COLOMBIA: Public prayer protests U.S. militarization of Colombia

by Eloy Garcia

On 11 August 2009, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) prayed and sang in protest of further U.S. militarization of Colombia. (See photos of the event here.)   CPT-Colombia held its public prayer outside a resort in Barrancabermeja, where citizens awaited the arrival of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.  The prayer aimed to call attention to the reality that U.S. military bases in Colombia and the further militarization of the nation will not answer Colombia’s troubles but will only exacerbate human rights abuses directed against social organizations working for peace and justice.

CPTers Chris Knestrick and Laura Ciaghi lay in the street as symbolic corpses, draped in signs identifying themselves with murdered community leaders and "false positives," or civilians whom the Colombian army murders and dresses in guerrilla uniform in order to falsely claim them as dead guerrilla combatants.  Other team members held signs calling for "Peace with Justice" and "No More Impunity" for perpetrators of crimes.  As the team sang, "Give us a strong heart for the struggle," police, soldiers, and other government security agents quickly surrounded them.  While the authorities tried to remove them, the group, some kneeling, continued to pray a litany of resistance. 

Following the prayer, CPTer Michel Lachman stated for the team, "This action is the result of the recent naming of seven [Colombian] military bases that the United States is using to amplify its presence in the region, to the understandable discomfort of neighboring countries.  President Obama’s mantra of ‘change you can believe in’ rings hollow once again as he supports U.S. imperial designs in Colombia with approval of the planned base amplification and continued support of Plan Colombia."

Local Colombians who witnessed CPT’s public prayer voiced their support, stating that President Uribe has no shame when he supports the United States over his own people of Colombia.  Some expressed astonishment that the agreement regarding the military bases would include total political immunity for any crimes committed on Colombian soil by U.S. personnel.  One taxi driver commented that, after the example of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Colombian neighbors are right to be worried about increased U.S.  military presence in the region.  He concluded, "President Uribe has finally turned over the country completely to the gringos." 

Christian Peacemaker Teams

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