September 29, 2019

Colombia, the third most populous country in Latin America, is seriously subject to the climate crisis facing the world. With coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the country feels the effects of global warming over much of its territory. One sign of climate change is the progressive loss of snow on the peaks of Colombia’s highest mountains. Another is the loss of species of animals as their habitat is damaged by increasing temperatures.

These phenomena are accompanied by several human activities which magnify the problems brought by increasing temperatures. In the southeast, fires raging in the Amazon, set in many cases by persons seeking to extend farming or increase logging operations, are destroying millions of trees, causing great losses to wildlife, and threatening indigenous communities which have inhabited their lands for centuries. Open-pit mining sites developed by multinational corporations have taken water resources needed by local communities and their mounds of tailings and settling ponds containing arsenic and mercury used in the mining process, are a serious threat to nearby communities. Logging in forest areas by lumber companies and cutting of forest lands for planting of palm groves for production and export of palm oil have seriously reduced forest reserves. In addition, construction of new multilane highways have involved serious deforestation. We were told by a Colombian government official that construction of one major road in Putumayo province linking the town of San Francisco to Putumayo’s capital city of Mocoa would involve the removal of 66,000 oak trees! Finally, construction of large dams to produce hydroelectric energy has resulted in flooding of hundreds of acres of croplands and loss of thousands of trees.

A very serious complicating factor which also characterizes Colombia is the endemic violence in rural areas. Dating back to 1946 more than 400,000 persons have been killed and disappeared. More than 8 million people have been forced out of their homes by rural violence, the largest number of displaced people of any country currently. Paramilitary forces, recommended by the U.S. Government in 1962 as a strategy to oppose the spread of influence of the Cuban Revolution, have murdered tens of thousands of inhabitants of rural areas. In addition, 3 guerrilla organizations, the FARC, EPL, and ELN, have been responsible for thousands of deaths. And Colombian Army forces have murdered 5,000 or more civilians who the Army then falsely claimed were guerrillas killed in combat, a phenomenon known as “false positives”. Add to these deaths those resulting from drug-trafficking, as turf battles over coca crop lands and cocaine distribution networks rage on virtually uncontrolled, and you have a uniquely destructive and dangerous situation.

For us in the Colombia Support Network it is fundamentally important to provide support for threatened persons and communities. We in Madison, which is a part of Dane County, Wisconsin, have an official sister community relationship with Apartado in the Uraba region in northern Colombia.  We maintain contact with the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado and have made annual delegation visits there by CSN members from Dane County and elsewhere for many years. The Peace Community is a farming community which, due to its location near reported substantial coal deposits in the Abibe Mountain Range, has been the subject of serious threats and, last year, an armed attack on the Peace Community’s legal representative by 2 members of a paramilitary force. After Peace Community members captured the attackers, Colombian government officials released them. Subsequently the Colombian Army’s Seventeenth Brigade filed a court action (‘tutela”) against the Community, as if the Community had done something wrong!

We invite persons in this country who are interested in environmental protection and in supporting the Peace Community to join our organization to help protect Colombia’s natural resources and its people. We anticipate taking a delegation to Colombia in November of this year and invite interested persons to join us.

Jack Laun

Program Director

Colombia Support Network

Madison, Wisconsin

This entry was posted in Editorials and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.