Colombians for Peace Visit Belfast, Dublin and London

Justice For Colombia News | on: Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Ivan Cepeda addresses the meeting in Wesminster

Ivan Cepeda addresses the meeting in Wesminster

Justice for Colombia recently played host to a delegation of distinguished Colombians from the peace campaigning organisation Colombians for Peace. The delegation visited the UK and Ireland in order to learn from the experiences of the Northern Ireland peace process and garner support for their efforts to kick-start a similar peace process in their homeland.

The delegates were Congressman Ivan Cepeda, who is also the national spokesperson for the MOVICE National Victims’ Movement, Carlos Lozano, a member of the Executive of the Democratic Pole political party and a former peace negotiator, and Marleny Orjuela, the leader of the ASFAMIPAZ Association of Relatives of Military and Police Prisoners held by Guerrilla Groups. The three have played important roles in the liberation of the last military hostages held by the FARC, which has opened a window of opportunity to bring the warring sides together with a view to ending Colombia’s long-standing armed conflict.

During their visit the delegates met with representatives of all the main parties in Stormont, and learned about the problems that faced the process in Northern Ireland. They also met with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, with whom they discussed the situation in Colombia. The Northern Irish Executive expressed its support for a peace process in Colombia. The delegates met with cross party support for their work, and were impressed by the warmth of their reception, as well as by the admirable efforts made by all sides to end the violence. The delegation also held a meeting hosted by Unison Northern Ireland where after describing the current situation in Colombia, a minute’s silence was held in honour of those Colombians that have sacrificed their lives in the defence of workers human and labour rights.

In Dublin the delegation met with the Irish Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and with members of the Joint Committee for Foreign Affairs & Trade of the Dail. Here too the Colombians were met with sympathy and expressions of support for their efforts. They also met the Lord Mayor of Dublin who reminded them of Daniel O’Connell’s long struggle. The delegation then attended a solidarity meeting hosted by Justice for Colombia Ireland and the ICTU.

On their return to London the delegation attended a packed JFC-organised meeting in Parliament with British MPs, Peers, and senior UK trade unionists. The meeting was chaired by Jim Sheridan MP, the Co-Chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Colombia group. The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson spoke, expressing the need for the Colombian conflict to be placed higher on the international agenda and for it to be resolved with the participation of civil society, citing the experiences of Northern Ireland and Cyprus.

The visit was supported by Unison, Unite the Union Ireland, Thompsons, POA, JFC Ireland, and other organisations.

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