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COLOMBIA: Letter from Carol Rose (edited for length)

The week before last I visited a couple of villages that have been affected
by US sponsored fumigations. While almost everyone agrees the growing of
illicit crops in large amounts (coca) is problematic, the devastation
caused by the generalized spraying of herbicides is devastating. I do
mean generalized spraying--over homes and yards, over food crops, over
schools and water sources. People are sick. Their legitimate sources of
income wiped out. And the coca recovers with relative ease. So fumigation
leaves communities even more dependant on the growing of coca.

Three weeks ago a couple of men from the communities along the Opon River
where CPT has our primary work were disappeared and are believed dead at
this point. We're working on a worship service to help the community
grieve. It's particularly hard when you're not sure about what happened
and you have the armed group's reactions to worry about. This one was
probably paramilitaries. The last major attack on a community member was by
the guerrillas.

Most of my days are full of visiting different homes and families along the
river and around the lake. These communities were almost empty when I
first visited them just over two years ago. Now the river and lake are
dotted with homes filled with families of farmers and fisher folk.

We CPTers go boating around in a motorized canoe. We are walking on muddy
trails, talking with people about crops they have in, about the price of
corn and the costs of getting it to market, and about violence and
nonviolence and brainstorming about what a community pressed between
different armed groups can do.

It seems like the list we come up with is very short, but the most
important things are what they are doing. Daring to live in their homes.
Daring to plant yet another crop of corn. Daring to go to the city by
community canoe and come back again. Doing their best to refuse to aid
armed groups. Raising their children with hope for the land and the river.
Laughing. Organizing soccer games with communities who don't trust them...

And we are also doing something. Hanging in there, and being present with
communities of civilians whose lives, to a large extent, resist the war.
And they tell us that our presence reduces the violence. And they tell us
that our presence has made space for them to return from the life of
refugees in the city. And they tell us that things would be much worse if
we weren't there. So we work and pray together towards peace.

And what can be done from the north?
1. Pray for the communities of the Opon in the face of the loss of loved
ones and threats of violence.
2. There is still something of a visa crisis for CPT. The Colombian
government has granted a few visas to new people, but the CPT people with
experience and language capabilities are
still waiting for visas. Prayer and political pressure on this are still
welcome. (Legislators help by inquiring with Colombian officials about the
blockage of visas for human rights workers and for CPT in particular).
3. In September, the US congress will again be voting on "aid" to
Colombia. (Most of the "aid" is not helpful for life and most goes
straight to US companies in the form of purchases of war related and other
equipment, therefore I use the " " around the word). I believe it would be
best if our government would cut all military related, and all fumigation
related, "aid."
4. Support CPT in prayer and financially.

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