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Women's Day Toast

March 21, 2007

Scott Nicholson - Colombia

While the men with guns are continuing to kill people, more than 200 women gathered together here in Saravena on March 8 to commemorate International Women's Day and to call for peace with justice.  It was a very beautiful and inspiring event!

The Dawn of Women for Arauca Association organized the commemoration and issued an excellent declaration.  The women denounced the atrocities being committed by the U.S.-sponsored military and by the guerrillas.  They also expressed their deep commitment to continue working non-violently to achieve peace with social justice.

U.S. military aid has caused "the poisoning of the land, murder, massacres, threats, and the forced displacement and mass imprisonment of community leaders and people in general" declared the women.  "Tactics of war that are intended to destroy the social networks that have been created by the communities and open the way for the corporations to implement large-scale infrastructure projects, plunder our resources, and violate the most basic rights of the civilian population.  The result is hunger, despair, and desolation in our countryside."

The women also had the courage and integrity to denounce the atrocities being committed in the war between the two guerrilla groups here in the state of Arauca.  The FARC and ELN have "destroyed community-organized economic projects, caused thousands of peasants to flee from their homes, killed hundreds of people, raped women, and sown terror in the Araucan countryside.  The two organizations that said they took up arms to defend the people are now killing those people."

The women commemorated Morelly Guillén, nurse; Luz Miryam Farias, indigenous teacher; and Maritza Linares - who have been killed in Arauca. 

They also remembered Gloria Medina, Raquel Castro, Elida Parra, Dora Lizcano, Fidelia Villamizar, Miriam Carrillo, Doris Garcia, Luz Perly Córdoba, Flor Naranjo, and Martha Osorio - Arauca community activists who have been imprisoned.

"Mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, friends, indigenous and black women: Today we want to give you the recognition you deserve.  You have cultivated this ground with your blood and sacrifice.  We will continue to sow this land so that one day in the not-too-distant future the fruit of our dreams will rise up from this ground."

"The Dawn of Women for Arauca Association works to build the just world that we long for so deeply.  A world in which all of us will have a dignified life.  A world in which we can dream.  A world in which we can live."

While the women were making the final revisions to their declaration, the army was torturing and killing Javier Zuñiga a few miles outside of Saravena on the evening of March 7.  He was a 29-year-old taxi driver who left behind a 22-year-old wife and a 14-month-old daughter.  The army reported on March 9 that he was a guerrilla who had been killed in combat.

Three days after International Women's Day, George W. Bush stopped in Bogotá for a seven-hour visit.  Bush said to Colombian president Uribe during the toast at lunch, "We value your democracy, and I thank you for your firm leadership."

In love and solidarity,
Scott Nicholson serves as a Short-term Volunteer with the Social Organizations of Arauca, Colombia.  As a part of the process of accompaniment, Scott works as an advisor/consultant in the administration of productive projects in the rural communities.

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