December 27, 2018

According to, “This year Aída Avella of the Patriotic Union is a candidate for the Senate of the Republic on the ‘Decency Ticket.’ Marking the beginning of a new year, she sent greetings to Colombians and took the occasion to honor those who gave their lives in defense of human rights and their own regions. Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas may think otherwise, but crimes against social leaders have nothing to do with ‘womanizing.’ The deaths occur according to a system. They are facilitated by the ruling political powers and carried out by narco–paramilitaries, with official complicity.”

Aida Avella’s greeting:

During 2017, hundreds of men and women, spokespersons in their communities, defenders of human rights and rights to land, fighters for the well-being of their communities, were silenced.

To those who take away life: people opposing you felt overwhelmed before arguments you were advancing to defend your approach. That’s because you’ve found the easiest way, which is to pay a hit man to silence the voice of justice.

Looking over our history, we think it’s full to the brim of crimes against anyone daring to question institutional structures set up for perpetuating inequality and preserving privileges. Privileges came about not through honest work, but through wars, declared and undeclared, and with assaults on power through corruption of all kinds, using positions of power to seize public revenues, buying votes, blurring distinctions between private to public companies, and utilizing state information for personal benefit. And if need be, they kill whoever dares to question or reclaim what belongs to them.

Feelings of pain and indignation for the murdered women overwhelm me. They were all mothers. They left behind very small children, and without a Christmas hug, without custard, nothing wrapped, no tamales, and no joy. The bigots, the intellectual authors of such crimes, are hidden behind gunmen whose bullets celebrate their cowardice. Justice will indeed come in Colombia, but only if investigatory institutions in Colombia don’t fall into the hands of the bankers’ lawyer and stay away from any friend of Odebrecht. [1]

We also must pay homage to African – descended Colombians who are defending their lands which correspond to tracts their ancestors occupied after their enslavement was done with. Living far removed from highways, from cities, from little towns, they find themselves bogged down in poorly accessible areas. Searchers show up even there because these are territories that claim part of the great mineral and natural wealth of our country.

We pay homage to indigenous people. They pay with their lives for their claims on ancestral lands, on collective property, on Mother Earth which supplies food and water and receives their sons and daughters on their final parting. They are threatened in some regions where there’s oil and where concerns mount over claims by transnational corporations on deposits of gold, coal, phosphorous, silver, platinum, iron, limestone, and siliconized rock, etc. Their struggle for saving the spring, a brook, a stream, the lakes and rivers, the mountain is worthy. They don’t want dams because dams change the ecosystem they are protecting, along with its fauna and flora. Those who devise schemes of limitless enrichment pay gunmen to run them off the road.

We pay our respect to small farmers, who don’t take vacations and have no pensions for their retirement, much less steady wages. They till the soil as their only means of survival. Many have no education, no health care. Just as with Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples, they are victims of those who took over their lands and over many decades caused displacement and suffering for communities the length and breadth of the country. We respect them for their tenacity in struggle for the right to have a tiny piece of land where they might raise something to feed their families and society too.

We honor those who defend human rights, and who have done so always for all people. Their lives were ended too. There are those who think they have to own people and own all acreage good for growing crops, all the mass media, and all the rivers, the banks, the businesses, the minerals, and even life itself. To defend human rights is not synonymous with terrorism. Far from that, it’s selfless action for the well-being of the country’s citizens and democracy.

To the 78 people who were taken away in the year 2017: you are still with us. You are the ones whose struggle we regard as heroic; you are the true heroes of the country, and many from throughout Colombia will be following your example. So we call upon all people to build a more just homeland, one where inequality is overcome, but above all, a place where life is respected – life first of all.


1. Brazil’s Odebrecht Corporation, whose construction, engineering, and petrochemical operations extend worldwide, has been facing charges of massive corruption throughout Latin America, most recently in Colombia and Venezuela.

Translated by W. T. Whitney Jr.

Translator’s Note: Aida Avello epitomizes Colombia’s long, unfinished struggle for justice and against imperialism. Her remarks here deal with ongoing killings of political and social activists. As before in Colombian history, the victims have been mostly leaders or community organizers in the country’s rural areas. Her comments are relevant now particularly because a year has elapsed since the signing of a peace agreement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Colombia’s government that ended decades of war. She testifies that during that year organized violence against popular forces has never stopped.

Aida Avella, a labor leader and psychologist, served as president of the Patriotic Union (UP) from 1991 until 1996. In 1986 FARC guerrillas, demobilized as the result of an earlier peace agreement, joined members of the Communist Party and other leftists to establish the UP as an electoral coalition. Soon UP members, candidates, and elected officials were being murdered. The massacre continued for decades and the estimated total of deaths now approaches 5000.

Aida Avello left for exile in Switzerland shortly after May 6, 1996. That day bullets and a bazooka projectile struck her vehicle. When Avello returned to Colombia in 2013, the UP was reviving. The Party’s Fifth Congress reinstated her as president and named her as the UP’s presidential candidate in 2014. Subsequently the UP and the Alternative Democratic Pole joined in a united ticket, Avello becoming its vice-presidential candidate. Campaigning that year, she encountered threats; her convoy was fired upon. 2018 is an election year in Colombia. The UP recently joined several other political groups in forming a “United List for Decency” in order to elect leftist senators and representatives. Avella is a candidate for the Senate.

She was a student at Colombia’s National University in 1967, when government tanks subdued rebellious students. That was when “Life changed,” she recalled in 2013; “Pain gave way to years of struggle and hope. We were some of those young people dreaming about changing the direction of history… Militancy in the Communist Youth took off at that time. Today many of those comrades are dead, assassinated by intolerance. They killed us in the name of democracy.”

Recalling the bazooka attack, she stated that, “Life has been too generous with me. It did abandon some of us and although it left a deep mark I can say that we ended up as survivors of the terrible genocide against the Communist Party and the Patriotic Union.”

Saludo de Aída Avella en homenaje a los verdaderos héroes.
La candidata al Senado de la República por la Unión Patriótica, en la lista de la Decencia, Aída Avella, envió un saludo a los colombianos y colombianas en estas fiestas de final de año, haciendo un homenaje a quienes dieron su vida por la defensa de los derechos humanos y los territorios. Contrario a lo que piensa el Ministro de la Defensa, Luis Carlos Villegas, los crímenes de los líderes sociales no son “líos de faldas” ; son muertes sistemáticas propiciadas desde el Poder político dominante, y ejecutadas por el narco-paramilitarismo con complicidad oficial.
Aquí el saludo:

“Cientos de mujeres y hombres, voceros de sus comunidades, reclamantes de tierras, defensores de derechos humanos, luchadores por el bienestar de sus comunidades, fueron silenciados durante 2017

A ellos que les arrebataron la vida, porque sus contradictores se sienten derrotados ante los argumentos que esgrimían para defensa de sus planteamientos, no han encontrado camino más fácil, que pagar a un sicario para que apague la voz de la justicia.

Repasando nuestra historia, la encontramos colmada de crímenes de quienes se atrevieron a cuestionar una institucionalidad. Una institucionalidad hecha para perpetuar la desigualdad y conservar unos privilegios ganados, no con el trabajo honrado, sino con las guerras declaradas y no declaradas, con el asalto al poder a través de la corrupción en todas sus variantes, captando rentas públicas con sus posiciones de poder, comprando votos, saltando de la empresa privada a la pública, usufructuando información del Estado para el beneficio personal y si es preciso matando a quienes se atreven a cuestionar o a reclamar lo que les pertenece.

Me embarga en sentimiento de dolor e indignación por las mujeres asesinadas, todas madres, dejando sus hijos muy pequeños sin abrazo navideño, sin natilla, ni envueltos, ni tamales, ni alegría. Los intolerantes, autores intelectuales delos crímenes, se esconden detrás del pistolero que descargó las balas celebran su cobardía. Pero les llegará la justicia colombiana, eso sí la institucionalidad que investiga en Colombia no estuviera en manos del abogado de los banqueros y amigo de Odebrecht.

A los afros, que defienden sus tierras, esas que les correspondió ocupar tras la persecución de sus antepasados, también se les debe rendir homenaje. Se alejaron de las carreteras, de las ciudades, de los pequeños pueblos, se sumergieron en algunas zonas difíciles y aun allá han ido a buscarlos, porque allí esta parte de la gran riqueza minera y natural de nuestra patria.

A los indígenas que pagan con sus vidas el reclamo de sus tierras ancestrales, de la propiedad colectiva, de la madre tierra, la que da la comida, el agua, y recibe a sus hijos en la última partida. Están amenazados en algunas regiones porque hay petróleo que reclaman con ansiedad las transnacionales por el oro, carbón, fosforita, plata, platino, hierro, caliza, pucelana, etc. La lucha digna por conservar el manantial, la quebrada, el riachuelo, los lagos, los ríos, la montaña. No quieren las represas porque cambia el ecosistema que ellos protegen con su fauna y flora. Los que están detrás del enriquecimiento desmedido también pagan sicarios para quitarlos del camino.

A los campesinos, que no tiene vacaciones ni pensión de jubilación, ni salarios estables, que cultivan la tierra como único medio de subsistencia. Muchos privados de educación, de salud, igual que los afros y los indígenas, son víctimas de quienes se apropiaron de sus tierras, por medio del desplazamiento que sufrieron las comunidades a lo ancho y el largo del país. En varias décadas. A ellos, nuestro respeto por la tenacidad en la lucha por el derecho a tener un pedazo de tierra donde sembrar, para alimentar su familia y en parte a la sociedad.

A los defensores de los Derechos Humanos, que reivindicaron durante su existencia el respeto a todas las personas. También les quitaron la vida, quienes se creen que deben ser dueños de ellas y de todas las hectáreas provechosas para el cultivo y de todos los medios de comunicación, de todos los ríos, de todos los bancos, de todas las empresas, de todos los minerales y hasta de la vida misma. Defender los derechos humanos no es sinónimo de terrorismo es una acción altruista por el bienestar de los ciudadanos y la democracia del país.

A 78 de ellos en el año 2017 se los llevaron, pero están presentes, en quienes creemos que su lucha es heroica, que estos son los verdaderos héroes de la patria y que muchos seguiremos su ejemplo desde donde nos pongan los colombianos. Todo por tener una patria más justa, donde la desigualdad sea superada, pero sobretodo que la vida se respete, primero la vida”.