Friends of the Earth International stands in internationalist solidarity with CENSAT Agua Viva –Friends of the Earth Colombia and the peoples of Colombia. We support the National Strike and the justified social and popular mobilisations taking place throughout Colombia and in other countries, and demand an end to the systematic violence, human rights violations, disappearances and assassinations that the Colombian people are enduring. We assert the need to defend the legitimate right of the public to demonstrate, as they have been forced to do in recent weeks, to express widespread discontent with the political and economic model enforced on them, which is harmful to life and an insult to the Colombian peoples’ dignity.
The current crisis and most recent mobilisations are fuelled by the government’s push for the approval of a tax reform bill that undermines the livelihoods of the Colombian population and which would undoubtedly further deepen the inequality gap between social and economic sectors. Even though President Ivan Duque has announced the withdrawal of the controversial reform bill, protests continue, motivated by a wide range of policies that privilege capital accumulation by the few, and an overall scenario of violence against peoples’ well-being, lives and dignity that is at odds with living in harmony with nature. Some of the reasons for the continued protests and mobilisations have to do with:
- Rising poverty in Colombia, while political and economic elites get wealthier. According to the national statistics administration office DANE, 21 million people, that is, 42.5% of the national population are now below the financial poverty line, 3.5 million of whom fell under it during 2020. In stark contrast, the report on the current state of the financial system in Colombia, published by the Financial Systems Oversight Board (Superintendencia Financiera) shows net profits worth $24.25 trillion Colombian pesos (approximately US$ 6.3 billion) from January to September 2020.
- Ivan Duque’s administration unwillingness to make any progress in terms of enforcing the agreements that were signed with the former insurgent guerillas FARC-EP, in a context where around 270 signatories of that agreement have been murdered in the last couple of years.
- The humanitarian crisis brought about by increasing violence in the country, which has witnessed the systematic genocide of social movement and community leaders. So far in 2021, as established in the INDEPAZ (Institute for Development and Peace Studies) report, 32 massacres have taken place and during the first two years of the current government, 573 social movement and community leaders have been murdered.
- A reform package of the health, pensions and education systems that further limits access to these rights for everyone in Colombia.
- A development model that views nature as a commodity, as an object from which to obtain profits at the cost of the peoples, favouring the accumulation and dispossession of land and water. This has become apparent with the return of aerial glyphosate spraying with, extractive activities considered as high a priority for economic reactivation, the persistence of mining operations in highland páramos (uplands) that are critical for fresh water supplies tor peasant farmers and urban populations, and the green light to proceed with the first fracking projects in the country. All this without any real mechanisms for effective social participation.
- The dreadful management of the pandemic by the government, who chose to prioritise aiding banks and large companies during the last year, while denying a basic income even to the most vulnerable population. At the same time, military investment, the militarisation of territories and police abuses in every region of the country have surged.
For these and other reasons, the Colombian people continue to take over the streets with peaceful demonstrations, as opposed to the government’s conduct and military response calling for army intervention in the cities and increasing police violence, leading to additional risks and violations of the rights to life, freedom, integrity and all other basic rights. Meanwhile, the right-wing political elites and the mass media try to discredit the protestors calling them vandals, or by stressing the importance of keeping the “aesthetics” of the cities, thus nullifying the demands of the mobilised masses.
This government response strategy – in addition to statements by former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez instigating violence by encouraging soldiers and police to use their weapons to defend themselves against the mobilised population – has led to acts of violence by the security forces against demonstrators. According to data from Temblores, a local NGO, during demonstrations from 6 a.m. on April 28 and 8 a.m. on May 4, 1443 cases of police violence have been registered, 31 persons have been murdered by the police, 814 have been arbitrarily arrested, 92 have suffered physical violence, among them 21 people attacked in their eyes and 10 women victims of sexual violence by the security forces. These figures could well be higher, given the inability to assist and monitor all the abuses occurring in parallel throughout various regions of the country.
As an organisation that fights for environmental, social, economic and gender justice, Friends of the Earth International joins CENSAT Agua Viva –Friends of the Earth Colombia in categorically condemning the systematic violence that the government is inflicting on the Colombian people and is taking the lives of men and women who are defending their social, economic, political and environmental rights. We are therefore issuing an international appeal to reinforce internationalist solidarity efforts urging:
The national government to:
- Immediately put an end to the very serious situation of human rights violations in Colombia including arbitrary arrests, stigmatisation of the right to protest, and abuses by the law and order forces.
- Stop the violent armed repression of peaceful protests and the militarisation of cities. Enforce an immediate end to the violent actions against the peoples, their organisations and movements, by members of State institutions.
- Comply with the constitutional duty enshrined in Article 37 of Colombia’s Political Constitution that establishes that any portion of the people may assemble and demonstrate publicly and peacefully.
- Generate spaces for democratic, active and binding participation for the development of public policies that take into account the different voices coming from the territories, community organisations, social movements and citizens as a whole.
The Ombudsman’s Office and the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation to:
- Uphold their independence in the exercise of their oversight duties in the face of abuses in the use of force by the authorities, including reporting in detail the excesses and human rights violations perpetrated by the military and police forces.
The international community to:
- Raise its voice of condemnation, expose and denounce the violations of human rights, and closely monitor the unfolding of these events.
This statement was first published by CENSAT/Friends of the Earth Colombia on 5 May 2021
Friends of the Earth International has also joined 81 organisations in signing the following public statement:
Solidarity with the working class of Colombia
We, the undersigned popular organisations of the peoples of the countryside, of the waters and of the forests, and other organisations of the whole world, lend our solidarity to the peasant, indigenous and Afro-descendant people who, allied to the working class of the cities, are demonstrating in Colombia to defend human rights as basic as the right to live in peace and dignity. We salute all the collectives who are in struggle such as students, women, workers, self-employed, peasants, indigenous, Afro-descendants and the organised youth.
We condemn the use of military and paramilitary forces against the mobilised people and the criminalisation of protest. The struggle for rights is not a crime. We condemn the historical and structural use of violence against our sister organisations in Colombia, who suffer massacres, disappearances and forced displacements, threats and assassinations.
We echo the voice of the social organisations in Colombia that demand a comprehensive agrarian reform to build food sovereignty, the demilitarisation of territories, the dismantling of paramilitarism as a state policy, the renegotiation of free trade agreements that affect peasant, indigenous and Afro people, and an immediate halt to the forced eradication of illicit crops and aerial spraying with glyphosate.
The Colombian people are not alone.
Resistance is not a crime! Agrarian reform and food sovereignty now!
- About Face Veterans Against the War – Estados Unidos
- Alianza Continental por la Soberanía Alimentaria – América Latina
- Amigos de la Tierra América Latina y el Caribe – ATALC
- Amigos de la Tierra Argentina
- Amigos de la Tierra Brasil
- Asian Pacific Environmental Network
- Asociación Nacional para el Fomento de la Agricultura Ecológica (ANAFAE)
- – Honduras
- Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC) – Estados Unidos
- Bizilur – País Vasco
- Causa Justa – Estados Unidos
- Center for Environment/FoE Bosnia and Herzegovina
- CESTA – Amigos de la Tierra El Salvador
- CETIM – Suiza
- COECOCEIBA – Amigos de la Tierra Costa Rica
- Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT) – Brasil
- Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ) – Estados
- Community to Community Development – Estados Unidos
- Conselho Pastoral dos Pescadores (CPP) – Brasil
- Convergence Globale des Luttes pour la Terra et l’Eau Afrique de l’Ouest
- Convergence Malienne contre l’Accaparement de terres (CMAT)
- Coordenação Nacional de Articulação de Quilombos (Conaq) – Brasil
- Coordenação Nacional de Entidades Negras (CONEN) – Brasil
- Design Action Collective – Estados Unidos
- East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) – Estados Unidos
- Equality Labs – Estados Unidos
- FIAN Colombia – Colombia
- FIAN International
- Florida Immigrant Coalition – Estados Unidos
- Focus on the Global South
- Foro de Abogadas/os de Izquierda- Red de Abogados/as Demócratas
- (FAI-RADE) – España
- Friends of the Earth Africa
- Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific – FoE APAC
- Friends of the Earth Europe
- Friends of the Earth International (FoEI)
- Fundación de Estudios para la Aplicación del Derecho (Fespad) – El
- Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
- Grassroots International
- Grupo de Mujeres de San Cristóbal Las Casas, AC. – México
- Haití Survie – Amigos de la Tierra Haití
- Indigenous Climate Action – Estados Unidos
- Indigenous Environmental Network – Estados Unidos
- International Federation of Rural Adult Catholic Movements (FIMARC)
- Jews for Racial & Economic Justice (JFREJ) – Estados Unidos
- Just Transition Alliance – Estados Unidos
- Katarungan – Philippines
- La Vía Campesina Internacional (LVC)
- Levante Popular da Juventude – Brasil
- Marcha Mundial das Mulheres Brasil (MMM) – Brasil
- Matahari Women Workers’ Center – Estados Unidos
- Mexico Solidarity Project – Estados Unidos
- Migrant Justice/Justicia Migrante – América del Norte
- Movimento de Atingidos por Barragens (MAB) – Brasil
- Movimento de Mulheres Camponesas (MMC) – Brasil
- Movimento de Pequenos Agricultores (MPA) – Brasil
- Movimento de Pescadores e Pescadoras Artesanais (MPP) – Brasil
- Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) – Brasil
- Movimento pela Soberania Popular na Mineração (MAM) – Brasil
- Mujeres Libres COLEM A.C. – México
- Mujeres Unidas y Activas – Estados Unidos
- Mundubat – País Vasco
- Observatorio de las Multinacionales en América Latina (OMAL)
- Otros Mundos Chiapas – Amigos de la Tierra México
- Pastoral da Juventude Rural (PJR) – Brasil
- Pastoral da Juventude Rural (PJR) – Brasil
- Paz con Dignidad – Espãna
- People Organizing to Demand Environmental and Economic Justice
- (PODER) – Estados Unidos
- Progressive Technology Project – Estados Unidos
- Red de Abogadas y Abogados por la Soberanía Alimentaria (REDASA) –
- América Latina
- Rede Nacional de Médicas e Médicos Populares – Brasil
- REDES – Amigos de la Tierra Uruguay
- Sempreviva Organização Feminista (SOF) – Brasil
- Soldepaz Pachakuti – España
- Transnational Institute (TNI) – Holanda
- União da Juventude Socialista (UJS) – Brasil
- Unión Tierra y Vida – Ecuador
- Uniterre – Suiza
- URGENCI – Internacional
- Via Campesina Brasil – Brasil
- WhyHunger – Estados Unidos
- World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP)
- World March of Women International (WMW)