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by Militante 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

Mexico City

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

Mumia Abu-Jamal.

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

mass organizations.

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

April 20.

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.


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.



Ramón Acevedo

Comité por la Nueva Colombia

(415) 821-6545

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