$800,000 on hearts.
You heard that right. With a massive humanitarian crisis on their hands, the Colombian government is spending $800,000 on an installation of more than forty, 8-13 ft tall heart sculptures in DC and New York this fall. This campaign, called "Colombia Is Passion," was supposedly designed to educate Americans about the "real" Colombia, a fun and beautiful country in which violence and human rights abuses are a thing of the distant past.
At this point, you might be asking, "Why this? Why now?"
Picture this: On Tuesday morning, September 8th, as congressmen and their aides exited the metro in DC after a long August recess, they were handed flowers and cups of Juan Valdez coffee while simultaneously greeted by a large hearts that artistically announced the campaign's slogan "Discover Colombia Through its Heart." Then, they headed off to the first day of the fall legislative session with a rosy image of Colombia in mind and the stalled U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement (FTA) on the agenda.
You get the idea, right?
Now, we agree that Colombia is a beautiful country of impressive cultural traditions and incredibly strong and brave people. But we know that it will only further break Colombia's heart if the U.S. government goes forward with a FTA while ignoring the conflict that drove 380,000 people from their homes last year or the violence against trade unionists, indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, and human rights defenders, which has been continuous and unchecked.
That's why we're working together with a coalition of human rights, labor, and environmental groups, to launch a campaign to urge legislators: "Don't Break Colombia's Heart" by failing to call for real advances in human rights and passing a FTA that would hurt the rural poor. Here in DC, we began the campaign on Tuesday with a protest that painted the full picture for the easily swayed passerby and the media. But, as the Colombian government's campaign to whitewash their image persists throughout the next couple weeks, we'll need your help in keeping the real facts about Colombia in the news.
We need to make sure people know that:
1. There are over 4 million people internally displaced in Colombia, making Colombia's crisis the largest in our hemisphere and the second largest in the world after the Sudan.
2. Colombia's army has been regularly killing innocent civilians and dressing them up in guerrilla fatigues in order to appear to be "winning the war."
3. Colombia's government has been illegally wiretapping journalists, human rights defenders, Supreme Court judges and political opposition and then using the information gathered to threaten them into silence.
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During the push to launch Plan Colombia, the Colombian government used the same tactics of giving out coffee and 20,000 yellow roses to the DC public-and we know how that turned out. But with your help we will be able to make the truth heard and move towards U.S. policies that support the people of Colombia and stand by victims of the violence.