Canadian imperialism grows rampant in Latin America & Colombia
Written by: Luis Alberto Matta
What is the international agenda from Canada in Latin America, and particularly for Colombia? Is Canada just following and compliant with US foreign policy in regards of Latin America? These two, apparently innocent questions, have been floating through my thoughts for some time now. The questions started back from seeing the ultra-conservative Harper government’s policies in Latin America, but continue now seeing the Liberal government’s actions headed by Justin Trudeau.
Only five years ago a thunderous silence from Canada followed the antidemocratic impeachment against Dilma Roussef in Brazil. Nothing has been said that may disturb the abusive “kingdom” of human rights violations run by Sebastian Piñera in Chile. Even worse, Canada has blindly supported the Organization of American States that played a role in the destruction of Bolivia’s democracy, during the former illegal government of Jeannine Ánez, one of the leaders of the coup against Evo Morales. Despite one year of political repression and racism in Bolivia, sadly Canada said nothing.
Instead, Canada has been the unfortunate leader of the Lima Group, a cluster composed by highly questioned presidents such as Piñera, Lenin Moreno from Ecuador, Jair Bolsonaro from Brazil, and Ivan Duque from Colombia, under the coordination of the US “bishop” Luis Almagro, secretary of the OAS, which main goal is to overthrow the legitimate government of Venezuela. The previous Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chrystia Freeland, without any shame or blushing was the host of a meeting in Ottawa, whose central objective, at least for some members of the group such as the government of Colombia, was to overthrow the government of Venezuela.
Meanwhile Colombia is bathed in innocent blood. Hundreds of social leaders, teachers, and human rights defenders have been killed in Colombia after the peace agreement between the FARC guerrillas and the previous Colombian government. The leaders of the party supporting the current government publicly and openly promised, as a part of their political campaign towards the presidency they finally won, that they were going to destroy the peace process: “we are going to tear the peace agreement apart”. 230 disarmed FARC members, peace signatories, have been killed since the moment that the peace agreement came into force.
Did Canada voice any concern about the tremendous political violence in in Colombia? You can guess, but the answer is no. Apparently Canada is very busy and focused on Venezuela and Nicaragua, and not by mere chance, in coincidence with USA.
Canada is losing a great opportunity in Latin America. With the lack of prestige of the United States in what they consider “its backyard”, Canada rather than being a leader of democracy, peace and human rights, has become the backup of the US government in its regressive and imperialistic international policies.
In contrast with this unwanted reality, this upcoming November 19th, the CLAA (Canadian Latin America Alliance) and CASA (Colombian Action Solidarity Alliance), are organizing an international online forum that includes the Canadian Member of the Parliament Leah Gazan, the Colombian social leader Charo Mina Rojas, and the Colombian Senator Ivan Cepeda to discuss about the Canada’s role in Colombia’s humanitarian tragedy. I am delighted to invite the readers to connect and register to participate in this forum through claa.ca and to keep an eye in what is Canada doing in Latin America.
Luis Matta is a Colombian writer and human rights activist in exile.
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Firma una petición al primer ministro Trudeau para que El exija la plena implementación del Acuerdo de Paz del 2016 y condene las masacres, los asesinatos selectivos y la brutalidad policial en Colombia. En total 1.024 personas defensoras de derechos humanos, líderes sociales y comunitarios, personas defensoras del medio ambiente, firmantes de la paz desmovilizados, comunidades indígenas y afrocolombianas y líderes/as LGBTQ2S+, han sido víctimas de asesinatos selectivos.
La peticion se encuentra en tres idiomas inglés, español y francés: Demand an end to the massacres, targeted assassinations and police brutality in Colombia
Toronto, August 7, 2018
Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Prime Minister of Canada
Hon. Chrystia Freeland,
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Freeland:
We the undersigned, are asking the Canadian government to act and pressure the newly elected Colombian government of President Iván Duque, to protect the lives of social and community leaders who are experiencing an escalation of violence and systemic murder. We also ask the Canadian government to take clear steps to ensure the democratic right to protest.
Since the signing of the final peace agreement between the outgoing government of Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC in November 24, 2016, targeted threats and assassinations of social and community leaders have intensified. According to homicides registered by the Defensoria del Pueblo (Ombudsman), between January 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018 more than 300 community leaders, including peasant, Indigenous, trade union, student, Afro-Colombian, neighbourhood leaders and political opposition activists, have been murdered. In addition, 84 former FARC guerillas and their families, who demobilised, have been murdered.
During the campaign leading up to the May 27, 2018 presidential election, we also witnessed an increase in threats and selective murders targeting activists associated with left and centre-left political parties, including the Colombia Humana movement.
The election of the Duque government imperils the prospect of sustainable peace in Colombia. Duque and his right-wing Centro Democratico (CD) party opposed the peace agreement and has consistently hindered its implementation. For example, the CD attacked the Special Jurisdiction for Peace or JEP. The JEP is the transitional justice system enshrined in the peace agreement. It is intended to investigate and prosecute all actors (state, FARC and civilian) who committed or were complicit in crimes related to the armed conflict. The CD’s opposition to the JEP in the Congress resulted in limiting its investigative scope and excluding the participation of so-called “third-parties”. Effectively, this means that non-state actors, including politicians or businesspeople who supported or financed human rights violations or war crimes are not obligated to testify before the JEP.
Furthermore, the CD temporarily excluded the participation of members of the police and military in the JEP stating that they should have their own transitional justice tribunal separate from the FARC. These measures omit crucial information for the public understanding of the historical record of more than 50 years of internal armed conflict. Worse, it guarantees impunity, for crimes committed by state officials, army, policy and powerful economic elites.
Duque also campaigned on a promise to merge the country’s different courts into one super-court influenced by the Executive branch of government. This decision means the investigation by the Supreme Court against former president Alvaro Uribe Velez may be eliminated, resulting in the exoneration for any crimes that he may have committed.
In addition, the CD opposed the approval of an important law in Congress, the Circunscripciones Especiales para la Paz. This law would have granted victims of the armed conflict and the regions which they inhabit representation in the Colombian Parliament through the creation of designated seats.
President Duque plans to reform the Land Restitution Law, which according to experts would prevent lands violently snatched from tens of thousands of displaced rural communities to be returned to them.
A failure to implement these aspects of the peace agreement could mean a return to war. Endless cycles of armed conflict are detrimental not only to the stability and well-being of the Colombians, but of the hemisphere. Such a failure is a betrayal of the aspirations for peace of Colombians, especially for the victims, who endured decades of armed conflict. It is also a serious breach of the international commitments made by the Colombian State with the signing of the peace agreement.
As Canadian citizens and residents, we urge our Government to assume a firm stance with the Colombian State and its new Government. First, we ask the Canadian government to demand an immediate end to the killings of social and community movement leaders. Second, we ask the Canadian Government to demand that the Colombian government respect and implement all aspects of the peace agreement. Canada must also ensure that development aid funds for community projects that implement various aspects of the peace agreement are monitored for appropriate use.
Behind every murdered leader and activist is a family and community suffering a deep loss. Also lost are the aspirations of thousands of people who dream of living in a more just society.
(Original letter has 47 signatures)
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The non-governmental organizations are demanding the release of the Indigenous and Afro Colombian leaders.
TeleSUR. Published 21 April 2018
Non-governmental and social organizations in Colombia denounced Friday the arrest of 30 human rights advocates and social leaders in the southeast provinces of Valle del Cauca, Cauca, and Nariño over their alleged links to the National Liberation Army (ELN).
The five groups, which work in the region, published a joint statement announcing the arrest of “several leaders of the Indigenous and Afro-Descendants communities” and calling for their release.
The Association for Social Research and Action, the Intercultural University of the Peoples, the Process of Black Communities, the Victims’ Movement and the Peoples’ Congress said in the statement “we have not been able to determine where some of the detained people have been taken to, and there is no official statement by the competent authorities.”
Sara Quiñonez and Tulia Valencia, mother, and daughter are among those detained. According to local newspaper El Espectador, they are part of the community council of Alto Mira and Frontera and have been victims of forced displacement twice.
Quiñonez, who is well known for fighting for the individual and collective rights of the Afro-Colombian community, was first forced to move in 2015 after receiving threats for her work as president of the community’s council. Two years later, in 2017 she had to move again after another series of threats.
The NGOs have called on the national and international community to “accompany this request and urgently demand guarantees for life and the defense of human rights” for those who have been arrested.
According to the joint statement, many of the people detained participated in the peace talks between the ELN and the Colombian government in Quito. “They have been accused rebellion and linked to the armed group.”
In February around 40 social organizations met with the ELN in Quito to ask the insurgent group to resume peace talks with the Colombian government, which were threatened after an ELN attack against Colombia state security forces prompted president Juan Manuel Santos to withdraw from the negotiations.
In March, the government and the ELN decided to resume peace talks, however, on Wednesday Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno announced Quito will no longer be a guarantor of peace talks and will not host the fifth cycle.