Month: May 2019

Attacks on Black Social Movements in Northern Cauca Continue

Cesar Cerón was attacked after leaving a meeting on May 16. He is the Legal Representative of the Afro-Colombian Community Council of Meseta and currently running for mayor of the municipality of Suárez, Cauca.

Over the course of the last ten years, Cerón has vehemently defended the rights of black, indigenous, and campesino communities confronting violence and displacement at the hands of paramilitaries and multinational corporations. Over the course of the last two years, he has faced extreme risks and been forced to leave the territory due to threats against his life.

The attack on Cerón occurred less than two weeks after the ambush on 2018 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Francia Márquez and other social movement leaders from the Process of Black Communities (PCN) and the Association of Afro-Colombian Community Councils of Northern Cauca (ACONC).

Details of the Attack:

Two armed men stopped Mr. Cerón’s motorcycle on the evening of May 16. They tried to shoot him, but their gun jammed. Cerón threw himself down a ravine to save himself and suffered injuries to his arm. The assailants subsequently burned his motorcycle (see photo). Cerón was fortunately able to call Lisifrey Ararat from the Afro-Colombian Community Council of La Toma, who arrived at his location with the National Protection Unit (UNP) and the autonomous Maroon Guard (Guardia Cimarrona).

In 2015, Cerón worked on the mayoral campaign of Benicio Flor Belalcázar, who was murdered under similar circumstances in Suárez only two weeks before the election that year.

Recommendation:

The Colombian government must guarantee effective protection measures for individuals and communities facing attacks and dispossession. These protection measures must be created in consultation with the people affected. That includes bringing the perpetrators of the attacks to justice.

 

 

 

 

Letter Demands Accountability for Attacks on Afro-Colombian Social Movements

Kimberly Breier, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs

Michael G. Kozak, Senior Bureau Official, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor

U.S. State Department
Washington, DC

May 15, 2019

Dear Ms. Breier and Mr. Kozak,

We, the undersigned civil society organizations, activists, academics and others who follow Afro descendant concerns and the human rights situation in Colombia write to ask that you immediately take action to guarantee the safety of the Afro-Colombian victims of the May 4 grenade and gunfire attack that took place in the Department of Cauca’s Santander de Quilichao. Such an attack against Afro-Colombian leaders who are at the forefront of promoting peace, land rights, civil rights and respect for the environment must be publicly condemned.

The 16 persons targeted were members of the Black Communities Process (Proceso de Comunidades Negras, PCN), the Association of Afro-Colombian Community Councils (ACONC), and the Association of Afro-descendant Women of Northern Cauca (ASOM) and the Mobilization of Afro descendant Women for the Care of Life and Ancestral Territories (Mobilizacion de Mujeres Afrodescendientes por el Cuidado de la Vida y los Territorios Ancestrales). Among those present were human rights activists Carlos Rosero, Francia Marquez, Clemencia Carabalí, Victor Hugo Mina, and Sofia Garzon, international accompaniers and two children. Two bodyguards from Colombia’s National Protection Unit (Unidad Nacional de Proteccion UNP) who responded during the assault were injured. All these leaders were instrumental in guaranteeing the inclusion of the Ethnic Chapter in the 2016 peace accord between the Colombian State and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Two members of PCN, most recently Francia Marquez in 2018, have received the Goldman Environmental Prize. In 2011, Clemencia Carabalí and Francia Marquez were featured in PBS’s “The war we are living,” episode of Women, War and Peace. Ms. Marquez was the 2015 National Human Rights Prize in Colombia. While such prizes are granted to individuals, the work done by these leaders is collective and in representation of thousands of Afro-Colombians in northern Cauca.

Sadly, the attack did not stop on May 4. Two days after, on May 6, several leaders who attended the meeting, received a menacing text death threat, alerting them that “what happened on Saturday was only the beginning of the extermination of all”. We, therefore, kindly urge you to do as follows:

  • Strongly condemn this attack in a public statement circulated to the U.S. and Colombia press.
  • Direct the U.S. Embassy to meet with the victims of this attack to determine a collective protections measures and other actions that guarantees their security, prevents further violence against them and justice for this attack.
  • Investigate as to why the perpetrators of this attack were able to pass several security checkpoints to reach the victims without being apprehended and determine whether or not the security forces involved receive financing from the United States. If so, funds to such security forces should be suspended in accordance with the human rights conditions pertaining to U.S. military assistance to Colombia.
  • Urge President Ivan Duque to advance implementation of the 2016 peace accord and in particular to prioritize implementation of the Ethnic Chapter and all mechanisms pertaining to the dismantlement illegal armed groups and providing protection for civil society.
  • Urge the Attorney General of Colombia to not only investigate but present the State Department with results (arrests and sanctions) of both the intellectual and material authors of this attack within three months of receipt of the request.
  • Insist that the Ministry of the Interior provide the State Department with a detailed timeline containing steps on how they will implement the changes to the victims’ individual and communities’ collective measures that were agreed to with the victims’ representatives on May 8.

We thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Signers below:

Organizations:
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
RFK Partners for Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights
Latin America Task Force of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS)
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship
Oxfam America
Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
Institute of the Black World (IBW)
International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights
Global Witness
Global Exchange
Freedom House
Fellowship of Reconciliation Peace Presence
Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA-US)
EarthRights International
Colombia Human Rights Committee
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)
Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
Amazon Watch
Africa World Now Project
Association for Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES USA)
Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN)

Individuals:
Damani Aaquil, Co- Founder, Regional Council of Africans in the Americas (RCAA)
Gerardo Cajamarca Alarcon, Minneapolis, MN
Jaime Amparo Alves, Visiting Professor, Centro de Estudios Afrodiasporicos, Universidad Icesi
Willie L. Baker, Jr, Washington, DC
Eduardo Barada, Washington, DC
Prof. Michael Birenbaum Quintero, Boston University, Massachusetts
Roosbelinda Cárdenas, Assistant Professor, Hampshire College, Massachusetts
Laura Carlsen, CIP Americas Program
Karen Juanita Carrillo, co-founder AfroPresencia.org, New York
Pablo Carvajal, Restorative Circles Facilitator, President. Claro KC, Inc.
Darryl Chappell, Board of Directors, WOLA
Dr. Ron Daniels, President, Institute of the Black World 21st Century
Anthony Dest, PhD, Coordinating Committee of ACSN, Atlanta, Georgia
Jen Deerinwater, Founder & Executive Director, Crushing Colonialism
James Early, Institute for Policy Studies Board Member
Linda Eastwood, Board Chair of Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN)
Arturo Escobar, Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, UNC Chapel Hill
Eunice Escobar, Chicago, Illinois
Dr. Ann Farnsworth-Alvear, Associate Professor of History, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Justin Daniel Figueroa, Law Student, University of Massachusetts, USA
Stephanie Marie Figueroa, Real Estate Agent, New Jersey USA
Jorge Andrés Forero-González, Fulbright Humphrey Fellow 2018-2019
Prof. Jonathan Fox, Accountability Research Center, American University
Richard Garcia, Electrician, USA
Barbara Gerlach, Minister, United Church of Christ
Eleanor Goldfield, activist, Art Killing Apathy
Sandra Granobles, Afro-Colombian, Maryland
Rev. Denise Griebler, Pastor, Michigan Conference United Church of Christ
Sheila Gruner, Algoma University, Canada
Frank Hammer, Board Member, Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Detroit, MI
Kevin Healy, Georgetown University
Dr. Marcus A. Johnson, CUNY Baruch, New York
Joseph Jordan, ACSN, North Carolina
Oliver Kaplan, Professor, University of Denver, Colorado
Evan King and Samantha Wherry, members of the Witness for Peace Solidarity Collective
Daniel Kovalik, Adjunct Professor, International Human Rights, University of Pittsburgh, PA
C. Lawrence, Director, Swords into Plowshares Peace Center & Gallery, Detroit Michigan USA
Norma Lozano-Jackson, PhD, President, World Development Alliance, Professor, USA
Alysia Mann Carey, PhD Candidate in Political Science, University of Chicago, IL
Alexander Main, Director of International Policy, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)
Yvette Modestin, Founder/Director of Encuentro Diáspora Afro, Massachusetts
Andrew Morehouse, Massachusetts
Divalizeth Murillo, Afro-Colombian, US Committee in Solidarity with the Buenaventura Civic Strike
M’bare N’gom, Prof. Morgan University, Baltimore, Maryland
Ofunshi Oba Koso, Minnesota Yoruba Association
Tianna Paschel, UC Berkeley, California
Alison Paul, Washington, DC
Euclides Rengifo Cordoba, UNIAFRO
Carlos Salinas, Washington, DC
Lisa J. Scott, co-founder AfroPresencia.org, New York
Paige Shell-Spurling, Coordinator of the Colombia Section, Portland Central America Solidarity Committee (PCASC), Oregon
Frank Smyth, GJS
Lynn Stephen, Philip H. Knight Chair, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, University of Oregon
Yifat Susskind, Executive Director, MADRE
Monica Rizo, Afro-Colombian, Washington, DC
Prof. Verny Varela, Howard University
Mara Viveros Vigoya, Vice President, Latin America Studies Association (LASA), Escuela de Estudios de Género / Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, Universidad Nacional de Colombia
Danielle Wegman, Omaha, Nebraska
Coletta Youngers, Senior Fellow, WOLA
Crystal Yuille, Howard University

Angela Davis Denounces Attacks on Afro-Colombian Social Movements

Statement on Attack of Afro-Colombian Leaders

 

Black social movements are being systematically targeted in Colombia in the aftermath of the 2016 Peace Accords. I have been informed that on May 4, four gunmen stormed into a building in Santander de Quilichao, in the Northern Cauca region of Colombia, opened fire, and tossed a grenade into a crowd of Afro-Colombian activists and two children. The gathering included leaders from several grassroots Afro-Colombian organizations, and they planned to discuss an upcoming meeting with the Colombian government. The attack occurred in a region of Colombia that I had the opportunity to visit in 2010. Among those targeted yesterday was activist Francia Marquez, winner of the 2018 Goldman Prize, and someone with whom I have worked in solidarity for nearly a decade. Brazen acts of targeted violence against Afro-Colombian activists like these call into question the implementation and legitimacy of Colombia’s 2016 Peace Accord.
Francia is not alone. She works with collectives of committed people that face repression and outright violence as a consequence of their struggle to defend their territory, protect the environment, and combat racism. In yesterday’s attack, a number of prominent black activists were present–Carlos Rosero, Clemencia Carabali, Yellen Ararat, Victor Hugo Moreno, and Sofia Garzón. Their work is crucial for building a world of justice and peace. And they were instrumental in guaranteeing the inclusion of an Ethnic Chapter that safeguards minorities’ rights and their collective territories in the final Peace Accord.

I express my outrage and deep concern that this could happen, especially when we consider that the gunmen had to make it through at least two government checkpoints in order to reach this meeting. The right to life is the fundamental basis of all other human rights, and it is being systematically violated in Colombia even in the aftermath of the Peace Accord. These armed actors feel emboldened to continue to target Afro-Colombian leaders because they know there is impunity for such actions.

I urge the Colombian government to investigate this attack, and work closely with the leaders and communities affected by this attack, to ensure the protection of Afro-Colombian leaders, and human rights defenders more generally.
I also urge the Colombian government to guarantee the full implementation of the Peace Accord, including its commitments to Afro-Colombian communities. During my time in Northern Cauca with Francia, I witnessed how inaction by the government directly contributed to the displacement and dispossession of black communities. Implementing the Peace Accord will bring the government one step closer to upholding the fundamental and constitutionally- protected rights of black communities. This means, among other things, meeting with Afro- Colombian leaders, complying with agreements made with communities, and guaranteeing these communities’ rights to ancestral territories.

As long as Afro-Colombian leaders are being threatened, attacked, assassinated and imprisoned, there is no peace in Colombia. The international community is watching closely and we will continue to work in solidarity with leaders in these communities.

Angela Y. Davis