WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
5 Oct 2007 |

NGO letter in support of House Resolution 618

HR 618 is an effort to create consciousness about the grave humanitarian conditions of Afro-Colombians. It aims to protect and promote the Human Rights of this community.

To: Foreign Policy Aides, U.S. House of Representatives

Date: October 4, 2007


We, the undersigned organizations and individuals, ask that you co-sponsor H. Res. 618, a resolution that acknowledges the grave humanitarian conditions that many Afro-Colombian civilians live in.  We wish to express our continued concern regarding the violations of the human, territorial and cultural rights of Afro-Colombians, and we hope that this resolution will serve as an educational tool to bring attention to this critical situation.

 The humanitarian, human rights and internal displacement crisis that Afro-Colombian communities face has long been a concern of many organizations and individuals in our network.  Despite the collective territorial rights granted to Afro-Colombians along the Pacific coast under Law 70 of 1993, Afro-Colombian communities in this region have become internally displaced due to the internal armed conflict, threats of violence and fighting related to territorial disputes between guerrillas, paramilitaries, and the Colombian army. There exists a long list of examples of how the violence and internal displacement perpetrated by all of the armed groups has taken its toll on Afro-descendant communities. In the municipality of Buenaventura (Valle del Cauca), the situation of Afro-Colombians civilians has significantly deteriorated in the past few years. In 2006, Buenaventura city experienced some 38 terrorist attacks including car bombs and the like. Since January 2007, over 200 persons, mainly Afro-Colombian youths, have been assassinated due to fighting and violence among all of the warring parties. In the department of Chocó, combat between the armed groups has internally displaced hundreds of thousands of Afro-Colombians over the past ten years.  Those who wish to return find that their territories have been unlawfully appropriated by illegal armed groups and third parties. In the northwestern part of this department, palm oil companies that allegedly operate in collusion with paramilitary groups have appropriated lands belonging to Afro-Colombians. 


In April 2007, in response to the recent internal displacement of 7,000 people in the department of Nariño, twenty-five NGOs and individuals sent a letter to the Colombian Vice-President Francisco Santos appealing the government to respond to the humanitarian crisis, protect the rights of Afro-Colombians internally displaced by the violence, and ensure the displaced have access to humanitarian assistance, such as food, medicine, shelter and protection.

It is our belief, as members of diverse U.S. organizations as well as concerned individuals, that vulnerable Colombians must be supported and protected, and that their rights to a dignified life must be respected.  For this reason, we strongly recommend that you co-sponsor H. Res. 618, which will help bring attention to this dire situation and set the stage for more balanced and informed policy towards Colombia.

Thank you very much for your attention to these important matters.  We hope that we can count on your continued support for the promotion of human rights and socio-economic justice in Colombia. 



Adam Isacson
Center for International Policy

Heather Hanson
U.S. Office on Colombia

Gimena Sanchez-Garzoli
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)

Angela Berryman
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Peacebuilding Unit

Renata Rendon
Amnesty International USA

Marino Cordoba, Charo Mina Rojas and Otoniel Paz
Association of Internally Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES

Julio César y Marta Montaño
Black Communities Process), Illinois

Nicole Lee
TransAfrica Forum 

Dr. Joseph Jordan
TransAfrica Forum Scholars Council

James Early
TransAfrica Forum Board Member

Sanho Tree
Institute for Policy Studies (IPS)

Gary Cozette
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America

Carlos Quesada
Global Rights

Rev. John L. McCullough
Church World Service

James R. Stormes SJ
Jesuit Conference

Shaina Aber, Esq.
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA

Andrea Lari
Refugees International

Barbara Gerlach
United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries

C. Richard Parkins   
Episcopal Migration Ministries

Marselha Gonçalves Margerin
Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights

Melinda St. Louis
Witness for Peace

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

T. Michael McNulty, SJ
Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)

Theo Sitther
Mennonite Central
Committee, U.S. Washington Office

Rev. Whit Hutchinson and Humberto Garces
Manuel Zapata Olivella Center for Education and Human Development

Carlos A. Quiroz
Manuel Zapata Olivella Center for Education and Human Development
Group of Andean Immigrants in DC

Dr. Norma Jackson
Office of International Programs,
Benedict College

Monica Rizo
Member of the Network for Advocacy in Solidarity with Grassroots Afro-Colombian Communities (NASGACC)

Roland Roebuck
Member of the Network for Advocacy in Solidarity with Grassroots Afro-Colombian Communities (NASGACC)

Wilder Peña
Grupo Folklórico Afro-Colombiano Tangaré

John Jairo Garces
Organización Un Día de Esperanza

Marcos Bellamy
Cimarrones President (2005-2007),
Howard University

Fatimah Williams Castro
Rutgers University

Kiran Asher
Clark University, Author of forthcoming book Black Social Movements and Development in the Making in the Pacific Lowlands of Colombia

Pamela Bowman
School of the
Americas Watch

Tianna S. Paschel
Department of Sociology,
University of California – Berkeley

Jim Oldham
Lianas Resource Center

Parish W. Jones, PhD
Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

Patricia Forner
Colombia Accompaniment Program, Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

Cristina Espinel and Catalina Talero 
Colombia Human Rights Committee

Gail S. Phares
Carolina Interfaith Task Force on Central America 

Aris White
Rooted Afrikans-Serving the Afro Colombian Communities-Chicago-Chocó-Cartagena

Eunice Mina Escobar
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America

Ann Farnsworth
Latin American and Latino Studies,
University of Pennsylvania

Tukufu Zuberi
Center for Africana Studies,
University of Pennsylvania

Rick Axtell
Danville, Kentucky

Arturo Escobar
Department of Anthropology,
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Marian Douglas-Ungaro
Writer and Human Rights Consultant

Miriam Jiménez Román
Afrolatin@ Forum

Martha Pierce
Chicago Metropolitan Sanctuary Alliance

For further information please contact Jessica Eby at the Washington Office on Latin America,  [email protected] or (202) 797-2171 ext. 202 www.wola.org