When we talk about Colombia, we often hear two reactions. "It's so complicated!" Or, "Why should I care. There are no good guys to support there." Well, as to the first, yes, it’s complicated. Even more than you know. But as to the second, there are few places on earth with more heroes and heroines than Colombia.
These “good guys” are not carrying guns. The human rights groups who risk death to document abuses. The indigenous people who confront guerrillas and paramilitaries invading their lands, using only their words and ceremonial sticks. The judges who carry out the law despite death threats. The union organizers who protect workers’ rights no matter what the dangers. The Afro-Colombian people violently displaced from their lands who together decide to return and reclaim and rebuild their community. The millions of people who march against guerrilla and paramilitary violence. The journalists who uncover stories of mass graves and politicians’ secret deals with the paramilitaries. The local government ombudsman trying to get help for a community beset by conflict. The ordinary, and so extraordinary, people who denounce the disappearance or murder of their loved ones, and keep doing so no matter how many times government officials turn a deaf ear or a blind eye. Read this inspiring story published in the Los Angeles Times.
And as to why we in the United States should care… We should care because our country and our government affects Colombia. U.S. demand for illegal drugs fuels the violence in Colombia. And the solutions our government provides—massive military aid and spraying chemicals over the countryside, along with our refusal to try real solutions, like fully funding drug treatment programs—only compound the violence.
That's why we've started the "Stand by Colombia's Victims of Violence" campaign, because putting ourselves firmly beside victims and human rights defenders as they struggle for justice is the best way we can support a more peaceful Colombia. And it is the best guide for our government, too.
We'll continue sending you regular action alerts and posting our latest analysis on our website, so that you can continue to educate your friends and make your voice heard in Congress and in the new administration.
So, "What's changed?", you might ask.
For starters, the very blog you're reading (the LAWG blog, what else!) is a new initiative that we hope will help you stay even more up-to-date about what's going on in Washington and Colombia.
We've started out on Facebook—and have created a "Stand by Colombia's Victims of Violence" cause, which we hope you'll join!—and many other social networking sites so that we can better reach young people passionate about Latin America and get them involved in our important advocacy work.
And we'll also be coming up with ways for you to share your human rights story and experiences in Colombia with us and the rest of the LAWG community. Read Lisa Haugaard's story.
We're looking forward to working together with committed people like you in the coming year to make sure our government is standing by the victims and human rights defenders who so inspire us and make our work, despite the difficulties and setbacks, so very rewarding.