Thursday, July 19, 2012

The preferable relationship of forces between military & citizens

Here, Nasa Indians drag a Colombian soldier off their lands in Toribio, Colombia on July 17th. For years, the Nasa people have demanded government troops, right-wing paramilitary forces, & guerilla combatants in FARC stay off their ancestral lands because the over 60-year civil war targets their communities & resources, & has become a pretext for the expropriation of their territory. The war has created one of the largest displaced populations in the world, with Afro-Colombians & indigenous peoples comprising the majority of millions displaced. These communities have sustained human rights violations, including massacres of their leaders, forcible expropriation of their towns & farm lands, political terror & bombardments of their towns by all sides, the establishment of military barracks in their schools, & confiscation of sports fields for use as heliports. They face the spread of coca cultivation & narcotics trafficking in their region, & violent expropriations under the pretext of combating the drug trade. They are simultaneously engaged in a fight for their very existence against the government’s neoliberal plans for mono-crop export agriculture. This explains why the Colombian military & police are trained, backed, & bankrolled by the US to a fuller extent than the armed forces of any country except Egypt, Israel, Afghanistan, & Iraq.

The Nasa, other indigenous communities, & Afro-Colombians are politically active & savvy, collaborate with each other, have led many protests, & presented their defense to the UN & other agencies. In 2004, they organized the largest protest in history (60,000 people) against Colombian military policies & against the then proposed free trade agreement with the US. In 2005, they also organized a referendum on free trade in which 70% of the population participated, with 98% voting against free trade with the US. (The agreement went into effect May 2012.) Also in 2005, 300 representatives from indigenous reserves & Afro-Colombian communities met to strategize a survival plan in the civil war. But in response, the Colombian government attempts to implicate them as FARC auxiliaries & demands collaboration against FARC; those who do not go along become suspect; all forms of social protest have become not just suspect but criminal since FARC is said to direct them in secret. That explains why the Nasa people want them all off their lands & out of their towns. Unfortunately, riot police using tear gas & shotguns retook this site in Toribio, chasing off the Nasa who had expelled the soldiers. We can add our voice to the tough-minded struggle of the Nasa, other indigenous communities, & Afro-Colombians by demanding US out of Colombia; No US aid to Colombia; End the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. (Photo by William Fernando Martinez/AP)

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