Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category


Interview: University Students Federation of Colombia

March 1, 2009

The ever intrepid Nico did a fabulous translation of an interview conducted in Spain with a Colombian student leader in exile. Please check it out on his blog.

“In Colombia, Every Week They Say That We Students Are Terrorists”

This is my translation of an interview with David Flores, of the University Students Federation of Colombia. The interview was originally done by Anibal and Ana, on Pueden encontrar la original aquí.


Interview: Former ACVC political prisoner Oscar Duque

February 27, 2009

Here’s an early experiment with no-edit video interviews (thanks to Cecilia from IPO). Shot at the Feb. 17 demonstration in Barranca demanding freedom for ACVC political prisoners.

Thanks to those of you that sent emails and faxes. It was nice to see those click-throughs. This was an important week for that sort of thing – Obama’s budget still has hundreds of millions earmarked for the Colombian military.


Interview: Colombian women against violence

February 4, 2009

Published on Upside Down World.

Alejandra Miller Restrepo, Cauca regional coordinator of Ruta Pacifica de las Mujeres, talks about this thirteen-year-old movement of Colombian women against violence. The group is famous for groundbreaking direct actions joining campesino, black, indigenous and urban women in massive mobilizations or “rutas,” often held in locations controlled by armed groups who target women.

I spoke with Cauca regional coordinator Miller Restrepo in December 2008, a month after Ruta’s most recent mobilization, as the Colombian “false positives” scandal of the army killing civilians and claiming them to be guerrillas continued to generate headlines, along with widespread speculation about changes to come from the new Obama Administration. Her comments on how Ruta has opened space for women in Colombian society reinforced my concern that too many activists in the US and Colombia are setting aside what they know intuitively about the pace of change – that it comes from below, through the steady work of movements like Ruta that can take advantage of moments like this one to push the government leftward only by building on years of grassroots organizing.

Ruta continued that steady work with national demonstrations on February 1st, 2009 in cities across the country, to support the presence of women activists in Colombians for Peace negotiating the release of hostages held by the FARC, and demanding a negotiated end to the armed conflict, which the government opposes, refusing even to recognize the existence of legitimate armed groups.

When and how did you get involved with Ruta?

I heard about Ruta when I arrived in Popayán to attend the University of Cauca in 1999, and got involved then. Since 2002 I’ve been the regional coordinator.

How would you describe la Ruta?

We’re a movement of women against war, founded in 1996. We’re feminist, pacifist and anti-militarist.

We have two fundamental objectives: 1. To make visible the effects of war on the bodies of women. On our bodies because women’s bodies are sites of conflict in war, and it’s historically a particularly grave type of violence. And we must denounce the violence of war.  2. Insist on a negotiated outcome to the war. The militarization of territories creates more war and pain, the only way to end it all is through political negotiation.

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Interview: US wants to extradite political prisoners

January 14, 2009

This interview is the product of yet another holiday meetup with an overcommitted, way-too-cheerful organizer. In addition to a look at the dire condition of all Colombian prisoners (as we sat in a cramped office filled with donated toiletries), the conversation with Walter helped me better understand the different takes folks on the Left have on guerrilla/insurgent groups. The mainstream liberal/left opposition are pretty clear about their desire for an end to the practice of kidnapping for financial ransom and political leverage. Beyond that, and occasional references to narcotrafficking connections, the mainstream left save their vitriol for the folks who seem responsible for 90% of all violent and politically-motivated crime in the country – the paramilitaries and their official enablers, the army and the prosecutor general.

First published on Toward Freedom.

The Committee in Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP) provides ongoing direct support to hundreds of prisoners and their families throughout Colombia. Recently the group launched a campaign against the extradition of political prisoners to the US, collaborating with lawyers’ collectives and other prisoner support groups like the Anarchist Black Cross. The US government continues to play a key role in halting Colombian justice – primarily by extraditing paramilitary leaders, who, when they aren’t returned to Colombia for lack of evidence, are tried only for drug crimes, not for their roles in human rights abuses, assassinations and disappearances.

Now the US is requesting the extradition of three National Liberation Army (ELN) members, for their alleged role in kidnapping a US citizen. I spoke with Walter Agredo with the Cali chapter of the CSPP about the campaign. (Click here to download the campaign flyer in English.)

How did you get involved with the CSPP, and how is the group structured?

I got involved in 2003 as a student of University of the Valle, I studied communication and philosophy. We had a human rights group that was supported by members of the Comite. I came to know how to help prisoners fill out complaint forms and follow-up, how to support them. And then two years ago the two people in charge of the Cali section, including our one paid functionary, had to leave the country after receiving threats. So they asked me to be the functionary here. We have 17 people working as a team, we make decisions by consensus. We rely heavily on students but work with everyone. We just had a three-day retreat in Bogota with all the sections to decide the work for the upcoming year. We meet like that a few times a year and also host workshops given by lawyers on judicial subjects, and meet to fortify our institutional processes.
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