CO in Latin America

ELOC 96 in Guatemala

The Third Latin American Conference on Conscientious Objection (ELOC 96) took place last year in Guatemala City, from 20 to 26 October. It was organised by the youth section of CONAVIGUAand attracted 80 participants, representing conscientious objection organizations from 13 Latin American countries. It was an occasion for consolidating the Network of COs in Latin America and the Carribbean (ROLC) and for strengthening the strategies of the CO and antimilitarist movement in Latin America.

Three organisations were chosen to be regional coordinators for the ROLC: for Central America, the Conavigua Youth Group; for the Andean countries, the Support Network for Justice and Peace in Venezuela; and for the Southern Cone, SERPAJ-Paraguay - which was also elected to beROLC's continental "spokesgroup".

The conference also discussed a number of issues, among them: the attitude of the armed forces towards human rights amd democracy; military spending; the arms trade and the arms industry in Latin America; the professionalism of the armed forces; indigenous people and militarism; women and gender issues in the CO movement; the position of COs if there is a threat of war or civil war; alternative civilian service (voluntary or obligatory); CO legislation.

Three themes were highlighted as needing special attention at future meetings: the teaching and methods of conflict resolution; education for peace; the approaches of nonviolent struggle.

The conference drafted and adopted ROLC's Declaration of Principles. This document is obtainable by email, in Spanish or English, from the WRI office or SERPAJ-Paraguay.

SERPAJ-Paraguay, Azara 313 y Iturbe 2ndo piso, Asunción, Paraguay (tel/fax +595 21 446722; email serpaj@datanet.com.py).

Preparations for ELOC 97, Quito, Ecuador, 25-31 August 1997

The Fourth ELOC will continue the discussion of themes raised by ELOC 96 and will draft a "Program Agenda for a Culture of Peace in L.atin America." to be adopted by ROLC member countries.

Organising the next ELOC is the task of SERPAJ-Ecuador (Service for Peace and Justice) - an organisation created in 1985 that has chosen active nonviolence as its approach and lifestyle. It works with the poor and marginalised sections of society, its goal being to: "Give impulse to a nonviolent process which makes it possible to question and substitute the structurally violent Ecuadorian social model, and mobilize initiatives destined for the construction of a just system and model based on solidarity and fraternity".

About 80 participants, including 10 non-Latin American guests, are expected to take part in ELOC 97, where numerous workshops will be held. The organisers make a priority of publicising the issues of demilitarisation and CO in Ecuador through press conferences and interviews, meetings with politicians and other social activists, and talks by ELOC participants in high schools and neighbourghood organisations around the country. There are plans to make a video of the meeting.

ELOCorganisers have drafted a detailed grant proposal, accessible on email, in English or Spanish, and obtainable from the WRI office or directly from SERPAJ-Ecuador. Donations to meet the travel costs of Latin American participants are urgently needed. They should be made in US$ and can be deposited at a "Citybank" branch in any country, with the request to transfer the money to "Banco del Pichincha", Quito, Ecuador, to the SERPAJ account no. 97102574-7 (adding the mention "for ELOC 97").

SERPAJ-Ecuador, Casilla 17-03-1567, Quito, Ecuador (tel/fax+593 2 571521; email oca@serpajq.ecx.apc.org).

First Bilateral Youth Meeting Peru-Ecuador -- Quito, 20-23 August

Since 1994, SERPAJ-Ecuador has been developing a process of demilitarization of Ecuadorian society, to question militarism as one of the negative forces who maintain high levels of injustice and are the cause of many human rights violations. To this end, they have been working with a group of young people who have opted for Conscientious Objection as a step towards the search for a more just and egalitarian society.

In the aftermath of the February 1995 border conflict between Peru and Ecuador, they have embarked on a bilateral youth programme aimed at countering official militarist propaganda and at promoting CO and nonviolent conflict resolution in the region.

Following exchanges of visitors from both side of the border, young members of Ecuadorian and Peruvian organisations are organising a bilateral conference, titled Youth in Civil Society and their Contribution to Conflict Resolution, to take place just before ELOC 97, in Quito. SERPAJ-Ecuador will also be hosting the event, which will draw about 70 participants. Donations are also urgently needed and can be forwarded to the SERPAJ account (see above for details).