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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-11-09 03:57 PM
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Strike Shuts Down Banana Plantations in Northern Colombia
Monday, 11 May, 2009, 18:07 GMT
Strike Shuts Down Banana Plantations in Northern Colombia

BOGOTA More than 17,000 people working on some 300 banana plantations in northwestern Colombias Uraba region went on strike Friday to press for better pay and conditions.

Workers at all the plantations of the region took part in the protest, according to the Sintrainagro union, which had set midnight Thursday for the launch of the job action.

More than 99 percent of the workers voted in favor of the strike at an assembly held on April 22 in Apartado, the main town in the banana-growing region.

Banana growers said the strike was regrettable and that it would adversely affect the region and the stability of more than 100,000 families who depend on that activity, as well as a half million people who benefit from the banana agro-industry in Uraba.

The work stoppage will mean the country stops exporting some 350,000 boxes of bananas per day, the growers committee added.

The spokesman for Sintrainagro, Manuel Marquez, told reporters that negotiations with the growers ended without any agreements being signed.

In addition to a 15 percent salary increase and other benefits and labor-related demands, the workers want a fund to be created to pay reparations to relatives of the victims of violence in Uraba, which until recently was one of the regions hardest hit by Colombias decades-old internal conflict.

Marquez said that issue was one of the most contentious in the workers talks with their employers, since more than 800 farm workers have been killed over the past 13 years in the banana-growing region.

Most of those killings have been attributed to right-wing militias.

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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-11-09 06:36 PM
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1. God keep these workers. I hope no one gets killed.
Edited on Mon May-11-09 06:38 PM by EFerrari
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rabs Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-11-09 11:51 PM
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2. Ever heard of the 1928 massacre of United Fruit banana workers?


The Banana massacre, in Spanish, Matanza de las bananeras<1> or Masacre de las bananeras was a massacre of workers for the United Fruit Company that occurred on December 6, 1928 in the town of Cinaga near Santa Marta, Colombia. An unknown number of workers died<2> after the government decided to send the military forces to end a month-long strike organized by the workers' union in order to demand better working conditions. Gabriel Garca Mrquez depicted a fictional version of the massacre in his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude.


The Dispatch from US Bogot Embassy to the US Secretary of State, dated December 29, 1928, stated:

I have the honor to report that the legal advisor of the United Fruit Company here in Bogot stated yesterday that the total number of strikers killed by the Colombian military authorities during the recent disturbance reached between five and six hundred; while the number of soldiers killed was one.<9>

The Dispatch from US Bogot Embassy to the US Secretary of State, dated January 16, 1929, stated:

I have the honor to report that the Bogot representative of the United Fruit Company told me yesterday that the total number of strikers killed by the Colombian military exceeded one thousand.<10>


Consequences still ongoing today

Guerrilla movements in Colombia like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia argued that one of the consequences for the development of communism in Colombia was triggered by events like these and called it state terrorism. The Banana massacre is set to be one of the main events that preceded the Bogotazo, the subsequent era of violence known as La Violencia and the guerrillas that developed during the bipartisan National Front to created the ongoing Colombian armed conflict.


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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-12-09 02:41 AM
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4. Just saw this article regarding a new biography of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
'Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A Life' by Gerald Martin
Pitt prof examines life, politics and work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Sunday, April 26, 2009
By Glenn C. Altschuler

Sick of school and the expectations placed on him, 18-year-old Gabriel Garcia Marquez joined a musical group, partied all night, and disappeared for days at a time at a local whorehouse. Not the kind of behavior, his mother told him, for someone with the potential to be a novelist. If he was going to be a writer, Garcia Marquez shot back, he wanted to be "one of the greats and they don't make them anymore."

A little more than two decades later, with the publication of "One Hundred Years of Solitude" -- a history of the settlement in Colombia he named Macondo, set on the border between true facts and imagined details -- Garcia Marquez became world famous. In 1982, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1985, he attracted millions more readers with "Love in the Time of the Cholera," a remarkable meditation on the human terms of endearment.

In "Gabriel Garcia Marquez," Gerald Martin, a Professor Emeritus of Modern Languages at the University of Pittsburgh, provides a richly detailed authorized biography. Though Martin pulls a punch or two in assessing Garcia Marquez's fidelity to Fidel Castro, his book is a judicious and occasionally juicy examination of Gabo's life, his politics and work.

The great themes of Garcia Marquez's fiction -- power, solitude, and love -- Martin reminds us, were shaped by his adulation of his grandfather, Colonel Nicholas Marquez (a staunch liberal and supporter of a strike against the United Fruit Co.), with whom he lived until he was 8. And by his disdain for his father, Gabriel Eligio (a ne'er-do-well pharmacist, quack doctor, and political conservative), who dismissed his son as a perennial liar.

Perceptively and persuasively, Martin lays out the literary antecedents of Garcia Marquez's "magical realism." As a student at the National University in Bogota, Garcia Marquez read Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" and learned that even the most fantastic events can be presented in matter-of-fact ways. A few years later, he began to view his childhood experiences in Aracataca through the lens of modernist writers Faulkner, Joyce, Proust, and Virginia Woolf.

An extended stay in Mexico, provided a tutorial in imperialism and the tools to make Macondo a continental ,as well as a national symbol.

Published in 1967, "One Hundred Years of Solitude" was a literary sensation and Martin's short, smart summary makes you want to read it. The story of four generations of the Buendia family, he notes, the novel contains items on every page, including the massacre of United Fruit Co. banana workers that correspond directly to Garcia Marquez's biography.

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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-12-09 01:13 AM
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3. There are no more courageous people in the world than union members and leaders in Colombia.
I am awed by their strike. I guess we all have particular kinds of courage that we admire. I especially admire the courage of someone who speaks out against a wrong, an injustice or a crime, all alone or with very few on their side, in circumstances of intimidation, bullying and even more dire consequences. Poor black Americans whom I met in Alabama in 1965, in the struggle for voting rights, struck me this way--incredible courage in the midst of adversity and dire threat. The military jag lawyers and others who stood fast against torture under the Bush Junta also struck me this way--they risked so much to do the right thing. And of course Lt. Ehren Watada and other military people who refused to take part in the slaughter and occupation in Iraq. These are my heroes. The workers and peasants in Colombia are heroic like this, perhaps more than anyone. They face the direst of threats--the fate of the 'disappeared'--anonymous torture and death by rightwing paramilitary death squads with no one in the fascist Uribe government on their side, to even follow up on the murders of union members and leaders, let alone prevent such murders. They face being kidnapped, tortured and buried in mass graves; their fate could be unknown for years and decades. Organizing a strike in these circumstances is the height of courage. Their only thought can be of the future--their children, their grandchildren. They are putting their lives directly on the line--in the line of fire--for that future. It is heartrending and amazing.

I pray for their safety and their success.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-12-09 02:57 AM
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5. Here's something from a book on Colombia
By Doug Stokes, America's Other War: Terrorizing Colombia.
The worldwide total of murdered union leaders for 2003 was reported to be 123, three-quarters of them in Colombia. The proportions have been consistant for some time. Not only lhas Colombia been the most dangerous place for labour leaders anywhere in the world (in so far as statistics are available), butr it has been more dangerous than the rest of the world combined. To take another year, on Human Rights Day, 10 December 2002, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions issued its annual Survey of Trade Union Rights. It reported that by then over 150 trade unionists had been murdered in Colombia that year. The final figure for 2002, reported by the International Labor Organization in its 2003 annual survey, was 184 trade unionists assassinated in Colombia, 85 pera cent of the total worldwide in 2002. The figures are similar in other recent years.

The assassinations are attributed primarily to paramilitary or security forces, a distinction with little apparent difference. Their connects are so close that Human Rights Watch refers to the paramilitaries as thje "Sixth Division" of the Colombian army, along with its official five divisions. As Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have documented, political murders in Colombia - of which assassinations of union activists constitute a small fraction - are carried out with almost complete impunity. They call for an end to impunity, and termination of US military aid as long as the atrocities continue with scarcely a tap on the wrist. The military still continues to flow in abundance, with pretexts that are an embarrassment.
From the foreward of this book I haven't had time to finish, which is tremendous. Recommend it to everyone of good conscience. Rightwingers wouldn't be able to read it, clearly.
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue May-12-09 03:09 AM
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6. Memorial in banana-growing area:

Ten Years of Peace, Ten Years of Impunity; Peace Community Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Photo courtesy of

It is the 23rd March, and in the searing heat of Colombias banana growing region of Uraba, a procession of 170 people descend from the mountains to the town of Apartad. Completing the four hour walk are international solidarity activists, supporters from across Colombia and proud campesino families marking their tenth anniversary of resistance - the peace community of San Jose de Apartad.

On arriving in the town over a hundred cardboard coffins were placed at the gates of the cemetery and then the office of local justice in a powerful act of symbolism. Written on the coffins were the names of the assassinated. Some bore the dates of the recent massacre of September 2006. The surprise march of remembrance was a brave move by the community. Whilst police took photos from the periphery, plain clothes members of the army and likely a few civilian informants infiltrated the crowd. The message however was delivered loud and clear: we are still here, we will not forget and we want justice. Walking back from the town the procession hammered crosses on trees that marked the location of murdered compaeros.

In February 1997, paramilitary forces entered San Jose claiming guerilla involvement. They closed down the market, ordered the community to displace and murdered four of its leaders. On March 23rd they declared themselves a peace community. In doing so they removed themselves from the clutch of armed actors that militarize and exploit their society. In ten years San Jose has suffered 35 new assassinations 33 of these by paramilitaries and 2 by the FARC guerillas. To date the Government maintains these crimes in total impunity.

Around one hundred visitors came to express their support and participate in the week of events, workshops and talks from community leaders and Colombian human rights NGOs. We live in the age of the globalization of violence, said one German delegate in a message of solidarity, your community shines a light on the path to peace. In equal number were members of other Colombian communities. Some belonged to the embryonic national network of 21 peace communities. One young farmer came from a community that was considering following San Joses example. One- by- one they stood up and told of the requisitioning of their lands, the dislocation of their way of life by war and their attempts to construct alternatives to cycle of violence that subjugates them.

By far the largest perpetrators of these crimes are Colombias right wing paramilitary death squads Throughout their 15 year history they have committed around 14,000 human rights abuses including 3.300 homicides against civil society: trade unionists, indigenous groups, politicians, judges, journalists, human rights defenders, peasants and social movements According to one hidden Government report they are also responsible for at least 40% of drug trafficking in the country . The recent para-politica or Para-Gate scandal involving the Government of Alvaro Uribe (a recipient of British military aid) serves only to further expose the use of paramilitarism as an instrument of state terror.

Their economic power has grown in strength alongside their involvement with transnational mega-projects and the displacement of over 3.5 million Colombians. In March this year, Chiquita fruit brands (formerly United Fruit Company) agreed to pay a fine of $25 million to the US Department of Justice for financing the AUC paramilitary organization between 2001 and 2004. Chiquita are one of the largest trans-national corporations operating in San Joses Uraba region where the level of internally displaced persons is comparable to that of Rawanda. A related article in a recent edition of Semana magazine spoke of the banana para-republic.

Today the tentacles of para-state violence in Uraba stretch further than ever. Community members recount tactics such as planting camouflage on the corpses of their victims and passing them off as insurgents. Another is the active encouragement of coca production amongst peasants with the end of using this as an excuse for the seizure of their land. In recent years, Government amnesties have served only to re-construct paramilitary activity. Many groups have reformed under new names such as Aguillas Negras or Black Eagles. Human rights groups worldwide also condemn the controversial Justice and Peace Law (2005) which offers death squads virtual immunity from justice. The peace community stands at the forefront of social movements actively campaign against this policy of impunity.

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