Colombia: Peace Community called "FARC haven"
The US-based Colombia Support Network (CSN) is calling for letters to Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot (firstname.lastname@example.org) to protest a Dec. 14 opinion piece about the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó in the northwestern Colombian department of Antioquia. In the article the paper's Latin America correspondent Mary Anastasia O'Grady repeated charges from a former rebel commander, Daniel Sierra Martinez AKA "Samir", that despite the community's claim of rejecting the presence of all weapons and armed groups, it is really a "safe haven" for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). "Samir" also claimed that when he was a rebel leader, "the supposed peaceniks who ran the local NGO"—the faith-based human rights group Justice and Peace—"were his allies and an important FARC tool in the effort to discredit the military," O'Grady wrote.
People familiar with the community say its members have been harassed and attacked repeatedly by all sides in Colombia's internal conflict—the military, the right-wing paramilitaries and the rebels. According to a CSN statement, "more than 30 Peace Community residents have been murdered by FARC guerrillas since 1997." In a letter to Gigot, the well-known Colombian human rights activist Father Javier Giraldo Moreno called O'Grady's article "libelous," "repulsive and despicable" and a "disgrace." He said it repeated disinformation that reflects a "media strategy, directed during the last 13 years by [the Colombian military's] Seventeenth Brigade, which seeks to destroy the Peace Community." (WSJ, Dec. 13; CSN statements, Dec. 15, 16, 18)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 20
See our last post on Colombia.