Malcom X says: ‘If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing’.
The day-to-day reality, which is becoming more and more difficult with every passing day, is too complex to be briefly described. Or, it might be terribly simple, so much so that it becomes trivial.
The whole population of Chocò and Buenaventura (the main Colombian port on the Pacific coast) has been on strike to denounce the complete lack of government will to face the dramatic situation concerning poverty and security, just to mention two of the main causes.
At one of the many protest marches of the last few days, a woman was seen holding a sign that read: ‘They have taken so much from us, even the fear’. In both regions, paramilitary groups have perpetrated new forced displacements and killed social leaders and human rights defenders after the Peace Agreement was signed. The latest world document on internal displacement draws a dramatic view of the 7.2 million Colombians who were forced to leave their lands. Demonstrations repressed with violence, 13 policemen killed last month in the North of the country by the Gulf Clan (AGC, neoparamilitaries) as retaliation for the latest arrests of some of its members. Though there are still some who think, among the many ‘experts’ of the armed conflict, that these are actions needed to reach a deal with the Colombian government, to be called into question as war actors.
Special forces have just reached the Urabà region, where Operazione Colomba is present, to stop the “plan pistola” (attacks against the public force) thus increasing the security in the area. In short, a greater militarization of the territory is seen as the solution to ‘achieve peace’ as announced by the Ministry of Defense. Again, children have died for malnutrition in Guajira, a land turned completely dry due to mining. Fights between paramilitary groups and the other guerrilla are still active in the country, the ELN. The army, in turn, fights the dissidents of the FARC who have not been demobilized, whereas the other illegal armed groups control the territories left free from the FARC and abandoned by the Government.
In 2017 a record in the number of hectares of cocaine cultivations was reached, in contrast to the official kick-off of the manual and voluntary replacement program of illicit crops. According to the United Nations data, a 40% increase was recorded in the last year, businesses that are praised for giving up Colombia’s ‘bloody coal’. The other story is though kept untold. New worrying constitutional court judgments are endangering the implementation of the Peace Accords. This is just a brief summary that outlines the events of the last months.
And then there are them, the eternal resistants, who once again, with the courage of those who know too well that the cost of their actions may lead to death, hop on a flight to Bogotà to denounce, in front of the highest governmental bodies, a reality that in 20 years has not unfortunately seen any major changes. They are not ashamed to overcome fear resulting from the threats they have been receiving over the past few months from paramilitary groups: ‘Death to those who will open their mouths.’
Nevertheless, before my eyes and my heart I have a great proof of what this deep persuasion means: only truth will set you free. You do not see them hesitating, they know the situation is critical and that it is their land they want. Nonetheless they walk tirelessly among corn, rice, bean and cocoa plantations. How they manage to find the strength to keep fighting, it is them to be asked. They have chosen the uphill path of nonviolence. After having lived these years by their side, one thing is very clear to me: this is the one and only way, a strenuous one, that needs to be fuelled day by day
The resistance of these peasants is rare in a country where to avoid problems you only need to shut your eyes and ears or collaborate.
Morelia approaches me and, after telling some jokes just like Colombians are used to do, she says to me in a serious tone: “You know, I’m afraid. After this meeting in Bogotà do you think they are going to kill him?” I would have wanted to say no, but I did not because we both know that this is not the case. Right now the reality of this country is exactly this: 51 killed among leaders of resistance communities, land seekers and human rights defenders in the first part of this year. The plot is far too clear, to eliminate those who oppose development focused on mining. Eloquent is the international cry these eternal resistants have publicly raised, on the twentieth anniversary: “No, no retrocedemos. Los asesinos podra apagar nuestra vida pero jamas nuestros sueños “(No, we will not go back. Killers can stop our lives but not our dreams).