WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
13 Apr 2007 | News

NGOs demand action by the American government in Nariño, Colombia

On April 13, 2007, American NGOs wrote a letter to Secretary of State Rice lamenting the humanitarian crisis in Narino, Colombia. The letter urges Rice to encourage the Colombian government to take action in protecting human rights and that the U.S. take an active role in ensuring that humanitarian aid is being delivered to the victims of displacement and political violence.

April 13, 2007

The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
U.S. State Department
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary of State Rice,

As Easter week began we received multiple appeals, from organizations present in Colombia, calling on the Colombian government to respond to the current humanitarian  crisis in Nariño. We want to reiterate those concerns and support the call from these bodies and communities and ask that you communicate these concerns to the Colombian government. We recognize the efforts local authorities have taken to deal with the emergency. However, we understand, due to the magnitude of the crisis, that the national and departmental authorities need to intervene in this matter and ensure that Afro- Colombians internally displaced by the violence have their rights protected and are given access to food, medicine, shelter, humanitarian assistance and protection in the midst of the conflict.

We understand that the worsening of the humanitarian crisis affecting Afro-Colombian communities in the Tapaje River in the Municipality of El Charco, Nariño is due to recent combat operations between the Colombian Naval Forces of the Pacific, paramilitaries, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). We are also aware that the military operations have led to the violation of the rights of Afro-Colombians living in their collective lands.

We are aware that in the period between January and early March approximately 8,335 people were displaced by the instability caused by public security problems. The recent displacement of 4,222 people in El Charco and La Tola, 47% of whom are children, calls us  to appeal to the U.S. government to ensure that the Colombian national authorities take special action in light of the humanitarian situation. Additionally, certain communities are being confined and are unable to flee the area due to restriction of movement by armed groups. Also, other communities are facing internal displacement within the territories. This needs to be monitored and requires government officials to implement contingency plans to prevent more massive displacements. Moreover, we want to share our concern regarding the effect of the six most recent aerial fumigations which in the context of this situation have only contributed to the further deterioration of the crisis.

It is our belief, as members of diverse United States organizations and activists, that the most vulnerable must be supported and protected and that the right to a dignified life must be respected. In this spirit we call on all actors and government officials to respond immediately and in the most humane way to the needs of the population. We urge you to call on the Colombian government to:

–Immediately intervene in this matter to ensure that the rights of internally displaced Afro-Colombians are respected and that they have access to food, medicine, shelter and humanitarian assistance. Colombian civilian institutions should go to the areas affected and establish their presence so as to ensure that civilians and IDPs are protected and assisted.

–Urge that the Colombian armed forces respect the rights of Afro-Colombian communities and do not violate international humanitarian law.

–Work with the United Nations and international organizations to implement a humanitarian and human rights plan in this area of the country that addresses the needs of Afro-Colombian rural and urban communities.

–Make a commitment to ensure a safe, voluntary return and support for the displaced families who wish to return to their territory and homes.

Finally we urge the U.S. government to immediately suspend the fumigations program in this area as the reports we have received indicate that it is only worsening the humanitarian crisis in the region. Instead the U.S. government should redirect funding for emergency humanitarian assistance to Nariño.



Rev. John L. McCullough
Executive Director and CEO
Church World Service

Rev. Felix Ortiz-Cotto
Executive, Latin America and the Caribbean
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of

Daryl E Yoder-Bontrager
Latin America Area Director
Mennonite Central Committee

Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory
Director, Washington Office
Presbyterian Church, USA

Rebecca Phares
Director, Public Policy and Advocacy
Lutheran World Relief

David Robinson
Executive Director
Pax Christi USA

James R Stormes, S.J.
Secretary, Social and International Ministries
Jesuit Conference

Melinda St. Louis
Executive Director
Witness for Peace

Heather Hanson, PhD.
Executive Director
US Office on Colombia

Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli
Senior Associate for Colombia and Haiti
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

Shaina Aber, Esq.
Associate for Policy
Jesuit Refugee Service USA

Susana Pimiento Chamorro and John Lindsay-Poland
Fellowship of Reconciliation Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean

Barbara Gerlach
Colombia Liaison
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

Fr. William Watson, S.J.
Assistant for Colombia
Northwest Jesuits

Norma Lozano Jackson, PhD
Benedict College
Columbia, SC.

Marino Cordoba, Charo Mina-Rojas, Otoniel Paz

Rev. Jose Luis Casal,
General Missioner
The Presbytery of Tres Rios – PC(USA)

Rev. Milton Mejia
United States Representative
Red Ecumenica de Colombia

Sharon Hunter-Smith
Emergency Response Network
Chicago Metropolitan Sanctuary Alliance

Bob Buxman
West Coast Mennonite Central Committee, Reedley CA

Sheri Plett Wiedenhoefer, Director
West Coast Mennonite Central Committee – Reedley, CA

Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach – Harpers Ferry, WV
Christine Holsopple Kauffman – Goshen, IN
Zulma Prieto – Goshen, IN
Duane Edigar – Chicago, IL
Andrea Kuenning – Minneapolis, MN
Tim Penner – Harper, KS
Barbara Shelly – Evanston, IL
Louise Ranck – Ephrata, PA
Greg Newswanger
Herbert E. Myers, M.D. – Mount Joy, PA
Darrell E. Yoder – Lancaster, PA
Andrea Welty Peachey – Norwich, CT
Randall K. Nafziger — Wauseon, OH
Fran Kratz
Susan Balzer
Chris Longenecker — Lancaster, PA
Patricia L. Ruble, Esquire – Alexandria, VA
Timothy Stoltzfus-Dueck — Princeton, NJ
Carol Beauregard — Paoli, IN
JD Miller — Ages-Brookside, KY
Aletha Stahl – Richmond, IN
Myron Schrag, Goshen, IN