SUMMER, 2001: Volume 6, Issue 2
In Columbia Christian Peacemaker Team Accompanies Displaced Families by Cliff Kindy
Less than a week after their arrival at an abandoned rural village, CPT Colombia team members accompanied families back home who had been in hiding for two months.
In early February, upon hearing news of the imminent arrival of the Colombian Army, all local residents of Puerto Nuevo Ité, some 20 families, had fled. According to the displaced persons to whom the team spoke, Army and paramilitary units ransacked the community February 3.
Puerto Nuevo Ité, a riverside village in northern Antióquia province where CPT worked during March, is a five hour boat-ride west of Barrancabermeja. When CPT Colombia team members Christine Forand and Cliff Kindy arrived there on March 30, Puerto Nuevo Ité was a ghost town. The army and paramilitaries had destroyed everything of value in the school, in the co-op store, and in each of the town’s nine houses.
Three members of the local cooperative guided the CPTers, who, together with two European journalists and a regional peace and development worker, had come to help facilitate a secure return of the displaced. As the group was documenting destruction and graffiti written on walls signed by the Palagua Army Brigade and AUC paramilitaries, ten members of a third armed group, FARC guerrillas, appeared. When they asked about who the outsiders were, CPT shared one of their fliers calling all armed actors to a “fast from arms.”
The southern Bolivar/northern Antióquia region is routinely patrolled by the FARC. While many communities accept the guerrilla presence without fear, the communities themselves are made up of farmers, not guerrillas. Sandra Solano of the Development and Peace Program of the Magdalena Medio Region explained, “The campesinos have children, live in houses, develop a sustainable economy, are not armed, and do not wear camouflage military uniforms. The guerrillas do not have children, live on the move, do not try to develop a local economy, are armed, and wear camouflage military uniforms.”
On March 31 Kindy and Forand met with Major Restrepo of Palagua Brigade of the Colombian Army’s 14th Battalion in Ojos Claros, a 90-minute walk from Puerto Nuevo Ité. Many of the men in army uniforms who accompanied the major were bearded. CPTers were later told that since soldiers are not allowed to have beards, bearded ‘soldiers’ indicate a paramilitary presence with the army.
An hour after the CPTers left Ojos Claros, the military pulled out and spent the next two days in Puerto Nuevo Ité. The CPTers went to meet some of the families displaced from Ité, dispersed in homes an hour’s walk or more away, to offer accompaniment if they wished to return. When the CPTers returned with the families five days later, they discovered that even more communal and private property had been destroyed, but that graffiti implicating specific military and paramilitary organizations had been carefully removed.
CPT Work Continues In Other Regions CPT continues its work in Hebron, where both the Palestinian and Israeli communities have suffered a great deal of violence. Israeli, Palestinian and international peace groups have protested the continued destruction of Palestinian homes and farms to provide more land or security for Israeli settlements.
In Chiapas, CPTers have accompanied indigenous coffee growers who protest the importation of cheaper coffee into Mexico at a local Nestle plant. There continue to be concerns regarding both paramilitary and Army activity in and around the indigenous communities in which the Christian nonviolent group The Bees (Las Abejas) work. (See PTNv3i2, PTNv5i2, PTNv5i3.)
PR, CPTers have recently joined Puerto Ricans and others protesting
the US Navy’s plan to resume bombing practice with live ammunition on
is an urgent need for volunteers with peace team training and Spanish
language facility to participate in CPT’s work. Please contact: CPT,
PO Box 6508 Chicago, IL 60680; Tel: 312-455-1199 Fax: 312-432-1213.
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