forge and deepen strong bonds of friendship and solidarity between Canadians and Colombians from many of these same social movements. Together with my colleagues at Inter Pares and so many others, I congratulate you for your dedication and steadfast commitment in helping to raise awareness and mobilize Canadians to take action in support of our Colombian sisters and brothers.
I have had the great pleasure of working with many of you over the years – in fact, the Canadian Colombian community in Toronto (at that point, grouped under the Canadian Colombian Association) played a huge role in helping the organization I worked for at that time, the Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America, understand the urgent need to engage with Colombia. This led to my first trip to the country in 1989 and to both institutional as well as personal engagements that continue to this day. On a personal note, I can say without a doubt that I have rarely encountered such courage and resilience as well as warmth and generosity of heart as during my encounters with the peoples of Colombia.
There have been many advances over the years, but as everyone is telling me on this trip, the situation in Colombia remains critical and international solidarity is needed now more than ever. These past weeks I have heard account after account of an increase in attacks against the country’s social movements and leaders, growing militarization, and a new government that seems bent on reversing the progress made in the peace accords reached with the FARC.
As CASA and its allies gather together to mark this important anniversary, I send my best wishes to you and assure you of Inter Pares and my own personal commitment to continue working with you and others to accompany the peoples of Colombia. This includes both maintaining pressure on the Colombian government and taking a hard look at the way Canadian corporations and Canadian government policies are contributing to the violence and insecurity that our Colombian sisters and brothers are experiencing on a daily basis.
Bill Fairbairn, Inter Pares
Jorge Garcia-Orgales (Researcher, United Steelworkers) at the Industry, Science and Technology Committee, came to Canada from Argentina as a refugee in the early 1980s. Soon, he became actively involved in program development and training for union members, the unemployed and immigrant workers. His training experience encompassed language training, life skills support and new workplace technology awareness. His clients include the Communications, Energy and Paper Workers; Metro Labour Education; the Canadian Auto Workers Union; and the Doris Marshall Institute for Education and Action.
Luis Alberto Mata is a convention refugee writer, researcher and human rights activist from Colombia. He has lived in and contributed to Canadian society since his arrival in 2002 and was recognized as a Convention Refugee in 2003. Luis Alberto fled Colombia when his life and that of his wife and their young son were under threat. He was at risk due to his work as a social justice advocate, journalist and author as he exposed some of the worst human rights violations in Colombia. Luis Alberto has become a pillar of our community advocating for dispossessed people and helping immigrants and refugees to settle in Canada.
Querid@s amig@s, La organización CASA desde su origen ha estado presente en mi vida canadiense, diría desde la primavera del 2003, luego de que conociera a Darío en una actividad y me invitara a reunirme. Días más tarde conocí a Ilian, y no mucho después a Martha, y también a Sandra, que también recien llegaba como refugiada al Canadá (si mal no estoy, en una actividad organizada por UFCW, que nos apoyaba por aquellos días), y también, coincidimos en una actividad de Amnistía Internacional.
No muy tarde, desde 2003 he estado vinculado con este grupo de compañer@s. He disfrutado todas las etapas, y participado en casi todas nuestras actividades de solidaridad, no solo con las organizaciones sociales de base defensoras de la paz y los derechos humanos en Colombia, también y a menudo apoyando actividades pro derechos humanos internacionalistas, principalmente con luchas por justicia social en América Latina. He participado haciendo lobbying o en giras y reuniones más allá de Ontario.
Ha sido una relación feliz, porque también recibí el apoyo de varios miembros de CASA durante mi dificil y prolongado proceso de refugio y residencia junto a mi familia en Canadá. En días de soledad durante esos largos 12 años de limbo migratorio, tuve en mis compas de CASA la voz de aliento que necesitaba.
Hemos también impulsado, por fuera de CASA, pero con miembros de la organización, iniciativas políticas como la del Polo Democrático, especialmente en sus orígenes como proceso de unidad. No puedo ni podré olvidar la incansable y feliz actividad a favor del Sí en el referendo para aprobar los acuerdos de paz firmados en La Habana, que para nosotros, pese a todas las tendencias y el triste resultado final, significó una gran victoria para nosotros en Toronto. Dimos una muestra formidable de trabajo amplio y colectivo, y sobre todo demostramos cuanto amamos y deseamos la paz con justicia social y ddhh.
Escribo todo esto para decirles a tod@s con profundo aprecio, que llevo a CASA, incluyendo las necesarias tensiones y polémicas internas, y su valioso trabajo de solidaridad en mi corazón. CASA es un ejemplo sencillo de trabajo voluntario e internacionalista con los más necesitados en Colombia,esopecialmente l@s necesitad@s de paz y justicia social.
Gracias a todos y todas por ser parte de este noble esfuerzo colectivo. Gratitud especial con Darío, Martha e Ilian por contribuir a mantener viva la idea, especialmente en épocas duras y de confrontación política e ideológica. Gratitud por haberme invitado a ser parte de este proceso desde sus comienzos, y por continuar aceptándome.
Un inmenso abrazo para todas y todos nuestros amigos, con un grito: Hasta la Victoria!
Fraternalmente LuisAlberto Mata.
Professor Rebbeca Bartel is a scholar of Religion in the Americas, she has received her B.A. from the Canadian Mennonite University (Theology and Music), her M.A. from the Colombian university, Los Andes (Political Science) and her PhD from the University of Toronto (Religion). Her last research considers the political economy of Colombia’s armed conflict, the Christian morality that supports political processes of forgiveness, as well as the effects of Canadian mining on human rights discourse in Colombia.
Javier Augusto Núñez is a passionate and experienced filmmaker with more than 10 years of experience in audiovisual, multimedia, and film production with an international track record in Canada, Colombia and United States. He has participated as a Producer in the 2012 Short Film Corner of Cannes Film Festival with two short films and was selected in the 2011 Havana Film Festival as a producer in the industry section “Nuevas Miradas 5” with an animated feature film project. Four short films directed and produced by Javier were selected for the Canadian Film Centre to be screened at the Short Non Stop Online Film Festival in October 2011.
Kyla Sankey is a London-based activist and political commentator. She is a PhD candidate in the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary, University of London.
Sandra Cordero, CASA member and a Personal Support Worker (PSW) at ParaMed Home Health Care Toronto is passionate about humanity and social justice and at 18 years old became the youngest leader in her healthcare union while working as a medical assistant
-Felicitaciones por Nuestros Quince CASA- Buenos dias companeras y companeros: Deseo expresar mi alegria por este cumpleanos tan lindo que tuvimos. Se siente el gran corazon de todos. El esfuerzo de todos. La intergeneracionalidad, el ver los ninos, mi nieta hermosa, el aporte artistico de New Tradition, los companeros adultos y nuestras companeras hermosas todo este grandioso valor humano son la motivacion para seguir con el proceso de sensibilidad humana, en el proceso de seguir sonando con un mundo mejor.
Ayer al verlos mi segunda familia CASA, participe con mucho amor, alegria, baile hasta sudar, rei y renove mis energias, nuevamente me senti apoyada por su solidaridad infinita en momentos dificiles con sus abrazos en demostracion de empatia con Deybi. La abuela me enseno siempre hay que reir en momentos dificiles aunque por dentro estemos llorando….
Companeras y companeros les envio un abrazo y nuevamente felicitaciones por su sensibilidad humana porque hemos formado una familia inclusiva e intergeneracional.
Luis van Isschot is a historian of modern Latin America, specializing in the study of social movements, popular radicalism, political violence and human rights. His first book “The Social Origins of Human Rights: Protesting Political Violence in Colombia’s Oil Capital, 1919-2010”, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2015 as part of their Critical Human Rights series. It is being published in Spanish by Editorial Universidad del Rosario. His newest research project concerns Latin American participation in global anti-colonial movements in the 1960s and 1970s. He is also working on a history of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Hey Beautiful people! Thanks to everyone who came out Saturday night. We were very happy with the great turnout, support and positive vibe throughout the evening.
Thanks to Luis Rojas and Casa Maiz for graciously hosting us in the heart of Toronto’s Latin American community.
Big up to Ruben “Benny” Esguerra and New Tradition on the release of their new music video and for always giving back to the different communities that they draw their inspiration from.
Lady Son and New Tradition brought the house down with their rendition of Fruko’s Colombian salsa anthem “El Preso” (Prisoner):
Listen, I speak to you from prison
From the world in which I’m living
There are always four corners
But between corner and corner
There will always be the same
For me, there’s no sky
Neither moon nor stars
For me, the sun doesn’t shine
For me everything is darkness
La Rumba Buena DJs brought it home keeping it real, always drawing from the musical source that keeps the salsa river flowing.