Thursday, March 27, 2008

Colombian Journey - Speaking Tour

(Maria Ruth with her twin daughters – Maria Jose and Maria Camila)

Dear friends,

I arrived here in Bogotá yesterday and I’m flying to Los Angeles tomorrow to arrange the final details for a Northwest speaking tour by Maria Ruth Sanabria (see schedule at end of message). Maria Ruth is a mother of six children who is risking her life to defend human rights in one of the most war-torn regions of Colombia. She is the Arauquita representative for the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights and was elected to the Arauquita municipal council in October as a candidate of the Alternative Democratic Pole opposition party.

Maria Ruth will be giving a presentation, “Women Waging Peace in Colombia,” that includes some of the photos that I’ve taken in the state of Arauca. The U.S. government is providing Colombia with $1.5 million per day in military aid – some of which is being used to protect Occidental Petroleum’s operations in Arauca. Maria Ruth will describe how women are resisting the war and waging peace, and how you can support them in their struggle.

Maria Ruth has been “displaced” (forced to flee from her home) several times because of her work to defend human rights. She fled from her hometown of San Alberto, Cesar when hired gunmen sought to kill her in 1988. Her first husband was assassinated two years later because of his involvement with the Patriotic Union opposition party. She fled from San Alberto again in 1994 to escape from a paramilitary death squad. She had to abandon the city of Bucaramanga the following year after the paramilitaries tracked her down there and she had to flee from the capital city of Bogotá when they located her there in 1996.

Maria Ruth has been living in Arauca for the past ten years. In addition to the threats from the government security forces, she has also been threatened by both of the guerrilla groups present in the state.

Arauca is a very beautiful and fertile state that is being destroyed by the war and the oil corporations,” says Maria Ruth. “I want my children to be able to live in peace and to enjoy the rivers, estuaries and grasslands of Arauca. Instead of sending more weapons, we ask that the U.S. government use your tax dollars to provide support for schools, health care and decent housing – in Arauca, as well as the U.S.

In love and solidarity,


Maria Ruth will be speaking in:

  • Helena, Montana on Monday, April 7 at 7 P.M. in 107 O’Connell Hall at Carroll College
  • Bozeman on Tuesday, April 8 at 7 P.M. in Strand Union Building Room 276 at Montana State University
  • Billings on Wednesday, April 9 at 7 P.M. in St. Andrew Presbyterian Church at 180 24th St. West
  • Butte on Thursday, April 10 at 7 P.M. in the Copper Lounge of the Student Union Building at Montana Tech
  • Kalispell on Monday, April 14 at 7 P.M. in the Blake Hall Board Room at Flathead Valley Community College
  • Hamilton on Thursday, April 17 at 7 P.M. in the First Presbyterian Church at 1220 West Main Street
  • Missoula on Sunday, April 20 at 6:30 P.M. in University Congregational Church at 405 University Avenue

  • Spokane on Monday, April 21 at noon in (location TBA) at Eastern Washington University and at 7 P.M. in the Wolff Auditorium of the Jepson Center at Gonzaga University

  • Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday, April 22 at noon in Todd Hall of the Molstead Library at North Idaho College

  • Twisp, Washington on Tuesday, April 22 at 7 P.M. in the Confluence Gallery

  • Bellingham on Wednesday, April 23 at noon in the Fairhaven College auditorium at Western Washington University, AND at 7 P.M. in the First Congregational Church of Bellingham at 2401 Cornwall Ave

  • Ellensburg on Thursday, April 24 at 7 P.M. in Black Hall 152 at Central Washington University

  • Portland on Monday, April 28 at 7 P.M. in the Portland Mennonite Church at 1312 SE 35th Ave.

  • Eugene on Tuesday, April 29 at 7 P.M. in (location TBA) at the University of Oregon

  • Corvallis on Wednesday, April 30 at noon in Waldo Hall 240 at Oregon State University

  • White Salmon, Washington on Thursday, May 1 at 7 P.M. in Bethel United Church of Christ at 480 E. Jewett Blvd.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

CAJA Event

Public Service Announcement

The Failures of NAFTA and New Ways to Move Forward

Community Action for Justice in the Americas will host an international panel of experts who will discuss free trade, immigration, and security.

Wednesday, April 9

6:00pm—Reception at the Badlander

7:00 pm—Panel at Palace Hotel (formerly Casa Pablo’s). All ages

Event sponsored by: Global Exchange, Central Labor Council, Forward Montana, Jeanette Rankin Peace Center, Students for Economic and Social Justice, UM Environmental Studies Dept, Helena Peaceseekers, IWW Montana

On April 15, Community Action for Justice in the Americas will gather together a panel of experts from the U.S., Mexico, Canada, and Colombia to discuss how NAFTA and other free trade agreements have failed, and how citizens can forge a new way forward in the arenas of trade, immigration, and security in the Americas.

This panel of speakers from Global Exchange, Council of Canadians, Mexican Action Network on Free Trade, and the Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights in Colombia will come together to sound a call to arms to the citizens of these countries to raise their voices in the fight for global integrity.

NAFTA is approaching its fifteenth birthday. Even with the human rights violations and economic failures attributed to this fair trade agreement, major corporations and executive branches of Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. are meeting behind closed doors to forge further agreements known as the Security and Prosperity Partnership. This subverts the democratic process by excluding public input and consultation with national legislatures.


Carleen Pickard: Regional Organizer for the Council of Canadians, which is Canada's largest citizens' organization with members and chapters across the country. Carleen works with communities to protect Canadian independence by promoting progressive policies on fair trade, clean water, safe food, public health care, and other issues of social and economic concern to Canadians.

Hector Sanchez: Policy Education Coordinator for Global Exchange's Mexico Program. He represents the program in Washington, D.C., where he coordinates efforts to inform and organize legislators and key organizations in support of new priorities on trade and immigration.

Manuel Perez Rocha: Associate Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C., Manuel directs an advocacy and research project on "the Security and Prosperity Partnership and the NAFTA Plus Agenda." Manuel works in coordination with the Alliance for Responsible Trade in the United States and is a member of the Mexican Action Network on Free Trade (RMALC). He has worked for more than a decade with Mexican and international civil society organizations and networks including the Hemispheric Social Alliance and Oxfam International doing advocacy work for fair economic relations among countries, particularly for trade with justice.