Date Released: 23 April 2013
Leaders of the Patriotic March - Colombia’s largest civil society peace movement – will meet with senior government officials and politicians in Dublin, Belfast and London as part of a high-profile visit to Ireland and the UK to build international support for the country’s growing peace movement.
The delegation will be in Dublin on Tuesday, 23rd April, where they will meet with officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs. They will also meet the Joint Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee and attend a reception in Dublin’s Mansion House, hosted by Lord Mayor Naoise Ó Muirí and Mr. Joe McHugh TD, co-chair of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly.
The three will also appear at a public meeting in Dublin’s Liberty Hall on 23rd April at 6.30 p.m.
The visit of the Patriotic March delegation is being hosted and organised by Justice for Colombia, trade unions, and politicians from DUP, Sinn Fein, the Ulster Unionists, the SDLP, Labour and Fine Gael.
The group (biographies below) includes a peasant leader whose husband and son were murdered by the Colombian armed forces and paramilitaries.
The Patriotic March recently organsised a series of peace marches which saw over a million Colombians take to the streets in support of peace talks between the government and FARC guerrillas. Government forces have been fighting the FARC insurgency since 1965.
The conflict spawned a dirty war in which tens of thousands of civilians, trade unionists and social activists were killed by right wing paramilitaries. Last year alone saw 20 trade union members and 69 human rights activists murdered.
Several leading Patriotic March organisers have been murdered in recent weeks.
During the 1980s, a similar social movement - the Patriotic Union - was systematically destroyed following a campaign of violence and assassination carried out by Colombian authorities and paramilitary forces, with over 5000 activists targeted and killed.
It became the first case of political genocide recognised by the Bogota High Court. Fears of a repetition of this type of violent campaign persist among Colombia’s opposition.