Scott Pearce, PBI-Colombia volunteer
Peace Brigades international-Canada is helping to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project by sharing stories of volunteers from Canada who have accompanied human rights defenders through PBI in Colombia.
Scott Pearce was a PBI-Colombia volunteer in 2000.
In this Peace Brigades International interview, Pearce says, “I began being politically aware in high school, worked to save old growth forests in BC. I read some Chomsky, Turning the Tide, and started to think about and study the history of Latin America. I heard about [PBI] by word of mouth and it was the perfect fit for me.”
In that interview he recounts this story:
“We were walking up from the town center of San Jose up towards the outlying hamlet of La Union, which is also part of the peace community, and one of the local farmers came running towards us and told us that further up the trail there was a group of soldiers that had captured two youths and were questioning them, and he was worried that they might be disappeared.”
“We continued up the trail, and we came across the soldiers, we didn’t see the youths.”
“My PBI colleague was Eva Scarfe, one of the longest serving PBI members, she was in Guatemala for years, remarkable woman, she said in the middle of chatting that ‘We heard there was trouble in the area, a couple of youths, what can you tell us about this?’”
“The soldiers looked a little stunned and went to talk to their commander and came back, and we kept talking with them, but we weren’t going to leave until we found out how those youths were. Five minutes later, they just released these two boys, and we hadn’t made any demands at all.”
“We found out later that they’d had one of them tied to a tree blindfolded and were waving a machete in front of his face, threatening him. People said, if you hadn’t been there, something bad could have happened.”
And in the October-December 2000 issue of Peace Magazine, Erika Zarate writes about the massacre at La Unión (the peace community of San José de Apartadó) that took place on July 8, 2000.
Her article begins with a quote from Pearce who says:
“Yesterday we visited the village of La Unión. It was an emotional trip for me because it was the first time I had returned to the community since the massacre of July 8. We rode up to La Unión on mule. I rode with a young girl from the community, and as we proceeded slowly along the steep muddy trail she told me about her classes at school and we practiced counting.”
He continues, “Then, without pausing, she began to talk about the massacre. Her father was one of those killed. She talked in detail about the events of July 8 in the same tone of voice she had talked about her troubles learning to read, as if it was all a strange story she couldn’t quite understand…”
Pearce is now a high school teacher in Toronto, Ontario.