Peace Brigades International accompaniment of NOMADESC in Colombia
Peace Brigades International has accompanied NOMADESC (the Association for Research and Social Action) since 2011 and its president Berenice Celeita since 1999.
PBI-Colombia has explained, “Founded in 1999, NOMADESC is a human rights organization that advises and accompanies organizations working on social, trade union, civic, indigenous, afro-descendant, agricultural and women’s issues.”
On September 13 of this year, PBI-Colombia accompanied NOMADESC in Buenaventura when it along with other human rights groups brought representatives from various embassies to visit what has been described as the most violent city in Colombia.
On October 1, PBI-Colombia travelled with Berenice to Washington, DC to meet with allies – including Amnesty International USA and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights – to share concerns about the security situation in Buenaventura and northern Cauca.
In late-October, PBI-Colombia was accompanying NOMADESC when Cristina Bautista Taquinas and four unarmed Indigenous Guards were killed in an attack in the village of La Luz in the Tacueyó reservation in the department of Cauca. CUPE president Mark Hancock was in Colombia at that time and you can read his reflection on that experience in Courage and resilience in Colombia.
And in mid-November, PBI brought Olga Araujo from NOMADEC and several other women human rights defenders to the European Parliament in Brussels to draw attention to the sexist discrimination and attacks that women defenders experience.
It is significant to also note that Berenice and members of the SINTRAEMCALI union were targeted in 2004 in an assassination plot named Operation Dragon for their opposition to the privatization of Emcali, a state-owned company providing water, telecommunications, and electricity services in the city of Cali.
CUPE reported in its International solidarity report 2018-2019, “In January 2019 a court in Cali convicted three retired military officers of planning to assassinate Berenice, opposition senator Alexander López, and leaders of SINTRAEMCALI, the Cali municipal workers union that has steadfastly opposed privatization.”
“The conviction and four-year prison sentence come after years of investigation, which finally proved that Colonel Julian Villate Leal and Majors Alfonso Abondano Mikan and Marco Fidel Rivera were behind the 2004 assassination plot.”
In an interview Berenice did when she attended the CUPE BC convention in April 2018, she highlighted, “It’s very important to keep sending labour delegations to Colombia to visit us and see with your own eyes what is happening. I am convinced that I am alive today because of the actions of solidarity.”
Berenice has also commented in this interview with PBI, “On behalf of NOMADESC and the communities that we accompany, we give Peace Brigades infinite thanks for being here, to the young people and older people who have passed through Peace Brigades International, because I would really like to say thank you for coming to Colombia and leaving a footprint and the trace of a Colombia that is different and is possible.”
An 11-minute video of that conversation (in Spanish) with PBI-Colombia field officer Beatriz Puerta Santos can be seen here.
There is also this 1-hour video of Berenice speaking (with translation) in Toronto in June 2015 at a public forum organized by PBI-Canada.
Peace Brigades International is a non-partisan organization that originated in Canada in 1981 in response to calls by Central American human rights organizations to provide non-violent accompaniment to human rights workers.
Through the unarmed protective accompaniment of organizations and communities, PBI seeks to reduce violence and open political space for social change.