While the Nobel Prize Committee has again awarded the Peace Prize to a war-maker on a grand scale — this time to the EU, which, through NATO, has been carrying out war continuously for decades in such far-flung places as Yugoslavia, Libya and Afghanistan — it is important to remember that there are indeed peacemakers in the world deserving of the prize.
However, these deserving peacemakers may not be people you would think of because they have either been vilified or completely ignored by the Western press.
Contemplate this story from The Guardian, titled, "Fidel Castro and Hugo ChÃ¡vez played role in Colombia’s peace talks with Farc" guerillas:
The ailing former Cuban leader Fidel Castro, together with Venezuela’s recently re-elected leader Hugo Chavez, played a critical role in bringing the Colombian government and the… FARC guerrilla group together for peace talks that could end one of Latin America’s longest-running civil wars, the Observer has learned. According to sources closely involved in the peace process, which sees historic talks opening in Oslo on Wednesday, the key breakthrough after almost four years of back-channel talks between the two sides came during a visit earlier this year by Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, to Cuba, where he met both Castro and ChÃ¡vez, who was in Cuba being treated for cancer.
Spending almost four years to end a bloody civil war that has been going on for more than 50 years, and which has cost tens of thousands of lives, certainly seems a feat worthy of a peace prize. Undoubtedly, this outshines the efforts of the U.S., which, through three different administrations, including the Obama administration, has spent more than $8 billion in military aid to the Colombian regime to keep the war going. Incredibly, though, it was Obama who was awarded the Nobel Prize, despite the fact that he has helped stoke the Colombian conflict, most recently by sending military advisers to Colombia; continued the war in Afghanistan; maintained the shameful gulag in Guantanamo Bay; expanded the war to Pakistan; started a war in Libya; and threatened further conflict in both Syria and Iran.
Meanwhile, while Obama’s "assistance" to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake consisted of sending 14,000 armed troops, it was Fidel and Chavez who sent doctors and medical assistance to Haiti — help that, according to The New York Times, prevented Haiti from being overrun by the cholera epidemic. Again, this use of peaceful means, in contrast to the U.S.’s usual violent means, to provide desperately-needed aid to the poorest country in our Hemisphere seems worthy of the Nobel Prize.
In addition, there are other brave men and women living in Colombia who have for many years risked their lives to try to bring peace to that country. Foremost among these is former Senator Piedad Cordoba, who has been a key figure in jump starting the Colombian peace talks. Ms. Cordoba has sacrificed her political career for peace, thus being stripped of her right to stand and run for political office because of her contacts with the FARC guerillas — contacts which were necessary to bring about the release of captives held by the FARC as well as to advance peace discussions. It is unsung heroes like Piedad who deserve to be singled out for their sacrifices in the interests of peace.
The Nobel Committee should also consider giving the Peace Prize to La Marcha Patrotica in Colombia, led by such brave souls as my friend Carlos Lozano, which has also played a key role in advancing the peace in that country. La Marcha has worked closely with those at the center of the conflict — poor peasants — to pressure the Colombian government to come to the negotiating table. For their efforts, a number of the leaders and rank and file members of La Marcha have been vilified, threatened, jailed, murdered and disappeared. Again, the Nobel Prize was created to reward the type of courage shown by such peacemakers.
I also think of my friend Marino Cordoba, who, after escaping Colombia to the U.S. after multiple attempts upon his life by right-wing paramilitary groups — groups closely aligned with the military, which the U.S. has been funding for years — recently returned to Colombia in the interest of accompanying fellow Afro-Colombians in their struggle for peace and justice in Colombia. Afro-Colombians have been particularly affected by the conflict in Colombia, with more than 12 percent of Afro-Colombians being internally displaced, thus disproportionately filling the ranks of the more than 5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Colombia — the largest IDP population on earth. Marino, without any means of support, has put everything on the line for this effort, leaving his wife and three children behind in the U.S. while risking his life for peace in Colombia.
Sadly, however, it is not such people who are considered for the Nobel Prize these days. Instead, the Prize is going to the world’s most powerful, like Obama and the EU, who wield their power destructively, in the interest of war rather than peace. Meanwhile, those truly working for peace are ignored or ridiculed. This is the upside-down world in which we find ourselves.
October 18, 2012