Filed under: Announcement, International Coverage, Political Prisoners
Changes are afoot in Colombia, and the inauguration of President Gustavo Petro and Vice President Francia Marquez on August 7 marks an important shift away from decades of right-wing rule.
However, more than 300 people accused of participating in the 2021 uprising remain locked up and/or are facing harsh sentences on trumped-up charges. The months-long uprising played a huge role in creating the conditions for the election of Petro and Marquez by exposing the failures of neoliberal capitalism and the determination of people to resist state violence.
We founded the Freedom for Political Prisoners of the Uprising in Colombia Collective to support them.
In April 2021, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Colombia to demand change. They rejected decades of state violence and capitalist reforms that deepened inequality. Over the course of three months, the largest uprising in Colombian history spread to over 800 municipalities throughout the country. The demonstrators fed one another, provided free health care, opened libraries, toppled colonial monuments, and held concerts at the newly formed Resistance Points behind the barricades.
The state responded to this popular expression of freedom with brutal force. The numbers cannot account for the totality of the violence, but they do provide a haunting insight into the scale:
- More than 40 people were murdered by state forces:
- More than 100 people were forcibly disappeared.
- More than 25 people were subjected to sexual violence by police forces.
- Thousands more were injured.
It bears repeating that the United States government has provided Colombia with approximately $11 billion in primarily military aid over the course of the last 25 years.
Even after the activity on the streets faded, the state continued to persecute and prosecute the people it believed to be involved in the demonstrations. Authorities are trying to discourage future resistance movements by condemning the participants in the 2021 uprising to long sentences. The dismal conditions and overcrowding in Colombia’s prisons aggravate this explicit form of intimidation and repression. For example, on May 31, 2022, a prison fire in Tulua (Valle del Cauca) killed over 50 people, including one political prisoner from the uprising.
We formed the Freedom for Political Prisoners of the Uprising in Colombia Collective to struggle for the freedom of all political prisoners from the uprising, and we need your support!
The money raised from this campaign will directly support political prisoners from the Resistance Points in Cali – the epicenter of the uprising.
The funds will be used for the following items:
- Legal fees associated with the pro bono defense of political prisoners of the uprising in Cali;
- Humanitarian support for the families of the political prisoners;
- Commissary for incarcerated political prisoners.
To highlight one of the cases, Carolina Montaño Cuero is a political prisoner. She is a black mother and nurse in her early 20s. Throughout the uprising, she was a spokesperson at the Paso del Aguante Resistance Point and struggled to advocate for her community. She is currently facing a fifty-year prison sentence based on false claims that she murdered a police officer, and her trial is quickly approaching. Despite maintaining her innocence, she has been held in pre-trial detention since October 2021. Like Carolina, five other people from the Paso del Aguante Resistance Point face similar charges for the same crime.
Our campaign is based on more than a decade of collaboration with social movements in the region. We are working directly with pro bono lawyers, resistance points, and local organizations.
The Freedom for Political Prisoners of the Uprising in Colombia Collective consists of the following organizations and collectives:
In the United States:
- Black Alliance for Peace
- National Lawyers’ Guild – San Francisco Bay Area Chapter
- Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz
- Punto de Resistencia del Paso del Aguante
- Trabajo y Justicia – Grupo Jurídico, Cali Colombia