Colombia Delegation – Day 1
On Sunday morning, 26 February Bryan Nott joined a delegation of trade unionists and advocates on a trip to Colombia to raise awareness and campaign for the rights of unions and their members.
Day 1After a long day's travel we landed in Bogota in the late afternoon. We got to see some of the city on the drive from the airport. There were lots of street food vendors alongside more familiar sights such as Subway. It did not feel a dangerous city as we were driving through it. In the centre there were armed soldiers at various points which gave it a different feel.
We met some of the Colombians with whom Justice for Colombia works in the evening. This included Carlos Lozano who is the editor of the opposition newspaper and very involved in Colombians for Peace and working towards securing a negotiated peace. He said that whilst there was some improvement under the newer Santos government there were still thousands of political prisoners - agricultural workers, trade unionists, civil society and human rights activists. The government denied their existence but the political prisoners were recognised by the United Nations.
He also said that there were still many threats made against those working for human rights. He still regularly receives death threats and is also subject to false legal proceedings which are consistently dropped.
On the same day we arrived, the Farc guerrilla group announced that they were releasing all remaining hostages they held and ending the practice of kidnapping. Carlos' view was that it was in no small part due to Colombians for Peace that Farc had made this move. The vital thing was how the government now responded.
Beyond any peace process there were still problems of trade union rights which are consistently undermined and land reform to give land back to rural workers.
We also heard from the British ambassador who said that the new government represented change but that things would not completely change overnight. He said the big problem was that there was not a majority of public opinion that cared about human rights and this made it harder to achieve change. We are due to see him later in the week where we will be able to explore that stance.
After 17 hours travelling and an early start tomorrow, it was not a late night…
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