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The power of the gun perpetuates a war that destroys and oppresses us

Barrancabermeja is a geostrategically important city, the capital of Magdalena Medio, a region with immense natural resources, petrol, mines and the river Magdalena. Along with macroprojects such as African palm, rubber and cocoa, great tracts of lands are used for illegal cultivation making this a territory disputed by narcotraffic mafias, landowners, and national and multinational big business. For years, they have been trying to gain possession of the land, sowing terror and death through the action of paramilitary groups. To this should be added a historical presence of guerrilla insurgents and strong military action both in rural sectors and in the inner cities of various municipalities.

In this context, young people are affected by the different armies, both state and illegal, who target them through military actions or link them to the war through forced recruitment or create false hopes that youths can solve their economic problems by taking up arms with one of the armed groups.

It is extremely worrying that in Barrancabermeja, a city with a strong military presence, today young men and women die with frightening frequency in the streets and neighbourhoods, in an atmosphere of total impunity and without any attempt at prevention.

Faced with this situation, a group of young people with dreams, hopes, with the conviction virtue that ideas are stronger than weapons, that no army defends peace, decided to transform the future that the men of violence want to impose amid war and the shadows of death, brandishing a cry, a slogan:"We don't want to be part of this absurd war, where people kill without knowing each other for the benefit of others who don't kill but do know each other".

Quinto Mandamiento (Fifth Commandment), from an antimilitarist standpoint, decides to walk hand in hand with these youngsters, trying to avoid somehow the irregular recruitment of youth,, demanding the right to conscientious objection and an end to the repeated arbitrary acts involved in incorporating youth into the armed forces.

Faced with war and death, we young people have not stayed passive or pitiable. We have searched for alternatives of civil resistance, been strengthened through nonviolence, developed proposals for a real peace peace, in a different language where we tell armies that we do neither to take up arms with them nor be the target of their bullets, where we demand that armies leave us out of the war and respect our nonviolent option, allowing us to live away from this war but not apart from reality for we are convinced that we should be an active part of the solution.

In this way we continue believing that the power of the gun perpetuates a war that destroys us and an armed 'peace' that oppresses us. We want the life that art radiates, the colours of folkcraft, the joyful movement of dance, and the fraternity of a brother's hug. Therefore young people who have suffered war, who live the problems it causes, carry a message of joy and warmth through playful cultural and artistic activities full of symbolism, with strong community support in Barranqueña where young people and their families come, go and express themselves, so actively contributing to the construction of peace.

This initiative of active nonviolence and peace building from youth at risk is what today is threatened with the petty and intolerant attitude of those who have weapons and hide behind the name of Black Eagles to sow their poison. They try to idnetify us with the guerrilla, stigmatising the sexual freedom and free development of personality and accusing us of being go-betweens for addicts and thieves who they want to exterminate for being the victims of social conditions and lack of opportunity in a country where wealth is concentrated in the hands in very few hands.

Equally vigorous should be the call to the media that publish distorted information of what is happening in our cities, use offensive photos to do violence to the image of youth. Their sensational headlines aim to sell more copies rather than to bring the truth as told by victims to public attention, and in this case calling us into question without consulting the direct sources, namely those who are victims of these threats. These irresponsible publications do nothing to help improve the situation of violence in Barrancabermeja. On the contrary, they generate terror, McCarthyism and stigmatization, and end up destroying those who have committed themselves to improve living conditions as has happened already with some young people whose personal lives have been irreparably affected. Those who have access to the media cannot maintain the double standard of demanding results from the authorities while they profit from sensationalism and the suffering of others without bringing the truth to light.

We youth are prepared to speak this truth, the community is prepared to listen. Are the media prepared to publish it?

We reject any attack against life, against human dignity, against peace initiatives. We call for solidarity from the national and international community with young people of Barrancabermeja who are targets of the criminal action of these irrational groups. All statements and actions of support will be welcomed by the Barranqueños.

We demand respect for our rights to express ourselves and to build the country with art, culture and symbolism. We demand respect for our sexual orientation, our cultural choices, the way we dress, walk, speak, dance and sing - our way of life. We demand our freedom.



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