Magazine article The Progressive

Injustice in Colombia

Magazine article The Progressive

Injustice in Colombia

Article excerpt

It is heartbreaking getting to know and admire the liberation theologists, unionists, and political leaders in Colombia, a veteran reporter in Bogota once said, because you know that they are very likely to be gone soon.

So it is with Jose Antonio Lopez, the mayor of a small town in the banana-producing region of Colombia, who visited The Progressive's offices a couple of years ago. Lopez came here on a sister-county mission to talk about the human costs of the military aid the United States supplies to Colombia--more than to any other nation in the Western Hemisphere.

He spoke eloquently about the need to end the violence in his war-torn region of Uraba--violence that claimed his brother's life and the lives of many other people close to him. While he was mayor, he and the local bishop managed to arrange a cease-fire between the military and the guerrillas in the area. Lopez himself went into the mountains to talk the guerrillas into laying down their arms.

Today, Lopez sits in jail awaiting trial on charges that he is responsible for a massacre in which hooded gunmen opened fire at a street party in Apartado.

To the people who know him, including the residents and local officials in Wisconsin who met him through the sister-county program, the charges are unthinkable.

Lopez's arrest, along with his successor in the Apartado mayor's office, and eighty other people from the Uraba region of Colombia, follows a pattern of repression of Colombia's leftwing Patriotic Union party. Since 1986, when the party was formed, members of the Patriotic Union have been accused of being subversives by the military, and have been killed by the thousands. …

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