Over 15,000 Indigenous people from 10 departments of Colombia arrived in the capital Bogotá between September 25 and 27 to draw the national government’s attention to the humanitarian crisis faced by Indigenous communities in their territories due to paramilitary violence. On Wednesday, September 27, they held a massive march from Street 60 to the Bolivar Plaza via highway no.7, demanding that the government of President Gustavo Petro implement immediate measures to end violence in their territories and stop the assassination of community and social leaders. They also demanded respect for the right to territory and self-determination of the Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities.
These are times of challenges, of difficulties testing the revolutionary mettle of those who in our region of Latin America and the Caribbean at some point even took up arms to overthrow a pro-imperialist government in the service of Capital, in the service of drug trafficking. There are those who have stood firm throughout history, as all of you have stood firm, beloved brothers and sisters of the National Police, brothers and sisters of the Army, Sandinista sisters and brothers. Others take part for a while but when the conditions become adverse, then cowardice makes them change sides, cowardice makes them become agents of the Yankee Empire, and makes them betrayers, they betray themselves, betray those who gave their lives when they were leading those guerrilla movements.
The core pillars of Ley 70 pivot around Blackness, collectivity, and protection — embodying the spirit of Afro-Colombian identity and resilience. The law centralizes Blackness, recognizing and celebrating the Afro-Colombian community’s cultural heritage, contributions, and place in the nation’s socio-political fabric. It fosters a sense of collectivity, advocating for collective land rights and the community’s right to govern these territories according to their ancestral wisdom and practices. Moreover, it underpins a strong protection mechanism, safeguarding Afro-Colombian communities from displacement, violence, and exploitation.
The Colombian government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s largest left-wing guerrilla group, on Thursday, August 3, began a 180-day bilateral ceasefire. The truce will remain in force until January 29, 2024. The historic step was agreed upon on June 9 during the third round of peace negotiations between the two sides in Havana, Cuba. The development marked the most concrete progress to date for leftist president Gustavo Petro and his government’s plan to bring “total peace” to the country and end over 60 years of internal armed conflict, during which more than 450,000 people were killed.
For years the US government has given the wrong kind of aid to Colombia – billions of dollars for war and repression, and to secure profits for global capitalism. It has made Colombia both a dependent state and a crucially strategic military colony for US imperialism. What it has not done is give any kind of adequate support for Colombia’s peace process or for the Total Peace Plan proposed by President Gustavo Petro, despite US responsibility for six decades of war. The US owes Colombia a debt of peace, and that debt is long overdue. (The Pentagon’s Yarborough Commission recommended in 1962 that the Colombian government organize paramilitaries and acts of terror, along with unilateral assaults against autonomous peasant zones.
As Colombian President Gustavo Petro and Vice President Francia Marquez near the one year anniversary of their election, efforts to undermine their government are escalating. In some cases, these have included assassination threats and attempts, and calls for a coup. Many political opponents are engineering what increasingly appears to be an effort to remove President Petro by “lawfare,” manipulations designed to give a semblance of legality in the removal of legitimately elected governments. For many, all these elements are familiar, as if they are taken from playbooks for coups in Latin America and elsewhere that were supported by the government of the United States.
A carnival of many colors, many backgrounds, many different political perspectives; sharing experiences, discussing how people’s health is shaped, exploring how health care can be transformed: this is the People’s Health Assembly (PHA). The PHA is the top direction-setting forum for the People’s Health Movement (PHM). But it is much more than that. Plenary presentations; sub-plenaries for further exploration and discussion; workshops, music, dancing, marching, and breaking bread. Many participants at previous PHAs have found the experience deeply inspiring: finding comrades you didn’t know existed; learning what is different and finding what is common; hearing stories which are new but which are also familiar; throwing new light on pathways forward.
“For the first time there is a president, that instead of trying to take the land away from peasants to keep it or give it to his friends, he is trying to give the land back. And now some former colonel says that this deserves a coup d’état… these coups are resisted and overcome through the mobilization of citizens,” declared Colombian President Gustavo Petro during an event in Sucre, in which land was turned over to dispossessed peasants. Petro was referring to the incendiary statements made on Thursday, May 11 by retired Army Colonel John Marulanda during a debate on La W radio. Marulanda said that the mobilization of retired members of the military is a sign that Colombia is “following the steps of Peru” wherein “the reserve forces were successfully able to defenestrate a corrupt president.”
I have just returned from Latin America. I find myself a somewhat different person than the one that left a couple of weeks ago. What changed? During my visit I went to Colombia, on invitation from the UNDP (United Nation Development Programme) and to Uruguay to launch the first Latin American Ecosystems Leadership Program (ELP) for our u-school for Transformation. The launch of this regional ELP in Latin America opened what to many of us felt like a profound new space of collective possibility. It is intended as a 3-year collective cross-sector and cross-country journey to awaken all of the human intelligences — head, heart, and hand — in the service of regeneration, healing, and systems transformation.
This Monday, Venezuela’s former deputy Juan Guaidó was escorted by Colombia Migration and US “agents” to the El Dorado airport, from where he flew, before midnight, to the city of Miami, Florida, United States, in a commercial Avianca flight with a ticket provided by the US government, according to statements by Colombian Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva. Earlier on Monday, April 25, the Colombian Foreign Ministry, through a press release published on social media platforms, reported that in the afternoon of Monday, Colombia Migration took Juan Guaidó—who hours earlier had entered the country illegally—to the El Dorado airport and placed him on a flight to the US.
Caracas, Venezuela - Given the complete failure of Juan Guaido to garner support as an “interim president” and the breakdown of talks between the Venezuelan government and opposition figures in Mexico City, the State Department has started a new strategy to undermine the Bolivarian revolution: an international conference in Bogota. According to Colombian Foreign Minister, Alvaro Leyva, the full spectrum of the Venezuelan opposition--from the left to the right--is invited to participate. France, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, the U.S. and Canada are also expected to have representatives at the table.
Ajamu Baraka was invited to serve as part of an international delegation of human rights defenders that would accompany the activists, community leaders, government officials and representatives of the National Liberation Army on an historic “humanitarian Caravan” in January to the Indigenous and Afro-Colombian areas of the Pacific coast of Colombia as part of the peace process initiated by the new government. Ajamu was also an observer and international guarantor in Havana, Cuba during the last round of the Peace Process that produced the Ethnic Chapter of the peace agreement between the government and the FARC in 2016. This is his report back on the Caravan.
Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia have refused to send weapons to Ukraine, despite pressure by the US and EU. Latin American left-wing leaders have urged peace with Russia and called for neutrality in the West’s new cold war. Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia have rejected requests by the United States and European Union that they send weapons to Ukraine. The commander of the US military’s Southern Command (Southcom), which operates in Latin America and the Caribbean, revealed on January 19 that Washington has been pressuring countries in the region to arm Ukraine. Southcom wants Latin American nations to “replace [their] Russian equipment with United States equipment – if those countries want to donate it to Ukraine”, said Army General Laura J. Richardson.
The governments of Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and Bolivia released a joint statement supporting Peru’s democratically elected President Pedro Castillo, saying he is the victim of “anti-democratic harassment.” Castillo was overthrown in a coup d’etat on December 7, led by the infamously corrupt right-wing opposition that controls Peru’s unicameral congress, which has an approval rating of between 7% and 11%. The US-dominated Organization of American States (OAS) and State Department have openly supported the coup, backing unelected leader Dina Boluarte, who declared herself president in collaboration with the congress. Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, and Colombia wrote that they “express their profound concern for the recent events that resulted in the removal and detention of José Pedro Castillo Terrones, president of the Republic of Peru.”