Arrested for Confronting Power Print

Nico Udu-gamaOn September 13th, during a speech by Colombian ex-president Álvaro Uribe to students at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, SOA Watch Field Organizer Nico Udu-gama was arrested and taken to jail. You can send a fax to Georgetown here.

Sólo le pido a Dios
que el engaño no me sea indiferente,
si un traidor puede más que unos cuantos,
que esos cuantos no lo olviden fácilmente.

- Mercedes Sosa

My standard-issue baloney sandwich acting as my pillow, I lay awake in DC's central cell block thinking about the day's events. I had been arrested for confronting a criminal, and now it was I who was watching the cockroaches and the jailers pass freely from one cell to the next. Like many others before and after me, I decided to break the chain of silence and speak out against Power. Like Mercedes Sosa’s song, we refuse to be indifferent to lies.

And what was it that we were hearing in the Georgetown University Intercultural Center's auditorium that afternoon? Álvaro Uribe, the Colombian ex-president, presenting himself as a soft-spoken academic, was telling his students that under his administration, “no one from the opposition had been killed or displaced.” My heart jumped to my throat. What about my friends in the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó who had been massacred on February 21st and 22nd, 2005? After the massacre, Uribe attacked the Peace Community as being a safe-haven for “terrorists”. (The head of the 17th Brigade at the time of the massacre – Gen. Hector Jaime Fadino Rincon – was a graduate of the School of the Americas). Uribe had perjured the memory of the victims, and he was doing it again here.

What about the hundreds of campesinos who left the Nordeste Antioqueño in the Magdalena Medio, fleeing the violence caused by paramilitary and military incursions at the service of multinational gold companies? Uribe's “Democratic Security” policy had made sure that soldiers would be given bonuses and vacation time for “guerrilla fighters” they had killed, and they were killing campesinos and presenting them as guerrilla combatants. A report by FOR and USOC showed that during Uribe's administration, where there were SOA-trained brigade commanders, there were higher rates of extrajudicial executions (http://www.soaw.org/about-the-soawhinsec/colombia/3470-the-impact-of-the-soa-in-colombia).

In his speech, Uribe talked about how he brought “social cohesion” to Colombia. I thought about the mass grave of 2,000 victims, found near the military base of La Macarena in 2009. After the gruesome discovery - the largest in Latin America-, Uribe called the people who denounced the massacre “spokespersons of terrorism”; less than a month later,  Norma Irene Peréz, one of the main investigators was tortured and killed. (The area of La Macarena was an important staging area for a U.S.-supported military offensive known as Plan Patriota). I also remembered how Uribe “brought confidence back to government” by authorizing wire-tapping of his political opponents.

Solidarity

The Adios Uribe Coalition was formed by a group of people dedicated to preserving the memory of those Colombians who have been killed in a war fueled and funded by U.S. imperialism and the Colombian oligarchy. We reject Georgetown University inviting a person like Uribe to teach our students about how to kill social opposition for the sake of the market – and then lie about it. Why is Georgetown – an institution which claims to work by the Jesuit values of peace and social justice – allowing a criminal to clean his past in the notebooks of tomorrow's leaders? Why are our institutions of higher learning becoming training grounds for future human rights abusers?

We must not permit mass murderers like Uribe to be allowed to speak.  They can only speak in front of their countries' justice systems or an international criminal court.

What Georgetown is doing to me – jail and trumped up charges – is nothing compared to what happened every day in Colombia under Uribe’s administration. And it continues today. Students, unionists, indigenous, farmers and women are persecuted and killed simply for speaking the truth. We must not forget them. There comes a time when one is so confronted with lies and perversion that remaining quiet is simply not an option. We will not be intimidated. Whether it’s at the gates of Ft. Benning or the gates of Georgetown University, we will continue to resist the lies and the propaganda and the repression and stand in solidarity with those who really want a just and peaceful world.

See you in November!

Nico Udu-gama, SOA Watch DC

P.S.  Thank you for your continued faxes to Georgetown's president DeGioia to drop Uribe.  Please continue to make your voice heard!