Colombian activists resist ExpoDefensa arms fair

Antimilitarist activsts interview members of the public dressed as santa and christmas elves, armed with water pistols and wearing military helmets
Andrew Metheven

In December 2017, the Colombian government hosted the ExpoDefensa arms fair in Bogota. Nearly 300 exhibitors from 35 countries took part in the fair, with over 12,000 visitors attending, including 76 official delegations. The fair was organised by Colombia's Defence Ministry, the armed forces, and the National Police, alongside the COGES company, who also organise the Eurosatory arms fair in France.

The fair was resisted by Colombian activists, including members of ACOOC (the Association of Conscientious Objectors), La Tulpa collective, and BDS Colombia. Considering the time of year, the activists dressed as a militarised Santa and other festive characters, interviewing members of the public around the fair about the impacts of the arms trade, and handed out gifts asking “did you know they bought weapons as gifts?” They also distributed a number of memes online, highlighting the impact of the arms trade, and held a sit-in at the fair.

At the fair, Colombia was – unsurprisingly – one of the biggest exhibitors, alongside Brazil, the USA, France, Spain, Israel and the United Kingdom. A wzxzide range of weapons and other equipment were on display, including armoured personnel carriers, pistols, rifles, and drones, while arms manufacturers and military personnel held talks and seminars exploring cyber defence, underwater warfare, land defence systems, and “the new Space capabilities of Spain in the field of Defence”.

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