Posting to this blog may be infrequent this week, since we’re hosting and accompanying the visit to Washington of eight Colombian human rights defenders.
In addition to the five leaders from Putumayo profiled in the event announcement below – if you’re in Washington Thursday, please do join us in the Rayburn House Office Building – we are joined by IvÃ¡n Cepeda of the National Movement of Victims, and Gloria FlÃ³rez and Nancy SÃ¡nchez from MINGA.
The group arrived over the weekend. Yesterday we took a tour of Washington’s monuments and memorials. After 3 hours of stops commemorating the Civil War, World War II, Iwo Jima, Korea and Vietnam, the general conclusion was that the United States sure has been in a lot of wars.
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC)
(formerly the Congressional Human Rights Caucus)
HUMAN RIGHTS IN COLOMBIA: THE CONTINUING CRISIS IN PUTUMAYO
Thursday, November 20, 2008
1:00 PM â€“ 3:00 PM
2255 Rayburn HOB
Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for an extraordinary hearing on the continuing human rights crisis in Putumayo, Colombia. Nearly a year in preparation, this hearing brings to Washington, DC a stellar delegation of human rights defenders from the Department of Putumayo, Colombia. Professional simultaneous translation will be provided. Participants will include:
- Ms. Blanca Nieves Galarraga Meneses: A spokeswoman on behalf of the â€œdisappearedâ€ and the internally displaced, four of her children have â€œdisappearedâ€ and she has suffered displacement with her six grandchildren and two stepchildren. The story of her appeals to legal and security authorities in Putumayo and NariÃ±o provide a roadmap to the difficulties facing families who are displaced and whose loved ones have â€œdisappeared.â€ For the past six years, she has cared for 8 children, whose current ages range from 8 to 16 years.
- Ms. Ana Tulia Burbano Acosta: For the past decade, Burbano Acosta has been the director of the Educational Institution of the San Carlos Rural School, in the rural municipality of La Dorada. Subject to FARC and paramilitary threats and violence, the school provides education, shelter, food and refuge to more than 230 students in one of the areas of heightened conflict.
- Ms. Emilse Bernal Bastidas: President of the Campesino Association of Southwest Putumayo (ACSOMAYO), which includes 73 local advisory committees (Juntas de AcciÃ³n Comunal), 5 indigenous cabildos, and 2 reservations of the Nasa, Embera, Inga and AwÃ¡ indigenous peoples. Its members include over 13,000 campesinos and 2,300 indigenous people. Ms. Bernal assumed leadership after the murder of former president, Luis Melo, by paramilitaries in Puerto AsÃs. ACSOMAYO represents people in the region with the greatest number of violations by the Colombian military, especially in cases of extrajudicial killings.
- Mr. Cesar Willington Chapal Quenama: Coordinator of the Permanent Forum of the CofÃ¡n Nation and the Indigenous Communities of Valle del Guamuez. The CofÃ¡n Forum includes the Kitchua, Nasa, Embera, AwÃ¡ and Siona nations (the CofÃ¡n and the Siona are communities considered by the United Nations to be in danger of extinction). These indigenous communities and peoples are threatened by violence by all armed actors, displaced from ancestral lands, and subject to colonization by non-indigenous and Colombian armed forces, as well as by the exploration and exploitation of petroleum.
- Ms. Fabiola Erazo Garcia: Leader of Ruta PacÃfica de Mujeres (Womenâ€™s Peaceful Route) and the Alianza de Mujeres del Putumayo (Alliance of Putumayan Women), Erazo Garcia has been on the front lines of the struggle for truth and justice in one of the most violent regions of Putumayo in the municipality of VillagarzÃ³n.
- Ms. Nancy SÃ¡nchez Mendez, AssociaciÃ³n Minga. Minga is a Colombian NGO in defense of human rights, with representatives throughout Colombia.
Putumayo, in southern Colombia, has received large concentrations of U.S. military, counterdrug, and economic funding, as a focus of counterinsurgency, counternarcotics and armed conflict for the past decade. These human rights defenders will describe what has occurred in Putumayo during the 2000s and the current human rights situation. Their personal stories and descriptions of the human rights situation on the ground in Colombia will serve as a window into the reality of rural life in Colombia.
The hearing will be co-chaired by Human Rights Commission Co-Chair Congressman Jim McGovern, Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and Congressman RaÃºl Grijalva. Other Members are invited to attend, speak and ask questions of the panelists.
For further information, please contact Hans Hogrefe at 5-5021or Cindy Buhl at 5-6101.
James P. McGovern, M.C.
Frank R. Wolf, M.C.