Colombia: militarisation after the peace agreements

Protesters in Buenaventura, Colombia, dressed in mock police clothes.
Protesters in Buenaventura, Colombia, dressed in mock police clothes.
Christian Peñuela

My name is Christian Peñuela. I'm a conscientious objector. I'm part of an organisation called Colectiva la Tulpa. It's an organisation of conscientious objectors from the city of Bogotá, Colombia, South America.

As an organisation, we are raising the debate and being very critical of the public agenda in our country around the peace agreements already signed between the Colombian government and the Farc guerrilla. We believe that there is going to be an increased context of militarisation after the agreement in which, unfortunately, the investment in war from the Colombian state will continue.

The public spending is not going to stop and we think that's problematic. There are some new military doctrines - in this case, called the Damascus Doctrine - at this moment being constructed by the armed forces. The doctrine strengthens the military forces as the institution in charge of the main dialogue with civil society. We also question the fact that military service continues to be compulsory. After the peace agreements and other issues we are aware of, that's in this post agreement context.

There are also some free trade agreements, for example, the Free Trade Agreement between Colombia and Israel

that has been estimated at $700 million and the military is going to be the third sector that benefits most. With Israeli companies of the state of Israel offering different services, including security and weapons, whose aim is to continue the context of militarisation in the rural areas and in the cities. Mainly, we are worried about the fact that it's going to be a heavy investment. We believe that it's going to be a heavy investment in military intelligence

and that intelligence is going to be use to pursue different social movements in Colombia. In fact, something we are concerned about is that after the peace agreements signed on November 26th 2016, more than a 100 social leaders from different social movements like indigenous, farmers, afro-descendant, have been killed.

For us, it's problematic because this happened after the peace agreements. Mainly, we are also thinking of the fact that many of the youth of Colombia are going to continue being enrolled into military service. The issue of compulsory military service is still unresolved. We question why there is a compulsory military service, post agreement, where there is not going to be an internal conflict any more to answer to those demands that used to justify compulsory military service. We believe that our young people will become 'exports' - they will perform military service then will pursue a career abroad as mercenaries. At no time they are problematising access to opportunities. Their right to health, work and other things when, unfortunately, the state prefers to demand obligations from young people, instead of giving them their rights.

Something that we are particularly concerned about at the moment is the situation in Buenaventura. Buenaventura is a city in the Colombian Pacific coast and, right now, they've been on strike, more or less, 20 days. Buenaventura is Colombia's main port where 60% of Colombia's GDP, Gross Domestic Product, passes through this port. Buanaventura's black, afro-descendant communities or the afro-descendant movements are fighting for education. They are fighting for an education, for health that, presently, they haven't had and it's paradoxical as it's the main port and there has never been social investment in that port. Currently - I don't have the exact figures - but we know that many people have been persecuted, brutalised, and there has been a lot of police brutality, lot of stigmatisation and I don't have the figures but right now we know people have died or gone missing.

And at this time, this is an expression of the militarisation and the militarisation of the police at the moment taking place in Buenaventura, and the treatment given to social protest after the peace agreements. Then, as conscientious objectors, we have the great challenge of instilling in Colombian society that the resolution of conflicts shouldn't be through violence.

We try to work using nonviolent direct action. To be able to encourage communication roads and bridges between social movements and other sectors of society in the hope that there will not be more militarisation its everyday life in the rural areas and in the cities.

Ok. In Buenaventura, right now, the way they are reacting to social protest is not just with the police. But also, according to the city's social movements, the Marine Corps, the navy and other special groups have also taken part. To discourage social protest through a group called the Mobile Anti-riot Squadron (ESMAD) that always uses certain dispersion gases. They have very strong implications for the health of the people when they are protesting.

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