The Board of Directors of the Colombia Support Network (CSN) invites all CSN members and interested persons to our annual CSN National Meeting, which will take place in Madison on Friday and Saturday, June 3rd and 4th, 2016.
This is a significant time in Colombia. Peace Talks between the Colombian Government and the FARC guerrillas appear to be nearing conclusion, with the prospect of an end to the armed conflict between guerrilla forces and the Colombian military. The ELN guerrillas have not yet entered formal peace discussions with the Santos Administration, but there is hope they will do so in the near future. Of course, the end of the guerrilla insurgencies does not mean that peace with justice will necessarily follow. The Santos government has in its National Development Plan proposed a model based upon mining and oil-drilling concessions to transnational corporations and large-scale agricultural development which do not represent the interests of the rural communities with which we have collaborated in our sister community program. And the introduction of a development strategy known as ZIDRES portends an attack upon the long-recognized rights of campesinos to untitled lands known as baldios, especially in the Eastern Plains area. In addition, the Santos Administration has expanded the riot police, the ESMAD (Escuadrones Moviles Anti-Disturbios), to discourage grass-roots organizations’ protests of government policies which harm them and of the continued paramilitary activity threatening them. We plan to discuss these issues in detail.
President Santos came to Washington a few days ago to “celebrate” with President Obama the15-year anniversary of Plan Colombia and to launch a continued collaboration program which they called “Paz Colombia”. We will have a presentation looking at the results of Plan Colombia and what the U.S. role, reflected in more than $10 billion dollars provided to Colombia, has been and will likely be in the future.
We anticipate having Carmenza Tez, the tireless Kamentsa indigenous leader from Sibundoy, Putumayo, at our Conference to bring us up to date on the valiant efforts of her community to protect their lands and traditions from threats by multinational mining interests and construction of a Trans-Amazon highway through their sacred lands. Carmenza’s activities are discussed in our Spring Newsletter. There is also discussion in the Newsletter of the Carol Chomsky Forest initiative in the municipality of La Vega in Cauca Department, which we will also discuss at the National Meeting.
A CSN delegation will visit the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado and Bogota on April 16-24, and we will also review our delegation experiences at the National Meeting.
We look forward to seeing you and sharing with you experiences and viewpoints on CSN’s role and the projects we have been involved in during the past year. We hope to welcome you to Madison on June 3 and 4.