Saturday, November 17, 2007

Colombian Ironies: Political Prisoner Andrés Gil Unable to Attend Human Rights Forum

Government Continues its Legal Assault on a Key Rural Social Organization

By Dan Feder
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

November 16, 2007

When the European Commission invited veteran Colombian social fighter Andrés Gil Gutierrez to an annual human rights forum in Lisbon last week, the representative who sent the invitation was apparently one of the few who still hadn’t heard: Gil isn’t going to any such events for a long time. Since the first days of October he has been an inmate at the Modelo prison on Bucaramanga, northwest Colombia. Gil, and two of his fellow leaders of the Peasant-Farmer Association of the Cimitarra River Valley (along with one other member of the association), were arrested as the army and intelligence police raided a small village where they were meeting with townspeople, as well as the association’s office in the city of Barrancabermeja. (See a previous report here.)

Andrés Gil
Photo: D.R. 2007 International Peace Observatory
The association, known by its Spanish initials ACVC, is one of Colombia’s most influential campesino organizations, working for the last 11 years in the conflictive Middle Magdalena region of the country and part of a national rural social movement fighting for better land and opportunities for the country’s rural poor. The ACVC has reported human rights violations and killings by the Colombian army, and is vocally opposed to the U.S.-imposed drug war policies of toxic crop fumigations that destroy farmers’ livelihoods and the surrounding environment.

The symbolism of this situation – where Colombia’s most important human rights defenders are being locked up or otherwise forced to suspend their work faster than international groups can keep track – will be lost on no one, and least of all Gil himself.

In a telephone interview from the Modelo prison, Gil said that he felt extremely frustrated that he would be unable to go. “There are so many things the association needs to say, so many things we need to denounce, so much information and facts that we need to clarify for all the participants of this important human rights forum in Lisbon. It is a space that we feel is very important to develop, as the Colombian state wants to silence the voices of the excluded, of the marginalized, of the persecuted, and here we have no spaces to be heard.”

From somewhere in a country called América,

Dan Feder
The Narco News Bulletin

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