Hearing the other voices in Colombia
San Diego Union-Tribune--
Dee Aker is the interim director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego's Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies. Elena McCollim is program officer at the institute. Both recently returned from Colombia where they met with representatives from a range of governmental and nongovernmental entities regarding the human rights situation in the country.
As the new Obama administration comes into focus internationally, anticipation and apprehension grip two distinct Colombian worlds. That of President Alvaro Uribe and his right-wing appointees seems to be hesitating – just a little. Theirs has been the only voice heard in Washington for some time. Should they change their tone?
Has someone noticed that 31 trade unionists were assassinated in the first half of last year, that attacks against the independent judiciary increase or that the government of Colombia continues to commit serious, systematic human rights violations? If so, will these negatives reverberate and expose some other unseemly trends such as the increase in narco-trafficking after billions of U.S. dollars have been spent to slow it? Plan Colombia, begun in the Clinton administration to deal with the stream of drugs to the United States, has been welcomed in its increasingly narrow martial approach from 2001. What now?
The other world, one of rural peasants, Afro-Colombians, the indigenous, the displaced, squatters and families of victims of death squads, is hesitantly expectant. For years it has been amassing – and disseminating – testimonies documenting the violations. Is there a sliver of hope for this world of the outsiders?
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