Colombia

In Colombia's Civil War, Peasants Try to Build an Island of Peace

And of voluntary self-government too

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In 1997, battered by their country's civil war, around 800 peasants from northwestern Colombia "decided to protest in front of the government building and demand protection." And so they

I like his hat.
International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

marched from San José to the city of Apartadó and established a temporary refuge in the city's coliseum. After some negotiations with a government-sponsored commission, they went back home and, upon their return, some leaders were assassinated. In view of this response, a group of about 1,500 San José villagers opted instead for self-organization in order to find a collective, campesino-based solution to the problem. After discussing possible courses of action, the villagers sought the support of external actors, stating their determination not to leave the village while, at the same time, opting out of war.

Inspired by a proposal by Monsignor Isaías Duarte Cancino, the then-Bishop of the Dioceses of Apartadó, San José villagers decided to formally declare themselves neutral to the conflict and establish a Peace Community. In doing so, they pledged not to participate in any possible way in the war and disavow any form of cooperation with all armed groups, including the national army and the police. In addition, with flags, symbols, billboards and fences, they explicitly delineated and designated physical areas where Community members stayed, while armed groups, without distinction, could not enter or pass through.

That's Juan Masullo Jiménez writing in The Power of Staying Put, a new monograph from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. The reaction to the peasants' project—dubbed the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó—was violent and sometimes lethal: 210 of the community's members would be assassinated in the ensuing years. But the villagers dug in, grew stronger, recovered a lot of the land they'd lost to paramilitary groups, and generally succeeded in creating a neutral and autonomous island in a civil war. Along the way, Masullo writes, they built a voluntary, self-managed community capable of "carrying out several state-like activities and building institutions…from which the state was left out." These functions include education, conflict resolution, building trails, keeping common areas clean, and running the local cacao operation, among other activities.

It's an interesting study, well worth a look. You can read a pdf of it here.

Bonus link: nonviolent resistance to the mob.

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  1. You mean Colombia, right?

    1. Reason: Where we proofread the articles but not the headlines.

      (Fixed. Thanks.)

      1. To be fair, there used to be a big homeless camp by the river in Columbia, SC.

      2. “Where we proofread the articles”

        Oh you jokester!

        1. But, I do have to give props on the alt-text!

  2. I think that this is yet another well written article by Walker (although I like “Peasants generally successful in creating a neutral and autonomous island in Colombia’s civil war” somewhat better as a title).

  3. Interesting stuff Jesse. It’s always fascinating to watch people committed to nonviolent resistance and the reaction of a world that seems to regard violent coercion as the default response to problems.

    1. I prefer violent resistance to violent coercion and nonviolent resistance to nonviolent coercion. Just seems more symmetrical that way…I’m a sucker for balance!

  4. OT: The clerk in Kentucky who was refusing to issue marriage licenses has been thrown in jail. Judge said it wasn’t worth fining her since she’d just have money raised to pay it off. In jail for contempt until she decides to comply.

    1. Another martyr to whatever cause.

    2. It’s a government job, so I assume she’ll be drawing a paycheck the entire time.

      1. Just thinking along the same lines.

        I find it interesting that as of late more and more government workers seem to be able to get away shooting the finger at whatever sontrolling authority they as subject to.

        They say fuck you to authority and what are you going to do about it qnde they seem to be right. Anyone think that if Lois Lerner worked in the private sector she would be free to walk the streets ?

        Why didn’t they just fire or transfer this woman when she refused to do her job ? Is it an elected position ?

        1. Everyone is saying that it is an elected position.

    3. OT: The clerk in Kentucky who was refusing to issue marriage licenses has been thrown in jail. Judge said it wasn’t worth fining her since she’d just have money raised to pay it off. In jail for contempt until she decides to comply.

      I guess I don’t understand why this ever went before a judge. Everywhere I’ve ever worked, if an employee flat-out refuses to perform his or her job, that person is generally fired. I have to believe that’s true even for unionized government workers. So why not just hand her a cardboard box and tell her to pack up her desk and leave?

      1. It’s an elected position.

        1. Yeah, but it’s a position with clearly defined job duties. If you refuse to do the duties the voters hired you to do, seems like a lesser remedy is cutting off pay instead of throwing into a cage. Hell, they don’t even need to fire her, just quit paying her until she ends what amounts to a strike.

          1. A problem is that some people can go on strike for a long time without pay when they really believe in something, and the citizens there shouldn’t have to go that period without the service she’s supposed to be supplying.

            I think jail should be avoided though. I’ve been trying to think of a way everyone can have their (gay wedding) cake and eat it too here, but it’s pretty thorny.

            1. Fine the county $100,000 a day until she is removed from office. When people see just how large their property taxes get keeping her in office there will be a recall vote pretty damn quick

          2. I meant to finish with, to fire her, she’d have to be impeached by the state legislature….

            That ain’t going to happen, so the feds are stepping in.

          3. What if the voters agree with what she’s doing? Those who voted for her thought she would do the job as they wanted it done, so without an election how do we know this isn’t exactly what she was elected to do.

            1. Your answer lies in his comment ‘refuse to do the duties the voters hired you to do.’ For these Constitutional offices the voters pick the person but the duties are defined outside of the jurisdiction.

              1. The powers are defined outside of the voter jurisdiction, but what and how things get prioritized are generally the domain of the elected official. If not, things like broken window policing could have never come into existence.

            2. What if the voters agree with what she’s doing?

              Therein lies the rub. IF the majority wants to violate your rights, then elected officials can violate your rights with their blessing. If the entities regulating the officials are similarly controlled by the popular will, they won’t prove any impediment.

              It’s a travesty that people don’t just ignore the clerk, get married and live their lives.

          4. “If you refuse to do the duties the voters hired you to do”

            for further insite see: The Republican Congress and the effort to repeal Obamacare

        2. So she is the actual Clerk of Court and some other clerk? I haven’t really been keeping up with this woman.

          1. *not some other clerk.

    4. Couldn’t she just quit her job? Couldn’t she just be fired?

      I know, I know — govt actors don’t like anyone who resists their authoritah, and they prefer force to saying “quit getting paid for not working”

      1. She was elected, so she can’t be fired. There is also the possibility that she is doing exactly what the people who voted for her want her to do, so we can’t even say she’s not doing her job until their is another election.

  5. villagers decided to formally declare themselves neutral to the conflict and establish a Peace Community. In doing so, they pledged not to participate in any possible way in the war and disavow any form of cooperation with all armed groups, including the national army and the police. In addition, with flags, symbols, billboards and fences, they explicitly delineated and designated physical areas where Community members stayed, while armed groups, without distinction, could not enter or pass through.

    Fucking commie haters. They should be rounded up and forced to pick a side.

    1. while armed groups, without distinction, could not enter or pass through

      I suspect that the national army and police, or FARC could enter or pass through if they really felt the need…. flags, symbols, billboards and fences, they explicitly delineated and designated physical areas don’t tend to stop APCs, helicopters, cop trucks or Marxist guerrillas from transiting.

      1. Yes, but what was the point?

        You kill the peasants, there’s nobody to work the land. Who are you going to steal food from? You can’t enslave rotting corpses.

        Noncooperation is where they got their power from. Their refusal to fight ensured their safety in a perverse way.

        Thing about it from a warlord’s persepctive. IF somebody fights back and kills your guys, then letting them live imposes a cost on you. It motivates you to deal with them now rather than next week.

        But, if they aren’t a threat, just useless to you, then attacking them diverts men from fighting people who are a threat, and it expends ammunition and gains you nothing. You gain some land that doesn’t produce anything to you, and you are poorer in terms of ammo.

        It wouldn’t work against, ISIS. But it will work against non-ideological warlord types contending for fiefdoms.

        1. Until the terrorists establish some degree of supremacy over their other, armed. opponents.

          They just come for you last.

  6. Couldn’t she just quit her job? Couldn’t she just be fired?

    What? Surrender in her lonely yet noble war against the forces of darkness?

    1. I actually had some sympathy for her until I read this:

      “Davis also barred all six of her deputies at the Rowan County Clerk’s Office from issuing marriage licenses to anybody ? even though at least one deputy clerk was willing to issue licenses to same-sex couples.”

      http://www.buzzfeed.com/domini…..jh612X4boD

      1. I mean, we have a tradition of providing reasonable accommodations for people’s conscience, and she had the usual mechanism right there: someone else in her office could do the task she objected to while she took up the slack elsewhere. But in doing this she undercut that. Now it just seems like ‘I don’t like what the law is and as the boss I’m not going to have that law followed in my office.’

      2. Her issue is that the license goes out with her name on it — regardless of which deputy issues it. This implies that she approved the license, and we’re back where we started.

  7. Perhaps they should have built a wall, too?

  8. Along the way, Masullo writes, they built a voluntary, self-managed community capable of “carrying out several state-like activities and building institutions…from which the state was left out.”

    Just don’t call it the “A” word.

  9. You kill the peasants, there’s nobody to work the land. Who are you going to steal food from? You can’t enslave rotting corpses.

    You wouldn’t burn your own fields. There’s no return on it.
    As long as those villagers remain neutral, they pose no real threat to you; why expend the effort?
    I see the government troops as being more likely to level the village (as a matter of “principle”) than the guerrillas.

    1. Because whoever controls the villagers controls the countryside.

      You cannot stay neutral when two forces are fighting to rule you.

  10. Awesome.

    Nothing says liberty like throwing ideological opponents in a cage.

  11. Dude that makes no sense at all man.

    http://www.Total-Privacy.tk

  12. The powers are defined outside of the voter jurisdiction, but what and how things get prioritized are generally the domain of the elected official. If not, things like broken window policing could have never come into existence.

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