Take Action: Colombia Targets Health, Media, and Human Rights Workers

An alert about a siege of one of the street medic posts operating in Cali

Many of you have recently contributed to the Street Medic Fund and have taken other actions to speak out against the massacre that has been happening in Colombia during the national strike. Thank you for your support and please be assured that it has been an important contribution. We are asking you to act again to stop the targeting of people providing much needed aid, reporting, and human rights defense during the national strike.


Please send an email to Colombian authorities and international organizations to demand an end to the threats and assaults against human rights monitors, street medics, and journalists!

Throughout Cali and across Colombia, we are hearing that street medics, human rights monitors, and journalists are being specifically targeted by the the Colombian Armed Forces and right wing gangs working with them. Very often we make the point that the United States government is using our taxes to fund the repression. To be more specific, the helicopters flying over Cali and firing indiscriminately against protesters: they came from the US. The tear gas cannisters being fired point blank into the faces of protesters? Again, “Made in the USA”. The bullets, the uniforms, the heavily armed ESMAD troops facing off against protesters who just want a just peace? All of this is made possible by more than $12 billion US tax dollars for military and “security” aid through Plan Colombia, and it continues today.

Our closest partners have been severely affected. The organizers who have received the contributions we raised have been threatened and beaten, health care centers laid siege to, and street medics using supplies distributed by our partners have even been killed. AFGJ has just published a review of the month-long strike, Winners, Losers, and Human Rights Abusers in Colombia’s National Strike. The piece details aggressions our partners and others aiding and reporting on the strike’s wounded. Here is a brief excerpt:

Juan Camilo Vargas was killed while carrying out activities as a street medic. He was killed attending to the wounded from a base that had been supplied with first aid supplies funded by contributors through the Alliance for Global Justice. Many of you who are reading this contributed towards this fund. We have raised several thousand dollars to supply street medics in Cali, where violence has been at the highest level. We are deeply concerned about the targeting by police and death squads of medical personnel, human rights monitors, and independent journalists. In fact, leaders and members of the organizations we work most closely with in Cali [REDDHFIC (Red de Derechos Humanos Francisco Isaías Cifuentes), CPDH (Comité Permanente de Derechos Humanos), and other members of the Centro Pazífico] have been assaulted and/or threatened by police, and some of them have been forced to abandon their homes and go into hiding. This is personal for us, and I believe it is for you, too.According to a statement by REDDHFIC,

‘Juan Camilo Vargas, a young nursing assistant, was lending service to the wounded in the city of Tuluá and agents of ESMAD arrived discharging [their weapons]. A civilian who was accompanying ESMAD shot the young man right in the neck, which caused a significant hemorrhage. The companions who were with Vargas tried to help him, but they were forced to flee since ESMAD continued launching tear gas….’

We have received numerous reports, some confirmed, many not, of threats against Colombian government, independent, and even UN and Red Cross human rights monitors and humanitarian assistance providers. This is especially worrisome because it represents an escalation designed to take away normally protected and tolerated defenders of the Colombian popular movements, and international accompaniment….

The situation has been similar for journalists, especially independent and alternative journalists. I briefly described the violence against the journalist, Davíd Escobar. Not only was he robbed of video equipment following a confrontation with police, he was threatened that he would be killed if he didn’t stop what he was doing. He was in the company of a European journalist, who was also threatened. According to the Foundation for Free Press, or FLIP, in the last three years, 583 journalists have reported threats against them in Colombia, more than 80 during the national strike, and 33 have reported actual physical assaults. Many in the US will recognize that this was a feature of the repression against our anti-racist uprising.  During the first week, alone of the US uprising, FLIP reported 328 press freedom violations.

Threats and assaults have become commonplace against those providing care to the wounded during the strike. We have already mentioned the killings of health workers Armando Álvarez and Juan Camilo Vargas on May 24th and 25th. A few days before, we received an alert issued by the Student Health Brigade of the University of Valle. The brigade has received many of the supplies bought with AFGJ contributions.  They reported ‘…on the day of May 22, 2021, being 17:28 in the afternoon, the service post located in Calypso. In the common house of the Pondaje [neighborhood], [the Brigade] is surrounded by the public forces…. At the moment there are 20 persons among the brigadistas and patients refuged inside the house…. We make an advance alert about said situation as a consequence of the diverse assaults that the medical mission has suffered in the latest days.’” Click here to read entire article

More actions you can take in solidarity with Colombia’s National Strike

Sign this letter to the US Congress to demand application of the Leahy Law freezing security assistance because of human rights violations

Academics are invited to add your names to this important sign-on letter

Contributions are still being accepted through the Centro Pazífico to provide supplies for street medics and human rights monitors and create a safe space for threatened strikers and activists

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