The Common Good

Colombia

How Soccer Differs from the World of Partisan Politics

After the final whistle ended a hard-fought World Cup match, Brazilian star David Luiz consoled Colombian star James Rodriguez.

They exchanged jerseys to show their mutual respect, and Luiz held Rodriguez close as the losing player wept in frustration.

This poignant moment was much more inspiring than a string of fouls, some intentional, that sent Brazil’s Neymar to the hospital and left players on both sides shouting in agony.

During play, soccer seems eerily like the world outside: opposing forces collide, do anything to gain advantage, bamboozle the game’s referees, shout in mock pain and real pain, challenge joints and muscles beyond their capacity, give everything for their nation’s cause — all while spectators whoop and holler in the safety of the stands.

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The Families of Colombia's 'False Positive' Victims Are Still Fighting For Justice

Writing for VICE, Ellie Mae O'Hagan continues the story of dangerous peacemaking and the demand for justice in Colombia.
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What Are We Trading Away?

When the U.S. is negotiating a mammoth, powerful international trade agreement, what do negotiators do when faced with tradeoffs between commercial interests in the U.S. and other U.S. values—such as human rights, preserving the planet we all have to live on, and helping the poor?

That’s the question I asked Carol Guthrie, Assistant U.S. Trade Representative for Public and Media Affairs, last weekend at the Leesburg, Va., resort where the next big thing in trade negotiations—the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), basically NAFTA for the Pacific Rim—was taking shape in its 14th round of negotiations.

Many parts of civil society, from the Sierra Club to the Columban Fathers, argue the TPP would have profound negative effects on the environment, public health, human rights, internet freedom, and the global poor, among other things. A number of civil society groups showed last Sunday in Leesburg, where they could sign up for a chance to speak to negotiators—but not, unlike around 600 mostly-corporate insiders, to see the actual text being negotiated. (Members of Congress reportedly are allowed to see the text—but, unlike the insiders, not to download a copy, take notes, or bring an expert staffer with them).

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Why I’m Taking my Hunger Strike from Bogota to Detroit

I worked as a welder at a Chevrolet assembly plant near Bogotá, for General Motors’ South American subsidiary Colmotores--until my back began to hurt. I underwent three surgeries and now walk with a cane and have several screws in my spine.

When I could no longer work due to my occupational injuries, GM fired me, paying me no medical benefits or severance.

... I believe God is a God of justice, that the poor will be filled and the rich will be sent away empty.

But our situation was the opposite. The rich sent us away empty.

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Colombian Indigenous Elders Try Alleged Guerrillas

Indigenous leaders in Colombia's conflict-scarred southwest say they will put on trial before tribal elders four alleged leftist rebels they accuse of attacks on civilians.
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Colombian Indigenous Peacemakers Put the "Active" in "Activist"

Indigenous activists in Cauca, Colombia advocate to stop the spiral of violence in their area.
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Forget The Firm--Meet Francia

Most real-life law students I've met are at way, way less risk of being murdered than their counterparts in a John Grisham novel--except for Francia Marquez. The Afro-Colombian activist and mother of two has received multiple death threats as she advocates to keep her home community from having their ancestral home stolen by a land-grab big mining project.

There's gold in them thar hills in Francia's home, La Toma, in Colombia's Cauca province. Families in her hometown have lived for generations off of small-scale, by-hand gold mining. (Francia herself still puts in some mine time when she visits home, although these days she's spending the most time in her legal studies in Bogota.)

But lots of larger-scale mining concerns want in on the action. Some have sent in bulldozers illegally. Others are joining the land rush of getting mining concessions from the national government--notwithstanding laws on the books that give local communities various rights, including prior consultation on any mining projects.

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Two Smart Cookies: Girl Scouts' Wired Campaign Calls Cookie Folk to Clean Up Act

We're once again in that sugary time of year, Girl Scout cookie season — but, as two Girl Scouts from Ann Arbor, Mich., want you to know, there's palm oil in those cookies, as there is in many foods we eat. And palm oil has been linked not only with rainforest destruction in Indonesia, but with plantations in league with paramilitary killers in Colombia. (Kind of gives appalling new meaning to the phrase “cookie monster.”)

Last year I also met with Colombian farmers driven off their land by paramilitaries, as I write about in this month's issue of Sojourners, so I was excited to interview Madison and Rhiannon after their recent trip to Colombia.

Read on to find out about how, trying to live by the Girl Scout Law, these two intrepid 11th-graders have been on a five-year mission to stop cookies — and lots of other things you may be planning to eat — from, well, palming off human rights abuses on U.S. snack-seekers.

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