Asociación de Trabajadores Campesinos del Carare (ATCC)
( 1990 , Colombie )

...for its outstanding commitment to peace, family and community in the midst of the most senseless violence.

Instead of accusations and denunciations over the assassination of our leaders, we have intensified our efforts to draw nearer to those who declare themselves our enemies...


In 1965 Communist guerrillas first established a presence in the Carare region of Colombia. By 1987 over 500 peasants had been killed and, in a fateful meeting with military and paramilitary leaders, the peasants were given four options: side with the military, side with the guerrillas, leave the region or die. Those peasants who had sought to stay independent of the violence chose a fifth option: to organise non-violently for peace and development. And so the ATCC was born, with the slogan ‘for the right to life, peace and work’.

Contact

Asociación de Trabajadores Campesinos del Carare
Apartado Postal 146
La India
Dep. Cimitarra
Santander
COLOMBIA

Biography

In 1965 Communist guerrillas first established a presence in the Carare region of Colombia. In 1973, when the army came to evict the guerrillas, the opposing armed groups inflicted dreadful violence on the peasants, and in the 1980s this was exacerbated by the presence of paramilitary groups.

By 1987 over 500 peasants had been killed and, in a fateful meeting with military and paramilitary leaders, the peasants were given four options: side with the military, side with the guerrillas, leave the region or die. Those peasants who had sought to stay independent of the violence chose a fifth option: to organise non-violently for peace and development. And so the ATCC was born, with the slogan ‘for the right to life, peace and work’.

ATCC’s tactics were simple: constant dialogue with all parties (military, paramilitary, guerrillas, government) and an unshakeable commitment to non-violence. They were startlingly successful and only five killings occurred in the region from May 1987 to February 1990, when violence was at a peak for Colombia as a whole. ATCC’s peace rally in 1987 attracted 8,000 peasants – two-thirds of all those in the region. In the same year, recognising that peace could not be achieved merely by halting political violence, the Association obtained loans to buy two boats and a grocery store. The shop proved highly successful and was soon providing ATCC with almost its only income.

In 1988 the Association presen …

In 1965 Communist guerrillas first established a presence in the Carare region of Colombia. In 1973, when the army came to evict the guerrillas, the opposing armed groups inflicted dreadful violence on the peasants, and in the 1980s this was exacerbated by the presence of paramilitary groups.

By 1987 over 500 peasants had been killed and, in a fateful meeting with military and paramilitary leaders, the peasants were given four options: side with the military, side with the guerrillas, leave the region or die. Those peasants who had sought to stay independent of the violence chose a fifth option: to organise non-violently for peace and development. And so the ATCC was born, with the slogan ‘for the right to life, peace and work’.

ATCC’s tactics were simple: constant dialogue with all parties (military, paramilitary, guerrillas, government) and an unshakeable commitment to non-violence. They were startlingly successful and only five killings occurred in the region from May 1987 to February 1990, when violence was at a peak for Colombia as a whole. ATCC’s peace rally in 1987 attracted 8,000 peasants – two-thirds of all those in the region. In the same year, recognising that peace could not be achieved merely by halting political violence, the Association obtained loans to buy two boats and a grocery store. The shop proved highly successful and was soon providing ATCC with almost its only income.

In 1988 the Association presented its Development Plan to the government, emphasising education, communications systems including roads, peasant and communal organisation and the maintenance of natural resources. This soon began to attract investment from the government’s National Plan for Rehabilitation.

Signs of a resurgence of guerrilla activity in 1989 led the ATCC to focus its efforts once again on peace-making. A Peace Forum was organised, bringing together all the protagonists as well as local organisations. Only a month later, however, three of ATCC’s leading activists – including its chief spokesmen Miguel Barajas and José Vargas Mateus – were gunned down in their home town of Cimitarra.

The Association immediately called a General Assembly, elected a new Board and determined to pursue dialogue with the armed groups as well as its development projects.

Courage in adversity has been the hallmark of the ATCC.

 
 

FAQ about ATTC

asked in 2005
answered by Donaldo Quiroga Rueda

1. What are your main goals and tools for constructing peace?

The visibility of the civil population’s autonomy in the peace constructing process. Showing the possibilities of constructing peace with non-violent means, as for instance through civil disobedience and regional dialogues with the parties of the conflict. Work in order to empower young people in the peace process so they become in charge and in the near future see to it that peace becomes the culture of co-existence.

2. How do you make the military and guerrilla groups listen to you? 

Understand and make them understand that the respect for the freedom of thought isn’t to question the other but to present the other with the causes and effects of an action. The dialogues have to be transparent.
The community of this region has gained autonomy due to agreements made in 1987. When the community makes a statement towards any of the groups it is because the agreements have been violated. Then they will listen to us in the dialogues.

3. How is the situation in the Carare region today? 

The dynamics of the conflict have changed. Today the population has to face a new kind of oppression. The state hasn’t sustained the experience of peace and the violent actors take the opportunity to offer money to the young people and they join their ranks. They also buy land from the farmers in order to cultivate cocaine. The problem is that the war is offering a means to survive.
Our work is to protect our young people from the war and to prevent that land is being sold to be used for illegal purposes, that’s our everyday struggle. Obviously, without help from the government.

4. How do you work with young people in favour of peace?

We are trying to find strategies within the region in order to promote that classes wholly devoted to the subjects of peace and co-existence are integrated into the educational system – and that those who give these classes are themselves affected by the war or have wrongfully participated in the conflict. At the moment, these are mainly theoretical proposals due to the lack of support. Presently, we try to stimulate young people with peace initiatives of their own and see to it that they come in contact with other young people.

5. How do you do to get paramilitaries, guerrillas and the government to attend the dialogues?

We make them understand that peace and civil disobedience aren’t just politics but a means to create spaces within the conflicts for ways to live in harmony and avoid hurting the other parties. Showing respect for the other parties without judging them as stronger or weaker and stating that our dialogue only aims at peace achieved by non-violent means.

6. What effect has the Right Livelihood Award had on your work?

It was very important to receive the recognition from the Alternative Nobel Prize. The Right Livelihood Award represented a significant contribution to our proposal of constructing peace with non-violent means in those difficult times when our founding leaders had been assassinated.
It has given further recognition and respect to the agreements with the different actors since they recognize it as the greatest international support for our process. It makes them look upon us as creators of a peace proposal that the world desires and not just some fairy tale that farmers have come up with. It has also served as an example showing that there are more possibilities for peace in today’s Colombia.