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Colombia Action Network tells Milwaukee students

“The U.S. government is targeting us for speaking out against war and oppression”

By Kas Schwerdtfeger |
November 2, 2010
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Tom Burke (second from right)
Tom Burke (second from right) of the Colombia Action Network (CAN) (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Milwaukee, WI - Colombia Action Network organizer Tom Burke came here Oct. 28 to speak about U.S. intervention in Colombia. Burke, who was served a Grand Jury subpoena in the FBI activist raids in late September, made strong observations on people’s movements both in the U.S. and Colombia.

“The U.S. government is targeting us for speaking out against war and oppression. In the U.S., for anti-war activists, repression comes in the form of FBI raids and grand jury investigations,” said Burke, “In Colombia, it comes in the form of prison, torture and death squads. We understand that the U.S. government is intent on putting some of us in prison, just as they target and set up hundreds of young Arab and Muslim men. The U.S. government imprisons young African-American, Chicano, Latino and other people in ever increasing numbers to control them and rob them of their dignity.”

Burke travelled on a fact-finding trip to Colombia hosted by the Oil Workers’ Union (USO) in 2003. At the time Burke was an executive board member of SEIU Local 73, a 23,000-member public sector union in the Chicago area. Burke was in Colombia at a time when death squads murdered three trade unionists every week. Colombia continues to be the most dangerous place in the world for union activists, with one murdered every week. Often implicated in these tragedies are U.S. corporations such as Coca-Cola, Drummond Coal and Chiquita Banana. Farm, labor, women and student activists in Colombia are regularly kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured and murdered simply for organizing for social change.

“For activists in the U.S. interested in supporting the people of Colombia, shutting down the School of the Americas is a major step,” said Burke, referring to the U.S. government-led training site in Fort Benning, Georgia for foreign paramilitaries, many of whom are implicated in human rights abuses.

Large national protests against the School of the Americas will be held Nov. 19-21 at Fort Benning. Buses are being organized around the country to attend. Look to www.soaw.org for more information.