(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN volunteer translator )
Department of Arauca, August 17, 2007
The Social Organizations of the Department of Arauca have a legacy of dignity that has historically characterized our defense of life, culture, natural resources, environment, national sovereignty, and food and agricultural security as inalienable and permanent rights that work as vital elements in the development of an autonomous and sovereign people. Confronting the critical moment we now face in our region, we announce, through different media, to local, regional, national, and international public opinion, national and international human rights organizations, and the current diplomatic corps in Colombia, the following facts:
1. Since August 5, 2007, the FARC in the Department of Arauca have been spearheading an armed strike, which has caused pressure and intimidation to stop activities for [all] sectors, productive organizations, truckers, educators, community and economic solidarity projects. It has been thirteen days; they say that it is against the transnational oil companies, but in actuality it has been one more form of oppression for our Araucan communities, because peasants and workers in the informal sector have lost their daily means of earning a living, while the fields of exploration and exploitation of petroleum continue fully functioning.
2. Araucan peasants still haven’t recovered from the results of the aerial fumigations that poisoned our Department and our economy, in a chemical and bacteriological war that affected food security. Today, with the strike, agricultural production such as the rice fields have lost more than half their crops; the banana plantations, whose perishable fruit cannot wait to be picked, are being ruined. Milk, a basic product for nourishing children and part of the economic wellbeing of the peasant population, has not been able to be distributed. This same thing is happening with other agricultural products.
3. Education, which has suffered a severe crisis due to the privatization policies of the State, the administrative corruption of the Department, and the trafficking of patronage through political favors, is also experiencing the consequences of this armed strike, since the agricultural high schools and rural schools are affected by the interruption of academic and technical work, harming a large number of students, the majority of whom are peasants.
4. Trade, which is a significant economic item, is seeing its income affected and we, the consumers, find ourselves without the basic foodstuffs we need at home, which encourages speculation in the price of products.
5. The truckers, who, along with the other sectors have been willing to participate in the different stages and processes of community development, are suffering from restrictions on traffic. The FARC have gone to the extreme of burning some vehicles, whose owners are poor working people of the region. Besides, this is the work that feeds their families.
6. We the Social Organizations have been systematically victimized by aggression, stigmatization, punishment, and criminalization by the paragovernment of Uribe Vélez and the transnational oil companies, which have invaded and plundered our natural resources, destroying our flora and fauna, polluting our air, rivers, and lagoons, with their farce: the “Democratic Security Policy.”
7. In this situation, we find ourselves obligated to demand of the FARC that they stop the strike, because we think that besides affecting the population of Arauca, it has placed obstacles in the way of our (the organized communities’) legitimate right to mobilize and express ourselves. As a tribute, it would pay posthumous and solemn homage to hundreds of fallen comrades who, like Alirio Martínez, Jorge Prieto, and Leonel Goyeneche, became martyrs as a result of the foolish and macabre state policies, carried out by regulations born out of the immorality and greed that is eating away at Colombian institutions.
8. We recognize that in our country there is an armed conflict; at the same time, we urge the FARC to respect and apply Article 3 of the Geneva accords, regarding respect for and protection of the civilian population.
For life, defense of human rights, and remaining on our land
The Social Organizations of the Department of Arauca
Network of Fraternity and Solidarity—Colombia
Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621