PBI-Colombia accompanies Nomadesc meeting with US Representative Jim McGovern in Washington, DC
Photo by Nomadesc.
On December 13, Nomadesc tweeted: “In order to demonstrate the deterioration of the human rights situation in Colombia, Nomadesc, accompanied by @WOLA_org and @pbiusa, met with the House representative @RepMcGovern and his advisers whom they requested to raise to the highest-level follow-up actions…”
Their tweet continues:
“…to the criminalization of the 2021 National Strike and the responsibility of the State, as well as to accelerate the Urgent search of the two leaders of the Yurumangui River, Abencio Caicedo and Edison Valencia who have disappeared since last November 28.”
CoDevelopment Canada has further explained: “Abencio Caicedo and Edinson Valencia have been missing since November 28 when they left their homes in the community of Yurumanguí in Buenaventura, southwestern Colombia.”
They add: “Caicedo is a member of the village council, while Valencia is a representative of APONURY, an Afro-Colombian rights organization active in communities along the Yurumanguí river. Both also work with the local Committee for Collective Reparations, seeking redress for communities affected by Colombia’s armed conflict.”
Edinson Valencia and Abencio Caicedo
Nomadesc is based in the city of Cali.
WOLA has noted: “In Cali, Colombia’s third largest city with a high number of Afro-descendant residents, the disproportionate use of force employed by security forces [during the national strike] was particularly acute, as the government deployed troops to quell the unrest.”
“Social media networks were flooded with disturbing videos of the violence and abuses. In one egregious instance, an Indigenous Nasa caravan that entered the city in early May to peacefully support protestors at the University of Cali was attacked by armed civilians, who, in the presence of police officers, shot their guns at protestors.”
“When the violence broke out, human rights defender Berenice Celeita and her team at the Association for Research and Social Action (Asociación para la Investigación y la Acción Social, Nomadesc) were out in the streets of Cali monitoring and assisting the victims of police violence.”
“Currently, Nomadesc represents over twenty cases of victims of this recent police violence. Among these cases are the parents of youth killed by the police, women subjected to sexual abuse, torture survivors, and individuals who have permanent ocular injuries due to the actions taken by security forces.”
WOLA adds: “Invaluable efforts to secure justice for these cases have unfortunately led to death threats, persecution, monitoring, and surveillance against Celeita.”
The call to suspend weapons exports to Colombia
On May 14, Representative McGovern helped lead 59 members of the House in a letter to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressing grave concern over the political and human rights situation in Colombia and urging the US Government to clearly and unambiguously denounce police brutality in Colombia.
The media release on that letter highlighted: “The lawmakers also call for a suspension of U.S. direct assistance to Colombian National Police; an end to U.S. commercial sales of weapons, equipment, services, or training to ESMAD (Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios) riot police; and a freeze on any grants or sales of riot or crowd control equipment to all Colombian public security forces, police, and special units until concrete and clear human rights benchmarks are established and met.”
This is a call that has been echoed by Amnesty International Canada.
In June, they stated: “Amidst profound concern about the deepening human rights crisis in Colombia and militarized repression of ongoing demonstrations across the country, Amnesty International Canada is calling on the Canadian government to suspend weapons exports to the South American country.”
Military exports from Canada to Colombia have included Bell CH-135 helicopters, General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada Light Armoured Vehicles (LAVs) for the army and INKAS Huron Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) for the national police.
And just weeks after the Colombian Air Force conducted an airstrike that killed twelve people, including 16-year-old Danna Lizeth Montilla, in March of this year, two Beechcraft T-6C Texan II turboprop trainer aircraft were delivered to the Colombian Air Force powered by Montreal, Québec-made Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engines.
The Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project has accompanied Nomadesc since 2011 and its president Berenice Celeita since 1999.