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Monday, Mar. 18, 2002 at 4:44 AM
More than 600 participants representing dozens of countries around the world on March 4 and 5 took part here in the Second International Encounter in Solidarity and for Peace in Colombia and Latin America.
By Teresa Gutierrez
This historic conference reflects the growing
worldwide movement against U.S. intervention in
Colombia, specifically against the menacing Pentagon "Plan Colombia." It also reflects the deepening solidarity of the progressive and revolutionary movements in Latin America and the Caribbean that each day is growing stronger and bolder.
The Second Encounter had significant support from a
broad and prominent sector of anti-war, peace and
progressive elements. Conveners included Nobel Peace
Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel; Ahmed Ben Bella,
former president of Algeria; Archbishop Federico
Pagura, president of the World Council of Churches
from Argentina; Professor James Petras, U.S.; National
Autonomous University of Mexico Professor Heinz
Dietrich, Mexico City; former U.S. Atty. Gen. Ramsey
Clark; Prof. Henry Veltmeyer, St. Mary's University,
Halifax; and, in absentia, U.S. political prisoner
Countless organizations, activists and prominent
leaders from Latin America and the Caribbean endorsed
the Encounter and sent delegations. The FMLN and other
mass organizations in El Salvador organized a bus of
more than 30 students and other activists to attend
the conference. The bus was to arrive on March 3, but
was held at the border for hours in, what was seen as
harassment by the Mexican authorities.
Other delegations came from Venezuela, Peru, Chile,
Argentina, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and
the Dominican Republic. Representatives also came from
Basque Country, Spain, Greece, Canada and Australia.
The Cuban Women's Federation from revolutionary Cuba
called on the Encounter to dedicate International
Women's Day to the women of Colombia.
The Mexican progressive and revolutionary movements
were well represented. Groups in attendance included
the Workers Party of Mexico, the Mexican Communists
Party, the Popular Socialist Party, and many labor and
Students from throughout the area, including from
UNAM--the National Autonomous University of
Mexico--gave a revolutionary feel to the event.
These students, along with youth from Colombia, El
Salvador and elsewhere, organized the Simon Bolivar
Youth Encampment that was located on the UNAM campus.
For several nights, students and other youths camped
out at the tent city to meet, sing revolutionary songs
and work together.
The students passed a resolution calling on the
movement to continue education about and organizing
against Plan Colombia, support self-determination for
all oppressed peoples, press for a negotiated solution
to the conflict in Colombia, and participate in the
Latin American Seminar for Peace organized by the
National Youth Assembly from Colombia on May 2-5 in
the capital city of Bogot
In addition, the students and others at the conference
agreed to organize protests on April 20 throughout
Latin America in conjunction with the national march
on Washington against Bush's war and racism.
Organizers from various cities agreed to go back to
their areas and take up plans for April 20.
Activities are expected to take place in Mexico City,
Oaxaca and Tabasco, Mexico; San Salvador, El Salvador;
Santiago, Chile; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Guatemala
City, Guatemala; and the Basque and Madrid Spain.
Organizers from Canada also agreed to hold actions on
Although the main topic of the Encounter was Plan
Colombia, representatives also discussed broader
issues, such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas,
the Andean Regional Initiative and Plan Puebla Panama.
The conference was in full unity on the need to
organize against all forms of U.S. intervention.
STOP PLAN COLOMBIA!
A high note of the Encounter came when representatives
from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) and the National
Liberation Army (ELN)--the two main rebel groups in
Colombia--were able to attend the event. Participants
had several opportunities to meet with the
representatives of the rebels to find out more about
the situation in Colombia.
An ELN statement to the conference read: "Colombia
faces a juncture that because of the world situation
is the most dangerous in its history. The U.S.
government has deepened its intervention, the physical
presence of U.S. military officials is a daily reality
in many places of our homeland and it is the empire
that dictates the principal decisions of the Colombian
government. Plan Colombia, a plan against Colombia,
and the Andean Regional Initiative is being converted
into the launching pad of the geostrategic
repositioning of imperialism. The Plan is now being
implemented and its principal aim is to finance the
war against our people."
It continues, "The insurgent forces of Colombia in the
search for peace with social justice, in the search
for a political solution to this historic conflict
that bloodies our homeland, will continue with all our
forms of struggle."
A statement by the FARC-EP to the Encounter, read by
Commandant Marco Calarca, stated, "It is an honor for
me to present to this International Encounter a warm
and Bolivarian greeting from all the men and women
guerrillas of the FARC-EP. You know that President
Pastrana resolved to end the possibility of finding
solutions different from war to the social and armed
conflict we face. On the one hand, it did this so that
the Colombian people could not have the chance to
transform society, but also because this ransformation
necessarily implies a great deal of resources.
"The government also did this because of international
pressure, because since September 11 the Empire is
advancing, it is taking advantage of an international
conjuncture, and it is acceleratings its geostrategic
position in Latin America. Our events are now not just
justified, they are necessary.
"At this time, the Colombian people and its
organizations, including its People's Army, say and
take note that we are not alone. Thanks to the anger
and the courage of the Mexican people and its
organizations we can unite hundreds of people here.
This demonstrates the rage and courage that tells the
Empire, the Colombian ruling class and the ruling
classes of the world that there is solidarity with the
struggle in Colombia.
"When they say, 'You are either with us or you are
terrorists,' they erase rights such as that of self-
determination of the people and its right to develop
"This is why we raise high the banner of peace and we
continue to maintain our positions. But at the same
time we demand our legitimate right to defend
ourselves. That is why we want to clearly show that it
is the government, it is the state, it is the Empire
that is responsible for the violence that our people
live with, and we cannot allow the media or anyone to
hide the real causes of our problems."
The Third International Encounter in Solidarity and
for Peace in Colombia and Latin America will take
place in Nicaragua at a date to be determined.
Comité por la Nueva Colombia
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