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Speaker to address Colombian social movements at NIC

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Rafael Coicue, an indigenous leader and human rights coordinator, will address social movements in his native Colombia at North Idaho College.

Rafael Coicue, indigenous leader and human rights coordinator from southern Colombia, will address the war on drugs, free trade agreements and the non-violent social movements organizing for sovereignty and justice in Colombia at noon Tuesday, Oct. 13 in Molstead Library Todd Hall at North Idaho College.

“The way out of conflict in Colombia should be within the framework of a peaceful social process, one that affects change through civil resistance and not with arms,” Coicue said. “North American governments and businesses are actively involved in the Latin American region exploiting our natural resources and violating human rights while threatening our democracy and our sovereignty.”

Coicue’s visit at NIC is one of many events in the Pacific Northwest in which he will speak about Plan Colombia and free trade agreements through non-violent indigenous social movements organizing against them.

The United States has given more than $6 billion in mostly military aid to Colombia since 2000, Coicue said. Colombia has the highest number of internally displaced people in the world.

“The United States as a world power plays an important role in Latin America and therefore should accept the responsibility of recognizing its effects in the region,” Coicue said. “The American people should be made aware of their government’s actions.”

In October 2008, CNN interviewed Coicue regarding a massacre in his region of La Maria, Cauca. The international coverage his testimony received forced the Colombian government to participate in a public hearing and debate held by the indigenous councils.

Despite the possible violence associated with his work, Coicue continues to educate audiences on the negative effects of neo-liberal trade models on indigenous communities. His tour this month corresponds with an international week of action to raise awareness about the connection between globalization and the destruction of indigenous lands.

Accompanying Coicue on the tour is Diego Benitez, Witness for Peace Colombia Team member providing Spanish-to-English interpretation. Benitez recently spent more than two years in Burkina Faso, Africa, as a Peace Corps volunteer.

The NIC Publications Club and Witness for Peace Northwest, a politically independent, nationwide grassroots organization of people committed to nonviolence, are sponsoring the event. It is free and open to the public.

Information: Colette Cosner, regional organizer for Witness for Peace Northwest, at [email protected] or (206) 250-2680.

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Stacy Hudson is the Public Information Coordinator for North Idaho College

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