“Let me give you a word of the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. The conflict has been exciting, agitating, all-absorbing, and for the time being, putting all other tumults to silence. It must do this or it does nothing. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightening. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.”
Canandaigua, New York
August 3, 1857
2008 was a big year for social movements in Colombia, as in the US. And while many of us are waiting to find out what of the possibility for sensible, humane domestic and foreign policies that emerged on Nov 4, 2008 will be realized, in any case, 2009 could be just as significant for US-Colombia policy. This blog exists to provide a perspective on Colombian social movements struggling for basic human rights, democracy and autonomy, and provide a grassroots view on US policy.
And this blog exists because many of us in both countries are not “waiting” to find out anything, because we know – thanks to Frederick Douglass, and his equivalents, the many ancestors to contemporary social movements – that there is no progress without struggle. And that this year, more than ever, because of that sliver of possibility that surfaced on Nov. 4, those of us who care about human rights in countries that use US taxpayer dollars to kill civilians, those of us on the US Left have to raise our voices in struggle for sensible Colombia policies.
A little context:
- After 8 years of Plan Colombia, under which the US has spent over $6.2 billion, mostly in direct military aid, the amount of cocaine entering the US from Colombia since the plan’s implementation has increased 4%, and coca production is up 15% (according to the GAO).
- The country has over 4 million internally displaced people, second only to Sudan/Darfur, at least half of whom have been displaced since Uribe took office in 2002.
- The government now controls over 90% of Colombian territory, up from 70%, but there has been a surge in violence, displacement and drug trafficking in recent years.
- A majority of the members of the president’s governing coalition have been investigated or convicted of ties to paramilitaries, which remain active throughout the country.
- The Uribe administration refuses to recognize the existence of an internal armed conflict, preferring instead to characterize insurgent groups as “narco-terrorists,” a posture adopted following the inauguration of Guantanamo, and preventing the application of the Geneva Conventions.
- The president has accused human rights groups based in the US and Europe (in addition to Colombian groups) who have drawn attention to the humanitarian crisis of being “guerrilla accomplices.”
Those are facts, but this blog will provide a human perspective on US-Colombia relations, as reported by an American citizen with Colombian ancestry collecting stories throughout the conflict regions.
The author was based in Bogotá.