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Chicago Protest Supports Colombian Political Prisoners

By staff

Free Liliana Obando

A spirited picket line protested outside the Colombian consulate in Chicago Oct. 1. 30 students, solidarity and labor activists chanted in support of political prisoners held by the Colombian government of President Uribe. Passersby stopped to read leaflets and listen to chants of, “Free Lily Obando,” “No to U.S. bases,” and “The people of Colombia are under attack! What do we do? Stand up! Fight back!” Chicagoans were joined on Michigan Avenue by activists from Arizona, Minnesota, Ohio, California, Florida and Washington D.C. for this international day of action.

James Jordan of the Campaign for Labor Rights, which organized the protest, said, “There are more than 7200 political prisoners in Colombia, most arrested on the basis of fabricated evidence. Lily Obando is one of those. Lily is a labor leader, sociologist and video maker about to expose the Colombian government's role in running paramilitary death squads. Death squads have killed hundreds of peasants and farm workers belonging to the largest agricultural union – FENSUAGRO.”

He concluded his speech saying, “Those arrested are union members, farmers, students, teachers and members of the political opposition. Repression in Colombia is paid for and overseen by the U.S. government in service to big corporations. We call on the U.S. government to stop supporting repression and war. We demand dialogue and a just peace.”

Banbose Shango of the National Network on Cuba spoke about U.S. hypocrisy: “Posada Carriles, an internationally known terrorist who bombed a Cuban airplane killing 73 civilians in 1976, is walking the streets freely in Miami, Florida. The U.S. government is protecting this murderer. In the meantime, five Cubans, who monitored the planned activities of these Miami-based terrorist groups, have been languishing unjustly in several U.S. prisons for the past ten years. When there is no justice, there is no peace. We oppose U.S. aggression towards Cuba and Colombia.”

Tom Burke of the Colombia Action Network spoke last, saying, “We protested the outrageous trials in Washington D.C. that imprisoned Ricardo Palmera and Anayibe 'Sonia' Valderrama, members of the FARC. Our protests exposed the Palmera trials as a sham put on by a declining empire. The U.S. is overreaching. Ricardo Palmera is now a political prisoner of the U.S. government held in total isolation in the Florence, Colorado Super Max. Professor Palmera's imprisonment is inhumane.”

Next Burke spoke of the recently announced plan to build seven U.S. bases in Colombia, saying, “The U.S. is losing its control over Latin America. 'Plan Colombia,' the U.S. counter-insurgency war is a failure. While the U.S. increases repression and terror in Colombia, the revolution, led by the FARC and other groups, is spreading and building. The U.S. is forcing dozens of Colombian military officers trained at the School of the Americas in Columbus, Georgia to resign. Some are going to jail for murdering 1300 or more poor workers and dressing them up in FARC uniforms. The U.S. is losing its war and U.S. bases will only bring more suffering to the Colombian people. In solidarity with Colombians, with Venezuelans, Bolivians and Ecuadorians – with all Latin Americans, we need to oppose the U.S. bases in Colombia. We do not benefit from the war and repression in Colombia. Only the rich do. No to U.S. bases!”

Organizers are making plans for more events to build for the Nov. 21 School of the Americas protests in Georgia. Similar protests to the Chicago event took place in Colombia, Australia, France, Mexico and Canada.

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