From the Asociacion Campesina del Putumayo
(Translated by Peter Lenny, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's Volunteer Editor.)
Successful Launch Of The Campaign In Solidarity With
Friday 7 May 2010, by
At the village of Caño Tomás, in the Fronteras district of the municipality of Teorama (Norte de Santander), the Catatumbo Small Farmers' Association (Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo, Ascamcat) summoned the communities of the municipalities of Teorama, Convención, San Calixto, Hacarí, El Tarra, Tibú and El Carmen to join in the grand launch of the campaign "Freedom for Catatumbo, no more rigged trials!" and to commemorate the first year of the Humanitarian Refugee Camp set up in response to the situation in the Catatumbo region, where the local farming population has been directly affected.
This highly successful launch drew the participation of more than 60 community action councils, and the 700 country people (men, women and children) who, with great effort and sacrifice, were able to travel to the Humanitarian Refugee Camp from the seven municipalities. The event also drew the support and solidarity of 27 organizations from Bogota, Barrancabermeja, Tolima, Bucaramanga, Pamplona and Cucuta, which joined the struggles of Catatumbo and its small farmers. Five community councils from the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela also sent observers in solidarity. The San Calixto municipal council and cultural center were also present.
Extensive media coverage was given by Caracol Radio, Periódico La Opinión, Asiescucuta.com, Radioperiódico La Razón, Dilo Comunicaciones, Agencia Prensa Rural and Radio Guaimaral, which followed the agenda and what the farmers had to say on 29 April with keen attention.
The day's proceedings started with a general report on the Humanitarian Refugee Camp: how it is set up, the four thematic areas it addresses (humanitarian crisis and human rights, land and territory, natural resources, and crops for illicit use) for negotiations with the departmental and local governments, the level of government compliance and non-compliance, and the organizations that monitor the process. The meeting expressed its peaceful resistance by sounding the rallying cry "For life, for dignity, for land tenure and for the right to remain on the land" in unison, recalling 29 April 2009, when 400 families were left without livelihoods as a result of the forced crop eradication carried out with no agreement with the small farmers and the systematic human rights violations we have had to bear day after day in our region. That is why today our Catatumbo exists, persists and resists.
In the afternoon hours, the solidarity campaign "Freedom for Catatumbo! No more rigged trials!" was launched. A report was read on the situation of persecution against the Catatumbo Small Farmers' Association and country people in general, the irregularities committed in the civil registration procedures constantly repeated by the Armed Forces who are a presence in the region, and which have led to staged trials based on false testimony from purported deserters.
The intention of the campaign "Freedom for Catatumbo" is to:
Offer support, solidarity and political assistance to the small farmers' communities of Catatumbo.
Work to ensure respect, dignity and recognition for the legitimate, legal work that his being done to advocate, promote and protect the human rights of the Catatumba Small Farmers' Association.
Build awareness and give visibility in the national and international community to the valuable, valiant work being done by men and women to defend human rights in Catatumbo, and the aggressions and persecutions they have had to bear because of that work.
Guarantee, technically and materially, that the men and women who have been tried unjustly are defended, so that they regain their freedom promptly and that their right to a decent life, good name, honor and personal safety are respected.
To gather and provide evidence of the abuses and arbitrary actions committed by the security and intelligence agencies and the justice system in these processes of political and judicial persecution.
To promote national and international solidarity with the work of the Catatumbo Small Farmers' Association, and rejection of the practices of the Colombian State in its persecution and aggression against those working to defend human rights and its efforts to stigmatize and discredit them.
As the campaign says explicitly and as, from here on, we country people will continue to declare out loud and very firmly – because we are farmers, not terrorists; because we are defenders of human rights, not terrorists – "Freedom for Catatumbo! No more rigged trials!"
The signed declaration of the same name stands as testimony and will be taken to all corners of Catatumbo until our companions gain their freedom and are shown to be innocent, and recognition is won for their work as small farmers and defenders of human rights. Those companions, José del Carmen Abril Abril and Johnny Feldred Abril Salcedo, members of the Catatumbo Small Farmers' Association, are remembered and admired for their unstinting work to defend our lives and our continuing on the land in this territory.
In the evening a cultural event was held with the participation of the San Calixto municipal cultural center. It included the traditional dance, La Machetilla, the coffee dance and string music, and was joined by the Wayuú indigenous people from the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, who performed one of their traditional dances. With new heart the local people sang and recited couplets and poems about Catatumbo.
Today we demand freedom, freedom, freedom, for our Catatumbo! No more rigged trials!
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