La Pedregosa, in the municipality of Cajibio, department of Cauca
(images of Pedregosa - click here >>)
Andres of La Pedregosa opens on Plan Colombia, "far from being a plan for peace, is a plan for war." Our plan for the day is to share with the delegation the effects of international politics, Plan Colombia, bullets, and economic factors.
2. Presentation of communities and of WFP delegation
3. effects of international politics
Communities and organizations represented (incomplete list):
1. Andres of La Pedregosa;
2. La Palma;
3. Union of Carpenters;
4. Hernando of Catalina;
5. Simbrera of Buenavista;
6. Marco, Pres. of Community Action Board;
7. Jose Gonzalez Ipia;
8. Luis Hernando of San Antonio;
9. Alidio Nabia of San Francisco;
10. Jesus of Via Hermosa;
11. Harold Enrique Valencia of SINCON, the Integral Committee for Pedregosa (he is also deeply involved in more isolated communities);
12. Older adults (a legal organization recognized by the government);
13. Nidia Melia, representative of Community Mothers, a community action group of Las Casitas;
14. Ofelia and Castilia from Pedregosa, re: Health and Education;
Our meeting consisted of representatives of eleven (out of sixteen invited) campesino communities.
Phillip and Ryan and Marylen gave some background on Plan Colombia; 80% goes toward military aid; 20% nominally social development, but even this is not sufficiently focused on structural change.
First spokesperson from Pedregosa spoke of background to Plan Colombia. Campesinos began re-taking of lands in the '70's. Over time the state has begun imposing policies to re-take the land again. Today the paras serve this function. Paras previously called "the vultures."
It is an over-simplification to say that the war is about guerrillas vs. the paras. Even before the guerrillas were here, paras were taking the land. There has been a great fighting between we who try to protect the land and those who would take it away. Government has well-defined policies for getting rid of small farmers and starting agribusiness based on monoculture: e.g., African palm, asparagus, flowers.
There have been different movements for agrarian reform.
The globalizing of the economy makes for less self-sufficiency -- we are producing export crops, and the crops in our own stores have English names. We are forced to grow just one crop; this takes away from what our grandparents had -- long term food security.
Neoliberalism has happened in other parts of Colombia already, and is happening now in the south. The government is moving into the southern corridor. War does not exist because the guerrillas are here, but because large landowners have an interest in securing our land.
New aspects to agricultural problem:
1. displacement of farmers;
2. displacement of our traditional seeds (instead they send us transgenic seeds, i.e., "seeds of death."
These are contrary to health, biodiversity, and ecology;
3. FTAA and "Free Trade."
Left candidate has talked to Uribe, who is planning on full industrialization of agribusiness. Small farmers will be unable to compete, and are expected to simply disappear. Large landowners and large livestock owners will be dictating policy. "We social organizations can continue to be the pebbles in the shoes of these larger corporations."
From Ofelia and Castilia re: health and education:
Concerns for health are not limited to medicines, but include foods and issues of toxicity. Poor food = poor physical health. Also concerned about psychological health -- our children feel fear about life without a secure future. This is accompanied by the daily imposition of government policies. Thousands of poor people die in doorways of hospitals, where they cannot get treatment. Thousands of campesinos are in poor health. And we try to resist the violence as much as possible, but many die as a result of that, too. We are resisting Plan Colombia, this harmful plan. Many have had to quit working against this Plan, but we continue putting ourselves forward as the part of civil society with another plan or vision. In some ways, we campesina women feel most strongly the consequences of this violence, because we see our husbands killed and we have to take our children to strange cities.
From man: How these neoliberal policies are affecting us:
17,000 rich people are pushing these policies on the rest of the world.
National Budget = 62 trillion pesos, including
28.7 trillion pesos come into country every year;
26.8 (or 28.6) trillion pesos in loans
4.7 trillion pesos in government's resources
2.5 trillion pesos for atty. general
30.2 trillion pesos for maintenance of government
23.0 trillion pesos for the debt
9.5 trillion pesos for investment
So there is very little money left for health, education, and social investment ! This is true of all 13 communities in Cajibio. And this situation has been further exacerbated by a wave of privatizations, leaving little money for local government officials.
Congress has approved Law 615, which withholds many of the resources that have gone to schools.
Many campesinos only get to go to elementary school, which means they have just begun to read and write. Some do finish high school. Of all campesinos, perhaps 1% get to go to university.
Speaking for community mothers, who help with the education of children, ages 2-6. One mother per day takes care of these children, while other mothers work. Child care is not compensated with pay, but with a stipend. We receive no social security, yet we are the first people to feed a child's understanding of inter-community relationships! The government continues to cut back on allocations for food. Mothers are organizing to guarantee [not sure, I think it was] a dignified job.
"Lobbying gives us a breath of fresh air in the face of this monster that is trying to push us down."
"Sometimes people fear getting involved, but in reality it's when one does not get involved that the war comes to you. If you think that you can be neutral and the bullets will fly past you, you are mistaken."
Smaller Meeting with Families of Paramilitary Victims in La Pedregosa
(Can use their stories, but without names or photos)
Paras came into the community on November 24, 2000, and accused us of being guerrillas. His 25 and 27 year old sons were taken; father was held; wife was locked in next house. Paras made him turn off the lights -- similar to what the army would do, so he thought the army had come. Then they identified themselves as AUC. At 5 am they took sons away, telling father not to follow or they wouldn't be responsible for what they did to him. Accused father of being a collaborator [with the AUC, I believe!] because he had seen their faces. They brought his sons to Pedregosa and killed them against the wall.
Was driving a truck and his 16-year-old son was behind on a motorcycle. Father and truck was let through the roadblock, but the son was stopped and asked for paperwork. Father went back to check on son. Paras pushed father to ground and pointed gun at him. They yelled up the hill, "Burn anyone who smells like a collaborator." "They had my son and hers tied up by the side of the road. They had been beaten, there was blood on the head, and I thought they were dead but they were not. They were there from 7-10 am, and cars were going by and the paras were stopping them. The paras took the boys away for awhile and then brought them back and shot them. After they were killed, we could only flee from the violence. I made it back to my house by 7 pm. Since that time we have been hoping for some aid from a government agency."
Another man -- who did not lose a child:
What we did not realize was that because the guerrillas had passed through here, the paras then arrived with a list of "collaborators." I had heard that some of the paras were present in man #1's community. They began to split up the communities and showed up claiming to look for guerrillas, to protect the civilian population. I told the paras that armed actors would occasionally pass through, but the community did not know who they were. A para replied: "It sounds like the whole community is collaborating. You are lying to us."
In the case of the second young man on a motorcycle (the son of the woman present, who never spoke),
he was stopped and did not get off the bike fast enough, was resisting. His arms were tied and he fell, falling with his forehead striking a rock.
The paras came into the home of another man, asking for water and taking some white powder with it. It seemed to give them courage -- after taking it they became angry and loud.
The motorcycle of the second boy was burned by the paras. When the gas tank exploded, the guerrillas began to fire on the paras. A group of people ran through the town, dodging fire. I think that the paras must have had technical support, because as soon as the guerrillas began to fire, a long line of men approached -- seemingly the army. At that point we were told to get out because the situation was so bad. But I couldn't leave because I was caring for sick people. We had to stay prone from 6 am to 7 pm, because the bullets were flying. We were told bombs might be used.
At 6:30 pm the paras began to leave. We found the four victims near the church, where they had been shot. We went as a group and brought the bodies into the church -- and laid them out on the blue benches. Four others would have been killed if not for the gunfire after the motorcycle exploded. Some families left the community. This was the second massacre in this area.
The first massacre took place in Carmela on November, 19, 2000.
The massacre at La Pedregosa occurred on November 24, 2000.
A third took place in southern most Cauca in January, 2002.
The paras came again in February or March of 2002, and went to a neighboring community. They took civilians to use as human shields. As they came through our town, they sacked a store, and burned a motorcycle belonging to someone who had allowed the guerrillas to pass through his land. They took a man's two nephews and used sharp implements to try to get them to admit to being guerrillas. No one was killed, but much damage was done.
"Many community leaders had to leave -- good, honorable, indigenous families. I worry about what mechanisms will be used when they return. I think sometimes that through our ignorance and lack of education that we haven't known our rights. And I worry that we have treated enemies as friends."
Man weeping said: "These are not tears of fear. They are tears of outrage at the injustice."