Letter to President Barack Obama on breaches of the Plan of Action for the Colombian government

Please receive a warm greeting from our communities who hold the memory of thousands of murdered, disappeared, persecuted and displaced people. We believe that the memory of those who passed form part of our history and that remembering them is required for Colombia to become a country that supports rights and freedoms, equality and participation, as well as ethical policies…

Cartagena, Colombia, April 12, 2012

Barack Obama

President of the United States

Please receive a warm greeting from our communities who hold the memory of thousands of murdered, disappeared, persecuted and displaced people. We believe that the memory of those who passed form part of our history and that remembering them is required for Colombia to become a country that supports rights and freedoms, equality and participation, as well as ethical policies.

Given your visit to Colombia, we share our concern and objection to the eventual recognition of compliance with the Colombian government’s Plan of Action signed with your government. We understand that in the middle of the Sixth Summit of the Americas or in a bilateral meeting that it will be manifested that this is complete.

As we expressed over more than one year ago in a public letter which was echoed by several African American Members of Congress, the Action Plan has excluded many sectors of society including Afro-Colombians, indigenous and rural people. According to
the Santos’ government’s own figures, we form part of the nearly 20 million poor and impoverished persons. As such, this made Colombia at the time those figures came out the fourth most unequal country in the world. Since then we’ve become the third.

Our ability to remain in our territories and our country’s biological richness is at risk. We reside in the strategic territorial areas where the Free Trade Agreements, including the one with your country are planning to implement infrastructure projects, extractive
hydrocarbons operations and mining projects. Our areas are rich with hydrocarbons, biodiversity of pharmaceutical interest, water, forests, flora and fauna.

We currently live in our territories without any guarantee of health care or social security. Public policies designated for our areas do not adequately address our fundamental rights.

There is no pretense of adequate laws and budgets for our communities. As such, it means that our ability to remain in our territories is not recognized.

While the government has recognized our existence with the victims and land restitution law, serious structural problems with this law’s implementation exist.

In more than 400 municipalities in Colombia, paramilitary operations persist. We are victims of their actions, which by default or commission by omission has included participation of institutions including the military and police. In January we were victims of an armed strike that paralyzed urban and rural centers in seven departments of
Colombia including the area surrounding Cartagena, where you are, Mr. President.

Recently a brother of ours named Manuel Ruíz Ruíz Samir and his child were disappeared and killed by paramilitaries in Chocó. This took place in the middle of an area controlled by the police and military. Already more than 49 land claimants have been killed, including Manuel and Samir. A few days ago, the Colombian government expressed its satisfaction with progress in the investigation and punishment for the
murder of Rogelio Martinez that took place in 2010. Rogelio spent much time with us working on proposals to reclaim our territories. The government expressed its satisfaction with the identification of a hit man who was responsible. However, the criminal structure
behind this killing was not addressed. There are no investigations into the identity of the intellectual authors behind this crime nor the businesses and political structures in the region of Sucre that benefit from this form of violent land usurpation. A similar situation
occurred with another land claimant, Oscar Maussa, and this crime continues unpunished. More than 200 attacks have occurred against rights defenders in the last year and 30 trade unionists have been murdered.

During the time the Labor Action Plan has been in place human rights violations have continued. Senior Santos administration officials have disqualified our organizations and questioned us as victims. They do this because we demand action on abuses. Something we do in accordance with international law. Relatives of victims of forced disappearance in the Palace of Justice case were ignored by President Santos. He did, however, apologize to the military who was responsible for crimes against humanity and not to the victims.

Business operations in many of our territories do not engage in prior consultations with the communities affected. This practice affects our rights and destroys our environment and is promoting a growing environmental crisis. In our regions militarization persists.
They police claim that they occupy our areas and provide territorial control in order to protect us. However, rather than doing so it generates more insecurity, anxiety and terror in the local population. Our communities continue to territories faced the effects of the
ongoing armed conflict and there are also guerrilla operations by the FARC and ELN.

President Obama, what we present to you is the truth. We, rural inhabitants are facing serious violation of human rights and breaches of humanitarian law. Crimes against humanity and irreparable environmental damage continue to take place while Colombia
is saying that the country is safe for international investment. Under these conditions, we have to say that the notion that the Labor Action Plan has been fulfilled is a lie. If this Plan is intended to mitigate the effects of the FTA then ratifying its been completed at this point will result in a serious human rights deficit.

We insist on arguing that trade agreements must be fair, preserve human life and the lives of millions of species. Development, investment, profits and businesses cannot be built on the basis of impunity or ignorance of those who inhabit territories.

Stating that the Labor Action Plan has been implemented would go against the goal of strengthening cooperation between our countries and upholding democracy and rule of law. To approve the Plan without certain and verifiable compliance by the Colombian government will deepen inequality, human rights violations, cause irreparable
environmental damage, the extinction of indigenous communities, forced displacement and uphold unjust labor conditions. Making such a decision would promote a new destabilization factor and increase the global food and environmental crisis.

So we invite you, Mr. President Obama, and in memory of the hope that you woke up to the peoples of the world, to abstain from declaring in that the Action Plan has been favorable and fully been implemented.

We believe that today commercial interests and business cooperation among our countries must be done in a way that deepens democracy. It must be done uphold fairness, respect for human life and living species, water and forests, and include the possibility of a dialogue for peace.

Today, President Obama, it is required that the historical relationship between our countries must be built with concrete indicators. This cooperation must include effective confrontation of the links that exist between our military, police and paramilitaries. A serious and rigorous evaluation of the continued phenomena of paramilitaries despite the
peace process that was led by the Alvaro Uribe Velez government is required. Impunity must be combated by demanding efficient and accurate results. We also believe that as victims we should have access to the paramilitary commanders extradited in United States so that we can clarify what happened in the past. Also so that those who helped
them can be prosecuted in Colombia including those tied to the paramilitaries who come from State institutions and corporations.

As the Movement of Victims of State Crimes has noted constitutional amendments and laws that aim to deny our historical truth and guarantee impunity by the military must be removed. It is important that environmental protection mechanisms are placed on
agribusinesses in particular the proper management of production surpluses, and the development of emergency mechanisms, where possible, so that structural damage generate by extractive industries of any kind are properly addressed.

The cooperation amongst our countries must also promote political dialogue to settle the bloody war that has bled the country for the last 50 years. Peace initiatives promoted by several peace platforms including Colombians for Peace are encouraging dialogue
between the warring parties. The government and guerrillas of the FARC and ELN have expressed a willingness to sit down and talk.

Mr. Obama, some of the U.S. Members of the Democratic Caucus who belong to your party know the other Colombia very well. This is the same Colombia that does not have a voice when signing these treaties. Please listen to us and pay attention to our request to
avoid irreparable damage to our lives.


Communities that Belong to the Network of Impunity and Globalization Markets of Colombia

Asociación de Zonas Humanitarias y de Biodiversidad de la cuenca del Jiguamiandó y Curvaradó: Chocó

Familias de los consejos comunitarios de Cacarica, Asociadas en Comunidades de Autodeterminanción, Vida y Dignidad-CAVIDA-Chocó

Resguardo Indígena de Urada Jiguamiandó-Espacio Humanitario Ambiental – So Bia Drua, Pueblo Embera Katio

Comunidad de Vida y trabajo “la Balsita” Dabeiba-Chocó

Comunidad civil de Vida Y Paz CIVIPAZ. Zonas Humanitarias y Zonas de Biodiversidad- Meta

Asociación agroecológica Esther Cayapú. ASUAESCA. Trujillo-Valle

Asociación Agroecológica Koinonia-ASOKOINONIA. Trujillo-Valle

Asociación Agroecológica de familiares de víctimas de Trujillo-ASAVIP. Trujillo-Valle

Resguardo indígena Santa Rosa Guayacán Pueblo Nonaam. Calima-Valle

Comité veredal comunidad el crucero Km 9. Bajo Calima-Valle

Comunidad Ceibito, Fundación Calima FUNDECALIMA

Comunidad Guadual-Bajo Calima

Consejo comunitario de la comunidad negra del rio Naya. Valle

Asociacion campesina Bienandantes-Sucre-Cauca

Asociacion campesina Huerto Renacer-Tequendama-Sucre-Cauca

Familias desplazadas de Argelia-Cauca

Asociacion de familiares de victimas de San Antonio-inzá “sembradores de paz”- Cauca

Escuela taller de Derechos Humanos ullucos-Toribío-Cauca

Zona de Reserva Campesina Bajo Cuembí-Comandante-Putumayo

Asociación de Desarrollo Integral Sostenible Perla Amazónica (ADISPA)-Putumayo

Asociación Consejo Regional del Pueblo Nasa del Putumayo KWE’SX KSXA’W-Putumayo

Zona de Biodiversidad “El Triunfo” vereda Ancurá-Putumayo

Zona de Biodiversidad “La Gurrera” vereda Ancurá-Putumayo

Zona de Biodiversidad “Buenavista” vereda Nariño Nariño-Putumayo

Zona de Biodiversidad “La Cimarrona” Vereda Bajo Cuembí-Putumayo

Asociación de Productores y Procesadores “Semillas de Paz” (ASPROSEPAZ) vereda Bajo Cuembí-Putumayo

Asociación de Productores y Procesadores “Camino al Futuro” (SAPROCAF) vereda Puerto Tuayá-Putumayo

Asociación “Sueños de Esperanza” vereda Puerto Playa-Putumayo

Asociación de campesina vereda Guadalupe-Putumayo

Asociación de Desarrollo Sostenible San Salvador (ASCADES)-Putumayo
Consejo Comunitario La Boquilla