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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Organize a vigil for the Colombian Victims March 6 / Howard Zinn invites people to join!

Dear Friends :

We at CSN invite you to  organize a vigil in your home community in remembrance of the hundreds of thousands of Colombians who have been murdered or forced from their homes by illegal paramilitaries, often in collaboration with the Colombian Army or Police. The Movement of Victims of State Crimes  (MOVICE) and a coalition of social and human rights organizations in Colombia are organizing a march to be held on March 6, 2008 in Bogota and other Colombian cities and they seek solidarity of individuals and human rights groups in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. As the message enclosed with the poster ( http://colombiasupport.net/2008/Vigil-Poster.pdf or http://colombiasupport.net/2008/vigil-poster.html) explains, the purpose of the march and vigils is to focus attention on the victims of paramilitary and state-sponsored violence, whose situation has been largely overlooked by those who have focused attention on the crimes of the FARC guerrillas.

The enclosed poster does not show a time or place for the March 6 vigils. If you wish to organize one, please contact the CSN office. We will supply you with a poster indicating the time and place you tell us for the vigil in your community. Leave us a phone message if we are not at the office. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and solidarity. CSN

Last February 4 there were marches throughout Colombia organized in opposition to the FARC guerrillas and their murders and kidnapping. Millions of people participated in Colombia and all over the world.  The planners of the March 6 marches and remembrances are also totally opposed to the FARC kidnappings and murders. What they are trying to accomplish, and what we at CSN wish to help them promote, is to harness the public expression against violence and apply it to the crimes of paramilitaries and of agents of the Colombian state.


As Ivan Cepeda, son of a Patriotic Union Senator who was murdered by the paramilitaries in 1994 who is now the director of the Movement of the Victims of State Crimes has said, paraphrasing: " It is important to take advantage of the moment of sensibility which the February 4 march against the FARC brought about to generate awareness of the situation of the victims of the paramilitaries and agents of the State. We seek to give homage to the displaced, the disappeared, and the families of those assassinated and massacred through multiple symbolic acts in Bogota, other Colombian cities and abroad.  We want a moment not only of remembrance, but also solidarity. This is not to counter the anti- FARC march but rather to call the public's attention to  the situation of the victims of paramilitary and State- sponsored violence before the public returns to normality and indifference. There is a social debt to the victims of these paramilitary crimes and State extra- judicial murders. The public has not yet  condemned the crimes of the paramilitaries. We  are not proposing a competition of marches. We as victims of the State and the paramilitaries never have received public recognition. And if a public debate begins about other victims, such as those of the Palace of Justice, who have received no public recognition for the past 23 years, that for us would be an additional benefit. We want citizens to adopt the democratic habit of condemning, without prejudices or ambiguities, all forms of violence. If we arrive at this state of maturity as a society, I believe we will have found the road to peace."

The March 6 events will take place in the following context : the Colombian Supreme Court is investigating the paramilitary ties of members of Congress. 35% of members of the Colombian Congress have paramilitary ties and an estimated 140 persons placed in high positions by President Uribe have participated in or supported paramilitaries.  The March 6th events  seek to provide continued support to the Court which is subject to pressure from the Uribe administration to end its investigations. 

It is very important that Colombian society and the Uribe administration see that the international community is watching and providing solidarity to the call to remembrance on March 6. 

Here are some data which show Colombia's current situation :

There 3, 855,000 displaced persons
31,000 persons have been disappeared since 1990
There are 10,000 presently in 3,000 common graves
1,771 union members have been murdered in the last decade
The paramilitaries assassinate 800 persons per year on average
Since the Uribe administration took office in 2002 and began its so called policy of "democratic security" 955 persons have been executed extra- judicially and 7,500 persons have been arbitrarily detained. 
486 Colombians were assassinated by the state in the year 2007.

Some 6,500,000 hectares ( over 12 million acres) of lands have been stolen by the paramilitaries.
There are 18 indigenous peoples in imminent risk of extinction and 2,460 indigenous have been murdered in the last several years, of whom 900 were leaders or authorities.  Of the total number of homicides in the last 3 decades, 48% occurred during the first administration of Alvaro Uribe- Velez
Thousands of students, teachers, workers, community leaders, human rights defenders, peasants and journalists have been tortured, murdered and disappeared in Colombia by paramilitaries and agents of the Colombian State.
22,582 Colombian nationals sought asylum between 2000 and 2003.
14,000 Children are fighting with illegal groups
In addition, 21,000 children under 1 year of age die each year of preventable causes and 3 children under 5 years of age die each day of malnutrition. Hunger is also a crime of the State.

In spite of this the State Department keeps praising the Colombian Government for improving its human rights record and keeps asking Congress for more military aid for Colombia.

Dear friends :

I am pleased to invite those who receive this message to support the
march and vigils plan for March 6, 2008 in support of the victims of
paramilitary violence and of abuses by the Colombian Army and Police.
Paramilitary violence, often supported by agents of the Colombian
state, has taken thousands of lives and left millions of rural
Colombians displaced in recent years. While a series of public
demonstrations in Colombia and elsewhere on February 4th called
attention to the human rights violations of the FARC guerrillas---
including massacres, selective killings and kidnapping--- the
suffering of the victims of paramilitary violence and of abuses by
the Colombian state security forces have not received the same broad
public attention.

Now , however the Movements of Crimes of the State ( MOVICE) and
other social and human rights organizations in Colombia are planning
to bring the plight of the victims of the paramilitaries and the
Colombian state to public attention in Colombia and abroad through a
series of events in remembrance of them. These events are being
promoted by the Colombia Support Network (CSN), to whose Advisory
Council I belong. Please contact CSN for more details. Sincerely

Howard Zinn

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org



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