Inside the Galeria.
A few weeks ago, my friend John Walsh traveled with a labor delegation to Colombia. John is a bookbinder and a regional vice-president for Teamsters-GCC Local 767-M in Portland, Ore. Working through the organization Witness for Peace, he met with Colombian women and men who have been enduring and resisting the brutal realities of living under the thumb of multinational corporations. Many of these corporations, aided by the Colombian and United States government policies, employ paramilitaries to keep unions, peasant groups, and other social or civic organizations from interfering with their power. For years Colombia has been considered the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists. In 2008 alone, there were 49 confirmed assassinations of union activists. John spoke with Anggie Tamayo, an activist in Cali who is working to bring light to the stories of those who have been murdered. What follows is an abridged version of his interview. (Ms. Tamayo’s English is excellent, but not fluent. In some places I have altered her wording in order to make the English flow better for the reader.)
John Walsh: I’m in the city of Cali, Colombia, and we’re at the Galería de la Memoria Tiberio Fernández Mafla. I’m here with Anggie Tamayo, one of the people involved in creating the Gallery, and I’m going to ask her to tell us its history and the purpose.
Anggie Tamayo: It began in 1995 with a project that is called Colombia Never Again. The idea of this project was to save victims’ memory, because we don’t want to repeat those actions that happened to them. So we collect their testimony, because we think it is a sacred act of pain and mourning. This project was begun two years ago, and we make different acts to commemorate the victims. For example, we have Katherine Soto, she was a girl from the Universidad del Valle, she was killed two years ago by the army, and she was almost shown like a false positive—
JW: And people in the US probably don’t understand what a false positive is, so could you explain that a little bit?
AT: Well, a false positive is a policy of this government. The army used to kill people like farmers, students, people that live in the country, and the [killers] say the [victims] are from the guerrillas. So, when they say that, they used to get vacation, they used to get more money, so there are many people [killed] that are innocent .
A memorial to the life and dreams of Katherine Soto.
JW: So there was a bounty, basically, on life. The people who killed these innocent people were rewarded for that?
AT: Yes. So she was in San Cipriano, it is located near Buenaventura port. She was there with her friend and she was killed because they thought she was a guerilla, but she really was a student from the Universidad del Valle. She wanted to be a teacher. She had many, many dreams, and now, what we are doing is trying to continue with her dreams. (more…)