Mayor Gets UNESCO Honor for Peace Work
(from 11/17/96 Chicago Tribune, by Constanza de Serna)
Gloria Cuartas, mayor of Apartado, Colombia, has received the first UNESCO
Mayors for Peace Award to recognize exemplary actions among municipal
Cuarta was selected "for her courageous work to combat social exclusion
and promote community dialogue, peace and citizenship," Federico Mayor
Zaragoza, UNICEF director-general, said during a ceremony in Rio de
Cuartas says she will use her $25,000 prize on behalf of Apartado.
Trained as a sociologist, Cuartas was elected mayor of Apartado in 1994.
Since then she has worked towarad reversing 30 years of sectarian and
drug-trafficking violence in her community in northwestern Colombia.
"This award means a lot not only for me, but also for the region of Uraba in
recognizing the administrative and humanitarian tasks that we are all doing
in the municipal team," said Cuartas. "We need to overcome the images of
death to raise instead a voice of international solidarity for protecting
Your Assistance Requested
-- 8/30/96 --
UPDATE ON CRISIS IN
In the last month the paramilitaries have killed 66 people in
Chigorodó (a small town that neighbors Apartadó) and 26
Apartadó. Gloria reported that the paramilitaries were about to
"take Apartadó" which means more people will certainly be
On 8/22/96 Gloria Cuartas was in a school in preparation for Semana por la
Paz, a week-long peace education event sponsored by Programa por la Paz.
While she was talking with children in the school, paramilitaries killed and
then decapitated a child who was playing in the school yard. Later the same
day paramilitaries hurled insults at Gloria Cuartas. She interprets these
acts as an indication that the paramilitaries intend to kill her.
STATEMENT FROM APARTADó (issued by Gloria 8/29/86
phone to Cecilia Zarate-Laun of Madison)
Gloria Cuartas, the mayor of Apartadó, had called for public
support throughout the world for the gestures of peace and reconciliation
which she is making. A social worker who has never been a political
candidate, nor a party activist, Gloria was asked to run for mayor of the
violence plagued town of Apartadó by a group of citizens led by
Apartadó's Catholic Bishop (now Archbishop of Cali), Monsignor
Her role as mayor has been to seek to have feuding factions work for peace.
But paramilitary groups and guerrillas have brought battles to
Apartadó, where numerous people have been killed in the past
Gloria's work for peace (and her life itself) are being threatened by violence
while President Samper and military officers (with their barracks a few
kilometers from Apartadó) stand by and permit the slaughter to
continue, supporting paramiltary violence against the population of
Apartadó in the name of a war against "subversives."
Gloria asks that people of conscience throughout the world write, send
faxes and call to Colombia's political and military leaders, urging them
(with words that are nonconfrontational) to:
(Side note not intended for letters to Colombian officials: The "self defense
cooperatives" are nothing more than groups of heavily armed men who have
taken the law into their own hands and regularly violate the most sacred
precepts of human rights and personal dignity.)
- Follow their constitutional obligation to protect the citizenry
- Be aware that the world is watching what they do and will hold them
- End their support for the creation of so-called "self-defense
8/30/96 URGENT ACTION
TO PROTECT GLORIA
Please send faxes to the following people immediately and then let CSN
know. The top two people listed are the highest priority.
appreciate receiving a copy of your fax -- CSN fax (608) 255-6621; phone
(PLEASE mail or fax copies of your faxes to CSN)
- Dr. Juan Carlos Esquerra, Ministro de Defensa; fax: 011-571-222-
- Gobernador de Antioquia Alvaro Uriba Velez; fax: 011-574-381-1342
- U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, U.S. Ambassador Myles Frechette; fax:
- Dr. Horacio Serpa Uribe, Ministro del Interior; fax: 011-571-286-8025
Colombia's Woman of the Year Stands Up to the Generals and
April 9, 1996 UPDATE: Three assassins (El Tigre, El Burro and El
Alacran) are now in Apartado' with the explicit mission of murdering Gloria
Cuartas. There was word last week of a 50 million peso (~$US50,000)
contract out on her. Gloria has asked us to ask you to do whatever you can do
-- fax the U.S. Ambassador and the State Department, contact any official
whom you know who might also do so -- for now is the time to make it
clear to the Colombian military and establishment that THE WORLD IS
Easter, April 7, 1996 2230CDT -- A few minutes ago we spoke with
Gloria Cuartas. "On Wednesday evening, paramilitary gunmen, firing
indiscrimately from a pickup truck, murdered 11 people in the Policarpa
neighborhood. Easter Thursday and Friday were horrible."
Minutes before we spoke tonight, she had gotten a call saying two trucks
full of armed men were driving around Apartadó -- again.
Gloria Cuartas has spoken out forcefully and criticized the Colombian
Government for refusing to stop the violence in Apartadó -- she has
stated what many suspected all along -- the the paramilitary death squads
are funded by some cattle ranchers and banana plantation owners, in
alliance with druglord Fidel Castaño.
The Army Commander now in charge of Uraba, General Ivan Ramirez
Quintero, has had long ties with death squads in the Magdalena Medio region
and elsewhere (source: El Terrorismo de Estado en Colombia, pp. 269-271,
published in Belgium in 1992 by 10 NGOs). It would be no stretch
of the imagination to believe that he is in collusion with druglord Fidel
Castaño. And this General has been trained in U.S. military
institutions -- Sept to Dec 1983, he received a "strategic intelligence
course" in Washington, D.C. (ibid, p. 271) The General in immediate power in
Apartadó is now Rito Alejandro del Rio Rojas, A GRADUATE OF THE
SCHOOL OF THE AMERICAS! -- apparently General Victor Alvarez wasn't
Because of her 'speaking truth to power', we fear for the safety of Gloria
Cuartas. Her secretary was assassinated a few months ago. She is walking a
tightrope that gets more dangerous day by day, attempting to bring peace to
We ask that you a fax to the U.S. Ambassador, and to the State Department,
stating your concern.
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Myles Frechette
U.S. Embassy, Bogota
Fax 011 571 315 2209
- State Department
Attn: Warren Christopher
Fax 202 647-7120
CSN asks that you state your concern for the safety of Gloria Cuartas
Colombian Woman of the Year), particularly at the command of U.S.-trained
General Ramirez Quintero, and request that no visas be granted to either of
these Generals, nor their families, for visits to the U.S. Request that the
military attache contact General Ramirez Quintero and communicate your
concern. Ask for a response.
Please send CSN a copy of your fax if
possible and any response
CAFAM Woman of the Year
March 9, 1996 El Espectador
(Noticol 622 3/11/96)
"LA PAZ ENCONTRO SU GLORIA"
This Antioquian woman, who has struggled ceaselessly for her
community and who is most known for her accomplishments as Mayor of
Apartadó, was the winner yesterday of the Eight Annual CAFAM
Award for the Colombian Woman of the year.
She is Gloria Isabel Cuartas Montoya, born in Sabaneta, Antioquia where she
studied in the Colegio El Carmelo, later moving to Medellin where she
graduated in social work at the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana. She
began her social work with the victims of the Popayan earthquake and
continued working with these people in preventive programs and disaster
As a staff member of INURBE in Bogota, she traveled to Israel where she
completed a course in community rehabiliation. Her speciality is inter-
institutional coordination to carry out programs to assist communities
burdened with extreme poverty and problems of violence.
"I am an energetic woman and very disciplined, up to the point that this
occupation has become my way of life". This is how Gloria Isabel Cuartas
described herself in an interview with El Espectador in early 1996.
Interview with Gloria Cuartas
The following are excerpts from an interview that appeared in the
October 30, 1994 issue of the Bogota daily El Tiempo:
Since 1984 Gloria Cuartas has been involved in working in Uraba, i.e. with
Community Development of Antioquia, Future for Children, the Antioquia
Energy Company, and directing a regional housing program.
You took specialized training in neighborhood rehabilitation in Israel. What
similarities are there between the social dynamic in Israel and that in
"Although it may sound strange, for me Apartadó is a little
because it is also a promised land. This is not from a religious or political
view, but for it being a territory of high confrontations, for its strategic
position, and for the advantages which Uraba offers for all
"This is a territory with people from all regions of Colombia, and
now do we have a stable residential population; 25 years ago Uraba had a
Have you received threats urging you leave the region?
"I have worked in all parts of Uraba and never been threatened.
week ago there was an attempt at destablization; while I was at a meeting
in Cali, there were rumors here of threats and of my death. When I returned
I found the people meeting in the headquarters of EPL and they thought that
I was a ghost!
Are you not afraid that they will kill you?
"I think one reaps what one sows. I have always been open to very
conflictive situations and I am not afraid of dying. I have always said that
pacts with life do not exclude death. I have told the people of consensus,
with me or without me, a path has been started.
Is there an explanation for the war in Uraba?
"I think the conflicts have to be depolarized- we have McCarthyized
and abandoned them to 2 or 3 political groups. I think the problem in Uraba
is much bigger than 2 or 3 political antagonisms. It is an entire process of
appropriation of territory where many forces are found: economic
investments, influences of the international market, the military forces,
the political groups, the citizens, the common criminals, and organized
crime. To speak of war and death here I would not speak of just one actor, I
would call attention to all those actors in Uraba because all of us have a
certain amount of responsibility for the conflict, and there are things that
deserve an explanation because a region which has so much investment of
the State in the economy of war ought at least to explore other paths of
What is your relationship to the military, the banana business owners, the
"I think that the military forces are indispensable actors within the
process and to now I have not had problems with them. Through the banana
business owners I wish to seek investment in other sectors; the banana
business owners are changing compared to the workers and unions. All of us
civil servants who live in this region have found ourselves on some occasion
with the guerrilla. They are a real force in the region and we cannot ignore
What have you done to handle the antagonistic political forces in the region,
the PC-UP (Communist Party - Patriotic Union) and the EPL ?
"I think that we are just beginning a new political reconversion of the
country, by understanding there are no hegemonic forces. Here retaliation is
a key phenomenon: you offend me and I offend you; people here do not speak
as a person but as a party. With some leaders such as Mario Agudelo and
Gustavo Arenas we have begun to develop more thoughful discusion. I ask
myself: Who is certain that the massacres where the 2 political forces have
been implicated, are really their responsibility? I trust in Jose Antonio
Lopez, Naun Orrego and in several of the detained persons whom I
How has the political life of Apartadó been affected by the
these leaders, among them Mayor Nelson Campo Nuñez?
"With the arrest of these leaders, many people who trusted them now
politically disadvantaged. It is not the same today, with people of the
Policarpa neighborhood now with Naun Orrego gone. I respect very much the
investigations by the Attorney General into the massacres. A citizen who
dies, a "no name" in politics, deserves to have clarity about why they killed
Do you believe that the investigation of the Attorney General's office [of La
Chinita massacre] and the order of capture against these leaders have been
"There are two positions. One is that of the people who wish justice
their people. No one is asking that they not punish those who commited the
crime, whomever they be. The other is that the process has to have an end.
Here there is the matter of psychological torture with this legal process; if
you walk over there and speak with someone they will tell you be careful
because you might appear on the list of the Attorney General. Yes, I speak
of justice for all sides, that those who commit the crime receive the
When they proposed that you be the only candidate for mayor, what did you
" All of the political groups separately began to call me to tell me
wished I be their candidate. Afterwards Monseñor Isaias Duarte
called me and explained: 'Gloria, after 3 days of very hard work, the only
person who had the right back-ground, who has no political links with
anyone and in whom the people believe, is you. Please accept.' I have to be
honest about what I felt. I felt like a gift of God; for me it was marvelous
be-cause I love this region. For me it was an award for the things which I
had put in motion always from obscurity.