JFC Host Successful Patriotic March Visit to UK and Ireland

Justice For Colombia News | on: Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Leaders of the Patriotic March have taken part in a high-level visit to London, Belfast and Dublin to build cross party support for their work promoting peace with social justice in Colombia. The eight-day-tour which was organised by JFC, trade unions and politicians in Ireland and the UK saw the three Patriotic March representatives meet with MLA’s, TD’s, MP’s, MEP’s, Peers, trade union leaders and activists and members of church and victims’ groups who played significant roles in the Northern Ireland peace process. The visit was supported by the TUC and ICTU, JFC Ireland as well as Unison, Unite and Nipsa, and Thompsons.

The Patriotic March is a new Colombian social and political organisation which was founded in 2012. It has grown to become the largest civil-society organisation in Colombia for decades and it was recently behind a march in support of the peace process that mobilised over a million people. In spite of its massive support it is being stigmatised by state officials and many of its members have been threatened, imprisoned or killed.

An enormous amount of support was given to the Patriotic March as the three representatives, including former Senator and renowned human rights leader Gloria Cuartas, Patriotic March National Spokesperson David Florez and Agciultural Union leader Nidia Quintero, explained their objectives as an organisation and the extreme levels of persecution they have suffered as a political opposition movement.

In Belfast there was cross party support given from MLAs from all the major parties, republican, nationalist and unionist. The delegation was also received by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. There were also meetings with Protestant Church leaders Reverend Harold Good and Dr Lelsey Carroll as well as Catholic representatives of the Clonard Monastery, all of whom played a key role in the Good Friday negotiations. In Dublin meetings were held with the Dail’s cross-party Foreign Affairs Committee, the Irish Foreign Ministry and politicians from Labour, Sinn Fein and Fine Gael. In both Belfast and Dublin large meetings were held with trade unionists who also declared their unequivocal support.

The final leg of the visit saw the Colombian leaders in London where there was a reception at the House of Lords hosted by Lord Monks and attended by around 40 MP’s and Peers as well as leaders of the trade union movement before a meeting the following day at TUC Congress House. They also met with Labour Party General Secretary Iain McNicol and the FCO.

In all locations a statement of support for the Patriotic March was signed by politicans from all parties, church, NGO and trade union leaders which called for guarantees for their safety, for a ceasefire between the negotiating parties, and for civic society involvement in the peace process.

Below is copy of the Statement.

Statement of Support for the Patriotic March, April 2013

We, the undersigned from Ireland and the UK have met with members of the Patriotic March during their Justice for Colombia organised tour of April 2013 to hear about their work for peace and social justice in Colombia. We have heard about its inspiring organisational process which has led to its current composition of over 2,000 organisations, and the important work which it is carrying out in promotion of an end to the armed, social and political conflict, and particularly its role in the organisation of the recent March for Peace which saw hundreds of thousands of people mobilised in support of the peace talks.

We have also heard however of the threats, assassinations, the legal persecution and the stigmatisation its members have suffered since its founding.

We would like to express our full support for the Patriotic March and emphasise the important role we believe it has to play in the creation of a successful peace agreement which not only ends the armed conflict but also allows for the root social and political causes to be addressed.

We believe that the following steps would help the future success of the peace process:

1. Guarantees for safety and an end to accusatory statements and persecution.

We believe it is essential that members of the Patriotic March and other peace and opposition organizations are given guarantees for their safety and that all members of state institutions comply. Guarantees for political opposition are a corner stone of any democracy and essential to building a lasting peace. We are concerned that senior government representatives continue to make statements questioning the legitimacy of the Patriotic March, which results in increased dangers for its members. After the most recent accusations, more members have been assassinated by paramilitary groups opposed to the peace process. It is essential that the Patriotic March is recognized as a civic society movement and that the authorities bring to justice those responsible for the crimes, and cease the legal persecution of members of the Patriotic March.

2. A Ceasefire between the negotiating parties.

We are concerned that ongoing military actions from all sides pose a risk for the success of the peace talks, as well as continue to draw civilians into the conflict. The humanitarian cost of the ongoing war is devastating, with combatants, soldiers and civilians dying. We believe that the parties should consider a ceasefire during the talks as a way to create the necessary positive conditions for a successful peace process.

3. Civic Society involvement in peace process.

We believe that a successful peace process must include civil-society voices. We believe the social and political causes of the war need to be addressed in order for a lasting peace process with social justice, and that civil society needs to

The Patriotic March delegation, accompanied by JFC Director Mariela Kohon with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

The Patriotic March delegation, accompanied by JFC Director Mariela Kohon with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness

Former Archbishop of Ireland The Rt Rev Dr Alan Harper OBE FRGS, Barclay Bell, Deputy President Ulster Farmerís Union, listen to Patriotic March delegation at cross-party event in Stormont

Former Archbishop of Ireland The Rt Rev Dr Alan Harper OBE FRGS, Barclay Bell, Deputy President Ulster Farmerís Union, listen to Patriotic March delegation at cross-party event in Stormont

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