CREDHOS President Iván Madero to visit Canada in November
Peace Brigades International-Canada is looking forward to hosting CREDHOS President Iván Madero when he visits this country in early-November for a series of meetings and public forums focused on fracking, climate change, water protection and the increasingly fragile peace process in Colombia.
The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project has accompanied CREDHOS (the Regional Corporation for the Defence of Human Rights) since 1994.
That’s the year after Iván Madero joined the CREDHOS Board of Directors.
He was already an experienced political activist at that point.
Ivan says, “In 1988, I was detained by the army in a demonstration. I was detained for various days. I was assaulted, tortured. There was a high chance that they would assassinate me. In this moment, there was a searching committee. They saved my life.”
He would have also known that joining CREDHOS would be dangerous.
Seven CREDHOS activists were killed between 1991 and 1992 as a result of the investigation by CREDHOS into the murder of Leonardo Posada Pedraza in August 1986.
In September 1986, the Washington Post reported, “The Union Patriotica [the political party formed by the FARC in 1985] and human rights groups say they have no doubt that it is right-wing paramilitary death squads [that killed Posada]. [The party’s presidential candidate Jaime] Pardo Leal charged that the clandestine groups consist of middle-level military officers and retired commanders and are financed by big landowners and drug dealers.”
It was the murder of Posada that had led to the formation of CREDHOS in 1987.
That was a tumultuous and violent time.
As University of Toronto professor (and PBI-Canada Board member) Luis van Isschot notes in his book The Social Origins of Human Rights, “The murder of Leonardo Posada augured poorly for the UP in the Magdalena Medio, as it did for popular movements in general and the wider population. Hundreds of UP militants were killed or disappeared across Colombia in the first few years of the party’s existence.”
Then in December 2000 a paramilitary group entered Barrancabermeja, the petroleum capital of Colombia where CREDHOS is based.
In January 2001, The New York Times reported, “Block by block and house by house, gunmen from Colombia’s surging right-wing paramilitary army are waging a fierce urban battle against leftist rebels in this grimy northern industrial center in a conflict that is usually fought in the countryside.”
That article adds, “Human rights organizations, including United States-based Human Rights Watch, and church workers say the military has played a role by — at the very least — passively allowing paramilitary gunmen to wage war here. The military says it is vigorously pursuing paramilitaries as well as rebels.”
PBI-Colombia has noted, “Ivan and his wife, after sleeping in different places every night accompanied by PBI, decided to leave.”
He spent ten years in exile in Spain.
He returned to Colombia in 2010 and became the president of CREDHOS.
That was the year David Ravelo, a founder member of CREDHOS, was imprisoned on the basis of the testimony of demobilized paramilitaries.
Ivan has experienced several security incidents since then.
On November 22, 2013, Ivan, who was residing at the CREDHOS headquarters for security reasons, had to take shelter on the second floor of the building to evade a man who had forcibly entered the building.
Front Line Defenders has also noted that Ivan and his family received death threats on January 9, 2014 and June 23 and 25, 2015. And on July 25, 2016, Ivan received a death threat both via a call on his cellphone, a text message, and a call to the CREDHOS office phone.
Ivan has commented, “You get used to being afraid, worrying of the constant threat. It becomes part of your daily life. Because it is a threat, nothing happens. But it can happen, when you get too used to the threat.”
And he has noted, “The political deterrence that PBI creates is fundamental. Receiving the accompaniment of Peace Brigades has been important in the life of CREDHOS. It allows you to move, it allows you to continue doing this work.”
To read about recent PBI-Colombia accompaniment of CREDHOS, please see PBI-Colombia accompanies CREDHOS to look at impact of oil industry on rivers (July) and PBI-Colombia accompanies CREDHOS to find grave site (June), as well as CREDHOS opposes fracking, seeks to protect freshwater and Dr. Yésid Blanco and the struggle for environmental justice and the right to water in Colombia.