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Colombia

    October 28, 2020

    By Jani Silva*

    My name is Jani Silva and I’m a campesina, or small-scale farmer, from Colombia. I’m 57 years old and I work in the Perla Amazónica Farming Reserve Area in the southern region of Putumayo. Ever since I was little, I’ve always followed my convictions and always defended what I believe in. This is why I’m fighting to preserve the Amazon and its biodiversity.

    Today I face death threats, for defending our territory, the environment and our way of life. The armed groups in the region want to control our crops, our land and our communities.

    We’ve also faced oil drilling that affects our territory, destroys sensitive biological corridors for the protection of Amazonian species, and has drastically changed the lifestyle of our campesino communities.

    Despite all the obstacles and difficulties that we confront, we’re convinced that our struggle is just and necessary. Humanity must understand that we are all life, that we are water and that to defend the Amazon is to defend the life of present and future generations.

    October 15, 2020

    By Rodrigo Sales, researcher working from Amnesty's South America Regional Office

    The COVID-19 pandemic has redefined the vital importance of the home as a space in which we can evolve and feel safe. It has also, however, highlighted the situation of millions of people for whom their home is, paradoxically, the most insecure place for them.

    This includes people living in some of Colombia’s most natural resource-rich areas. For them, defending their homes has become a lethal activity.

    According to the most recent information from Global Witness, Colombia is the world’s most dangerous country for human rights defenders. For those defending rights to land, territory and the environment, the situation is even worse.

    Their demand is simple: to live in peace in their home. But, for them, that home is not a physical space with a bedroom, a living room and a kitchen; it is their territory, with its rivers, forests, plants and animals.

    August 27, 2020

    Can you imagine risking your life to defend land, water and oxygen? That is an everyday reality for courageous community leaders in Colombia who protect natural resources from the economic interests that threaten them. 

    Campesino, Afro-descendent and Indigenous defenders of territory and the environment in Colombia are facing a terrifying increase in threats, attacks and assassinations. Hundreds have been killed in the last two years alone. According to the latest report by Front Line Defenders, Colombia is one of the most dangerous countries in the world to defend land, Indigenous territory and the environment.

    As the bloodshed continues, women defenders face the additional threat of sexual violence against them or their daughters. 

    Colombian authorities promise programs to protect defenders and their communities yet fail to implement them. Meanwhile, companies are allowed to proceed with projects that damage the environment, violate rights and fuel violence.

    May 28, 2020

    Since March 14, some 9,000 activists and supporters of Amnesty Canada sent email messages to Export Development Canada’s CEO and Canada’s International Trade Minister demanding remedy for the harm caused by a disastrous big dam project that Canada helped finance in Colombia. This action was developed in coordination with Rios Vivos (Spanish for Living Rivers), a coalition whose members have been threatened and attacked – with six leaders killed – as they continue to speak out against the impacts of the dam on the environment vital to their health and livelihoods. 

    "How heartening it is to learn that there has been so much action in Canada,” said Rios Vivos spokesperson Isabel Zuleta, pictured above giving a presentation during last November's visit to Canada. “I will share your activism with our members so they can take strength from it in these hard times.”

    March 09, 2020

    It’s an all too familiar story. The damming of a river made possible with millions of dollars of public money from Canada. It’s the story of life-changing impacts on the local ecology and on communities who rely on the river for their survival. It’s also the story of their courageous struggle to defend environmental human rights amid deadly attack. Most of all, it’s a story that cries out for attention in both Canada and Colombia in these times of climate emergency.

    The massive HidroItuango dam cuts across the Cauca River in a region of Colombia hard hit by decades of armed conflict and horrendous human rights violations. 

    Dam construction in June 2018 - Photo: Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP/Getty Images

    The dam was promoted as a feat of engineering that would generate nearly a fifth of Colombia’s energy needs. 

    September 10, 2018

    Erlendy Cuero, pictured above testifying to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, knows only too well how dangerous it is to speak up for human rights in Colombia. Her brother Bernardo (left), equally vocal in defending the rights of much-targeted Afro-Colombians, was gunned down last June. As Erlendy pressed for the perpetrators to be brought to justice, she received death threats.  Deadly violence is ever present. In April, gunmen shot and killed two of Bernardo's sons.

    Such atrocities were supposed to end with the signing of a peace agreement between the Colombian government and insurgents of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Yet since then, assassinations of community leaders have increased, not decreased. Every 11 days, someone in Colombia is killed for defending human rights. A frequent target are leaders of Indigenous, Afro-descendant and campesino communities seeking to defend their land rights in areas of economic interest. Colombian authorities are failing to protect them and allowing the perpetrators to get away with murder.

    Now is a crucial moment to press for action.

    January 14, 2018

    Time after time, supporters of Amnesty Canada have faithfully raised their voices in countless creative ways to denounce acts of terror aimed at destroying the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in north-western Colombia. Community leaders have told us all the messages of concern, like those written by activists in Vernon, have helped to save lives.

    Now the Peace Community is appealing for support again amidst dangerous new threats from armed paramilitaries, who often operate with the support or acquiescence of state security forces and authorities. On 29 December, five paramilitaries attacked and injured German Graciano Posso, the community’s legal representative. Other members of the community courageously managed to disarm and capture two of the assailants (pictured below), suffering injuries in the process, and hand them over to the National Prosecutor’s Office. Yet authorities later released the two.

    March 21, 2017

    By Kathy Price, Colombia campaigner with Amnesty International Canada

    Amnesty activists in Canada are joining with courageous families in rural Colombia to celebrate an inspiring anniversary: an anniversary of resistance, hope and the importance of solidarity.

    March 23rd marks twenty years since families in the verdant countryside of San José de Apartadó, desperate to protect their children from a vicious armed conflict, joined together to form a peace community.

    With enormous courage and determination, the families actively asserted their right as civilians not to be drawn into the armed conflict. They formally declared that they would refuse entry into their territory by any armed combatants – whether soldiers, paramilitaries or insurgent forces -- and also refuse to comply with demands by combatants for information or supplies.

    June 02, 2016
    Kimy Pernia Domicó

    By Kathy Price, Colombia campaigner with Amnesty International Canada

    June 2nd is a day of painful remembering for me. I will never forget the phone call 15 years ago that delivered heart-stopping news. Embera Katío indigenous leader Kimy Pernía Domicó had been abducted by paramilitaries in northern Colombia. He was never seen again, despite courageous efforts by his people to find and rescue him.

    Kimy won many friends in Canada. I feel honoured to be among them.

    Two years before he was disappeared, Kimy travelled from his rainforest home to our nation's capital to testify to a committee of MPs charged with oversight of foreign affairs. He told them about the devastating impact of a hydroelectric megaproject, built with financing from Canada’s Export Development Corporation.

    The dam had flooded the land and food crops of Embera Katío communities. Fish stocks had disappeared bringing hunger and disease. Kimy's young grandchild was among the sick.

    September 29, 2015

    By Kathy Price,  Colombia campaigner with Amnesty International Canada

    It was great news, the kind of news that underscores how incredibly important our activism is.

    March 31, 2015
    By Rosemary Ganley, Group 46

    Three lively community groups came together in Peterborough on March 22 to meet Father Alberto Franco, a Redemptorist priest and dedicated human rights defender from Bogota, Colombia.

    Father Franco leads the Colombian Justice and Peace Commission in a dangerous and unstable atmosphere. He is known to Amnesty International as the subject of an Urgent Action appeal two years ago. He was threatened many time and shot at once. He smiles as he admits that, at the behest of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, he now travels with guards.

    Father Franco’s work involves accompanying peasants and indigenous people in the region of Choco in northern Colombia as they strive, first to survive in a warring area, and then to return home and re-establish communities of peace. His office provides legal and social-psychological support, education and communication for exploited groups as they assert their rights to livelihood and stability.

    August 21, 2014

     

    A trusted partner of Amnesty Canada urgently needs our support

    By Kathy Price
    Colombia Campaigner, Amnesty International

    The terrible news came via a skype call from Colombia. Juan Pablo Gutiérrez, the big-hearted, creative, hard-working advocate for the rights of threatened Indigenous peoples and collaborator with Amnesty Canada, told me about receiving an envelope containing a death threat from the notorious Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles), a feared paramilitary group.

    The message warned that Juan Pablo was now a paramilitary target and would be killed for his work with the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), a coalition with whom Amnesty International Canada has worked closely in recent years.

    The death threat had been delivered to Juan Pablo as he waited for public transit near his home, en route to work, making clear that the paramilitaries had been monitoring his movements and knew where to find him.

    June 19, 2014
    Street protest for the survival of Indigenous peoples in Colombia

    By Kathy Price, Colombia Campaigner

    It was two years ago that courageous Indigenous women and men in Colombia sent photo messages to Canada to tell us about deadly assaults on their lives and lands.

    Photo messages like the one from this Kankuamo woman - who writes "We want to live in peace on our lands" - put faces on an acute yet hidden human rights emergency. The very survival of more than a third of Indigenous peoples in Colombia, including the Kankuamo, is in jeopardy amidst attacks, forced displacement and the imposition of resource extraction projects that are increasing with promotion by Canada’s free trade agreement with Colombia.

    Indigenous rights defenders in Colombia, many of them threatened with death for their vital work, urged us to speak out with them. In attention-grabbing numbers, you have done just that!

    April 29, 2014
    Canadians deliver 65,000 messages in support of Indigenous peoples in Colombia

    by Kathy Price, Campaigner for the Americas, Amnesty International Canada

    A message that can't be ignored

    Today we brought the faces and voices of concerned Canadians to Parliament Hill, along with an urgent message: Canada's free trade deal with Colombia creates special obligations to protect the rights and survival of threatened Indigenous peoples in the South American country.

    On the steps of Parliament, we displayed beautiful, heartfelt photo messages from activists across Canada. Then we went inside to present the government with a box jam-packed with petitions - thousands and thousands of them. In total, more than 65,000 people signed actions calling for immediate measures to protect the rights and survival of Indigenous peoples on their lands in Colombia.

    April 07, 2014

    Over 9,000 Amnesty supporters have spoken up about the grave danger facing Flaminio Onogama Gutiérrez, following death threats and the assassination of two of his family members.

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