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September 17 2013

Russian Warships in Nicaragua Rekindle Territorial Disputes

San Carlos, Rio San Juan, Nicaragua. Photo by Daniel Fajardo Valenti on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

San Carlos, Rio San Juan, Nicaragua. Photo by Daniel Fajardo Valenti on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The presence of two Russian warships in Nicaragua's pacific port of Corinto has heightened tensions between Colombia and Nicaragua over a longstanding maritime boundary dispute which had been resolved by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague back in November 2012.

The ICJ's resolution has also set the stage for recent diplomatic conflicts that include Costa Rica and Panama, reviving old territorial and annexation disputes in the region.

The origin of the dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia is the San Andrés Archipelago, and the Providencia, Quitasueño and Santa Catalina keys, all of which are close to the Nicaraguan coast. After considering a claim filed in 2001 by Nicaragua, the ICJ upheld Colombia's sovereignty and expanded the maritime territory of Nicaragua around the archipelago, as a way of offering a middle ground solution. The decision has sparked a discussion about expansionism in the region, national pride, and the role of the ICJ.

Colombia’s government has not been forthcoming about accepting the ICJ ruling and has said it will seek remedy, since the decision supersedes sovereign and fishing rights. The government has further claimed that the ICJ pronouncement has permitted Nicaragua to start illegal oil exploration activities [es] within its territory.

The dispute with Colombia is part of a series of boundary claims that Nicaragua has engaged in, including the dispute over the San Juan River boundary with Costa Rica and the supposed claim over Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province.

In August 2013, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega had already hinted in a speech before army forces that Nicaragua might seek a ruling from the ICJ to regain possession of Guanacaste.

The speech caused widespread indignation in Costa Rica. As a result, Costa Rica's President Laura Chinchilla issued a communique on August 15 [es], where she refers to Nicaragua as an “adversary country” that has already in the last 2 years “invaded parts of the northern” territory, and calls the ICJ's approach a “foolish ambition.”

On September 9, 2013 Colombia formally announced the repudiation of the ICJ decision, which it considered invalid without a formal treaty between self-governing states; and President Santos expressed his willingness to enforce Colombia's sovereignty with these words:

Lo que vigilé como marino y lo que defendí como ministro lo voy a proteger, hasta las últimas consecuencias, como presidente.

Those areas that I patrolled as a sailor and later defended as a Minister, I am willing today to protect, as President, to the very last consequences.

Santos went on to mention the “expansionist ambitions” of Nicaragua, which were affecting not only Colombia but Costa Rica, Panama and Jamaica.

In August, two Russian warships arrived in Nicaragua's pacific port of Corinto. Last week, following the communique by President Santos, regional online media was set abuzz by the declarations of the captains of the ships released on YouTube, saying they were ready to defend Nicaragua in any eventuality, should it be required.

The presence of the Russian ships in the Pacific coast is seen as a warning that Nicaragua could be willing to escalate its border disputes, including the San Juan River controversy.

San Juan River, Nicaragua

San Juan River, Nicaragua

The tensions between Costa Rica and Nicaragua arise against the backdrop of a planned inter-oceanic canal to be built by a Hong Kong company, with the participation of the Chinese government, converting the San Juan River into a broad commercial waterway. The San Juan Canal is planned to compete with the Panama Canal in sea freight.

According to the boundary treaty signed in 1858, the San Juan River belongs to Nicaragua, but the navigation of the river for commercial purposes is shared and no exclusive rights of cabotage should exist.

Not only sovereignty and national pride are at stake, it seems, but also a huge and profitable project and a political legacy: A conflict over such a notorious public issue could help Costa Rica's President Chinchilla, who finds herself struggling with declining approval ratings and a looming election that may throw her party out of government in February 2014.

In the YouTube video [es] uploaded August 19, 2013 by “canalestrellatv,” two Russian navy officers who speak excellent Spanish are heard expressing the following views:

Rusia y Nicaragua son dos países amistosos. Si es necesario apoyar, y existe la decisión política, nosotros vamos a apoyar.

Russia and Nicaragua are two friendly countries. If it is necessary to support Nicaragua, and the political decision is made, we will support them.

In the same video, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega is seen waving from the deck, escorted by a Russian official, and then the officers go on to describe the kind of weapons the ships carry.

The discussion on Twitter has been controversial and instructing, with a pause to think about regional brotherhood and to congratulate each other on their shared celebrations of independence on September 15:

It is regrettable that we act patriotic only this time of the year…

While others reflect on the meaning of the symbolic passing of the torch of liberty and independence between Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans in Guanacaste:

Torch smooths political conflict between Costa Ricans (ticos) and Nicaraguans (nicas).

But only days before, the tone of discussions on Twitter was different altogether, with many users commenting on the supposed intentions on both sides to snatch away territory, and on the supposed help that other countries in the region were providing. Opinions have sometimes been posted in outright crude ways:

Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica have the intention to steal the ocean from Nicaragua, but the three thieves won't be able to.

One user jokingly compared the supposed coalition against Nicaragua to the Trio Los Panchos, an old and defunct music group, and incisively pointed out the relationship of the maritime conflict and the canal:

The Trio Los Panchos united against Nicaragua; Costa Rica because of the San Juan, Colombia because its faraway ocean and Panamá because of the new canal

The perception of the role of Nicaragua goes from that of a victim of antagonist forces in the region to that of an aggressive local power that uses whatever means available to impose a territorial and legal agenda:

Nicaragua has been a victim of the Colombian expansionism and of the opportunistic Costa Ricans!

Nicaragua is a nation of double moral standards that resorts to bullying and takes advantage that Costa Rica has no army and invades it!

One post pointed out that Costa Rica supporting Colombia against Nicaragua in the ruling about the San Andrés Archipielago, out of fear of the expansionism that this could trigger, would set a precedent for other territorial disputes. In the case of the San Juan River, an ICJ decision could favor Costa Rica, forcing the future administration into a difficult position:

If Costa Rica supports Colombia, would it disregard the ruling that favors Nicaragua in the boundary and environmental damage case?

Finally, Francisco Álvarez de Soto, a former Sub-secretary of Foreign Affairs of Panama, proposed that the way to go is to discuss the pretensions in a regional forum like the SICA (Central American Integration System) summit, as solution to the impasse that might result in an escalation of diplomatic faux-pas and misunderstandings that have spread to the public and social networks in the weeks before:

Territorial claims of Nicaragua against Costa Rica should be discussed at the SICA summit. Panama should support Costa Rica.

It is clear that one way or another the conflicts in the region will have an impact beyond the immediate presidential elections and the battle of claims and speeches. It might also reignite old boundary conflicts that were resolved (but apparently not settled) in the last century.

Colombia's Agrarian Strike Enters Fourth Week

After three tense weeks, Colombia´s rural national strike continues with no white smoke on the horizon. To contain the spreading crisis, the government of Juan Manuel Santos, under pressure from peasant strikers who have blocked several crucial highways, has followed a three-pronged strategy that has thus far proved ineffective.

Nazih Richani writes about these three tactics in NACLA's Cuadernos Colombianos blog.

September 10 2013

Colombian Teachers Begin National Strike

Teachers from the Colombian Federation of Educators FECODE [es] have started [es] a national strike to demand better health plans, an end to “the policy of privatization” in education, and other issues [es]. The strike will include regional protests and a march towards Bogotá, the capital of Colombia.

Catalina Vanegas shares a photo on Twitter:

Right now in Girardot, march for the national teacher strike…A better quality of education!

While the ministry of education tweets:

We invite all teachers, parents and the citizenry to learn about what as been achieved

September 04 2013

Colombia Prepares for Nationwide Pot-Banging Protests

Colombians have planned a national “cacerolazo” for 6 p.m. Colombian time today, September 4, 2013. A cacerolazo is a form of popular protest in which people express their agreement with an issue by making noise and banging pots (cacerolas), pans and kitchen utensils, or other items that can be used to create sound.

Using the Twitter hashtag #CacerolazoPor users express their reasons to take to the streets.

Paola Ochoa Rivera invites the protest to move from the virtual to the physical:

#CacerolazoPor more protests in the street and fewer on Twitter

Tefy expresses her hope for a more fair nation:

#CacerolazoPor a more just country

Meanwhile, Tatu García discusses the dignity of Colombian society:

#CacerolazoPor the dignity of my society

Santiago mentions his disagreement with the national government's efforts and strategies:

#CacerolazoPor Santos's bad government and for kneeling in front of the empire and multinationals

And Stephanie states that participation in the “cacerolazo” is an act of solidarity with the nation's farmers, who have been on strike since August 19:

It is time to act in solidarity with the farmers and their justified struggles, get away from the screens and into reality LONG LIVE THE AGRARIAN STRIKE

For Camila Andrea, the protest serves as a call to work toward a better country:

#CacerolazoPor To have a better country for everyone and people in the future!!

And in Catalina Gualdron's opinion, the protest is justified by the complex reality of life in Colombia:

#CacerolazoPor A country filled with terrible services, in health, education, agriculture… #YaEsHora It's time for a change!

However, Juan Sebastián believes that many people simply tweet about the cacerolazo to get favorites for their tweets:

#CacerolazoPor Lack of Favorites (?).

Finally, the Fuerza Común account shares this poster:

#CacerolazoPor the streets, through side walks. We go all-out against the policies that have stripped Colombia of everything @PaisComun

Stay tuned for further posts about Colombia's agricultural strike, which has already been in effect for 17 days.

September 02 2013

Colombia Starts New Week Amid Agrarian Strike

Uncertainty reigns in Colombia after almost two weeks since the start of the agrarian strike.

Although negotiations between the government and the protesters have moved forward, citizens across the country held massive protests on August 29, most of which ended with riots.

Roads are still blocked in some parts of the country, even though on Friday, August 30, protesters released a statement [es] where they expressed their decision to lift the blockades and reiterated their invitation to continue to dialogue with the government.

To date, as Virna Gutierrez indicates, the situation persists:

Blockades continue in Caquetá. My rights are being violated. We are [as if] kidnapped. Many adults and children are suffering from these consequences.

You can follow citizen reports and reactions through the following Twitter hashtags: #ParoAgrario, #MePongoLaRuana (referring to wearing the ruana, a garment worn by Colombian farmers), #ParoNacional and #paroagrariocolombia.

August 28 2013

Strike in Colombia Gains Momentum

Colombia's national strike, which began with an agrarian strike on August 19, is “gaining momentum with shows of support from the citizenry”, as Steven Cohen writes in Colombia Reports:

More than 10,000 people participated in “cacerolazos” — protests in which participants bang on kitchen pots and pans — held throughout Colombia’s major urban centers Monday night in support of the agricultural strike, as new labor and social groups announced they will be joining Colombia’s striking farmers, miners, health workers and truckers in protest activities.


In Colombia, a growing chorus of citizens and protesters are calling for the national government to do something to address the pressing concerns of striking workers, and end the potentially catastrophic economic paralysis that is beginning to take effect in various parts of the country.

August 23 2013

Citizens Concerned as Agrarian Strike Escalates in Colombia

Since August 19, Colombia has been experiencing an agrarian strike, through which farmers are demanding guarantees from the government that allow them to live with dignity in order to sow the land.

In a country with high agricultural potential, opinions are abundant and it appears as though there is no negotiated solution in sight [es]. This has generated countless expressions of concern among citizens.

Tatiana Mena (@TatianaMenaV) [es] says:

I must confess: I am upset about the country's situation and the situation that many people are living through, poverty, is even more upsetting…

Maria Fernanda Carrascal (@MafeCarrascal) [es] imagines different scenarios for Colombia, as she accompanies her post with an image:

What would Colombia be, what would we be, without our farmers.

And Soñando Despierto (@juanrhc) [es] affirms:

[President] Santos looking for peace with terrorist guerrillas and declaring war to those who feed us.

Cómo no apoyar a los que siempre nos han dado de comer - Imagen por LIliana Castro Morato en Facebook

Translation: “How can we not support those who have always fed us!” Image by Liliana Castro Morato on Facebook

In the midst of the conversation are also the voices of those calling for real action on the part of all those who continue posting their opinions via the Internet.

Maly Mejía (@maly) [es] expresses the following:

(The farmer's situation is my situation) we are on twitter writing and not doing anything in real life, that is how we are.

And Ricardo Casas (@BecauseImHouses) [es] says sarcastically:

The true farmers are those that fight on social networks for improvements on likes and increases in favs

On the other hand, the blog El Churro [es] shares photos from the fourth day of the strike and assures that:

Los medios de comunicación nacionales y regionales hasta el momento estigmatizan, opacando la magnitud que ha tenido el paro agrario y popular.

The national and regional media have stigmatized up until now, detracting from the magnitude that the agrarian and popular strike has had.

Concluding the fourth day of protests, the media reported [es] shortages and curfew measures, meaning the conversation has not ceased under hashtags #LoQueEsConLosCampesinosEsConmigo (The farmer's situation is my situation) and #YoParoPor (I strike for).

The government also reported a blockage of over 30 streets throughout the entire country [es] and, concurrently, several citizen videos report attacks taking place by the riot squad.

August 16 2013

From North to South, the Government is Watching You

As revelations surrounding the United States’ NSA surveillance programs continue to emerge, other governments and private citizens alike have raised their voices in opposition to this infringement on the privacy of Internet users’ personal data.

Latin American countries have had a particularly strong response, which intensified after leaked reports indicated that the NSA had targeted “commercial secrets” of Latin American allies and tapped multiple telecommunications networks in Brazil [pt]. In a statement released at the 2013 summit of Mercosur, the economic cooperative organization chastised the behavior of the United States’ government, stating  “[we] emphatically reject the interception of telecommunications and espionage activities in our countries, as they are a violation of human rights, the right to privacy and the right to information of our citizens…”

Civil society advocates in Latin America responded to this call with an open letter reminding MERCOSUR countries and allies of their own commitments to citizens. The letter urged for a collaborative policymaking process in the region.

We want Latin America to become the model both of laws and practices allowing and enabling us to exercise our human rights to the maximum degree. The espionage problem we are facing right now is…an opportunity for us. Working together, governments and civil society, we can design a regional policy allowing us to develop in full all the potential of new technologies while protecting our citizens.

Indeed, while many eyes are currently fixed on the surveillance activities of the United States, citizens across Latin America are also at risk of abuses by their own national governments. Programs in Colombia, Mexico and Panama provide just a few examples.

Colombia, reportedly a critical target of US government spying, due to both the country's economic partnership with the US and drug-related security problems, has ramped up electronic surveillance efforts in recent years. In 2012, the federal government issued a decree mandating that telecommunication providers build backdoors into their systems to make it easier for law enforcement to spy on Colombians. The decree also required that Internet service providers collect the online location information of all of their subscribers and store that information for five years in order to aid law enforcement investigations.

Security officer in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Photo by C. Alberto. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Security officer in Sao Paolo, Brazil. Photo by C. Alberto. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In 2009, it was revealed that the Colombian government had for years illegally surveilled human rights groups, prominent journalists, political candidates, justices of the Supreme Court, clergy members, and other citizens. Colombia's intelligence service (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, or DAS), which reports directly to the president, not only spied on these individuals, but spied on their families, “taking photos of their children, investigating where they went to school, and tapping the phones of their parents, siblings and children.” Even after the program was exposed the abuses continued – evidence later proved that prosecutors investigating the DAS were even put under close watch.

More recently, the Colombian government has developed a program called Single Platform Monitoring and Analysis (Plataforma Única de Monitoreo y Análisis, or PUMA). Scheduled to launch in 2014, this new PRISM-like program would assist law enforcement in monitoring a wide variety of communications including online communications and social media networks. Through the PUMA program, the Colombian government aims to collect 20,00 different types of telecommunications media using 700 workstations for analysts to review collected data.

In Mexico, the federal government almost unanimously passed a law in 2012 granting police access to real-time user location data without a warrant. This law allowed local police to track the whereabouts and movements of nearly any cell phone user in country. In June 2013 it was discovered that the Mexican government had possibly been using a malicious software program known as FinFisher which has the ability to record the screen, keystrokes, camera, and microphone of infected computers. The escalation of drug-related violence in Mexico over the past seven years has been the impetus for many of these programs. But many believe that policymakers have failed to balance the legitimate, pressing need to protect citizens from drug violence with fundamental rights to privacy and due process of law.

In 2010, leaked US diplomatic cables revealed that Panama was working with the United States to run a wiretapping facility known as ‘Matador‘. Since that time, University of Toronto research center Citizen Lab has reported that FinFisher has also been found within Panama though the extent of its use it still unknown.

At least four Latin American countries have received significant assistance in setting up their surveillance programs from the United States, including the three countries discussed above as well as Paraguay.

These activities and instances of Latin American governments surveilling the online activities of their citizens do not make the vast global dragnet of the NSA any less scary. But they do illustrate how citizens across Latin America must be conscientious of surveillance by both foreign governments as well as their own.

August 14 2013

#YoViajoPara: Why do Latin Americans Travel?

Latin Americans love to travel. They might travel for fun, for work, or even for love -the reasons are endless.

There are many intrepid travelers in the region, many of them brave enough to explore any terrain or climate.

With the hashtag #YoViajoPara (“I travel to”, or “I travel for”), travelers started an online discussion, sharing the most common reasons why they are passionate about traveling.

Travelers in Oaxaca. Picture taken by the author of this post.

Travelers in Oaxaca. Picture by Andrea Arzaba.

Maria Boa (@_mariaboa) [es] from Mexico expressed her passion about learning when going abroad:

I travel to live, dream, feel and discover different worlds, every trip is an adventure and with it a new responsibility, knowledge #happy

Honduran user Queenmarielos (@queenmarielos) [es] wrote that her favourite thing about travelling is discovering different food and drink:

I travel to eat different dishes and to drink local beverages from every city and country

Global Voices contributor Julián Ortega Martínez (@julian_ortegam_) [es] from Colombia confessed that he travels to see his loved one:

 I travel to fulfill the dream of seeing you

Elizabeth Rivera (@elimaguire) [es], also a Global Voices contributor, wrote about her interest in moving around to discover new places:

I travel to connect with the world. This planet is too interesting to stay always in the same place.

Francisco Diaz (@Frank_FDP) [es] from Mexico described his passion for traveling as a unique way to find out how people from other cultures understand the world:

 I travel to try to understand how the world thinks

Brazilian Twitter user Transeunte (@transeunte_bsb) [pt] tweeted about his desire to get out of his comfort zone:

I travel to change the context!

Mariana (@MEspinozaE) [es] from Mexico said that traveling is the best way to spend her time:

@Lolawm it has helped me to expand my horizons, and think outside the box.. the best way to spend my time 

Chef and Global Voices contributor Melissa DeLeon (@cookingdiva) [es] from Panama wrote that she travels for work, but also to enjoy local food:

I've been traveling since I was very young, today I travel for work but I always find a chance to enjoy leaning about the culture and the local gastronomy

Why do you travel? Share your stories, reasons or thoughts with the hashtag #YoViajoPara.

August 05 2013

TNW Announces Latin American Startup Awards Winners

In the lead up to this year’s The Next Web Conference Latin America, we’ve been running Startup Awards competitions in Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Brazil in search of the hottest startups and investors.


The result has been absolutely amazing – in just under a week 18,448 people have cast a total of 31,000+ votes. We’ve seen finalists create beautiful social media campaigns, adding calls-to-action to their websites and we’ve even heard of finalists flying to other cities to strengthen their leaderboard position.

Wytze De Haan in The Next Web (TNW) announces the winners of the Latin American Startup Awards in each category: Best Consumer Startup, Best B2B Startup, Best Investor, and Best co-founder(s).

July 30 2013

Colombia: Welcome to Downtown Medellín

Downtown Medellin, my home, is one of the most colorful places I have known in my life. It’s not the prettiest or safest place on earth, but it’s very interesting, vibrant and exotic.

Adriaan Alsema writes about downtown Medellín, or “el centro”, in Colombia Reports. He lists reasons to love and hate downtown Medellín, and adds that,

it’s exactly this optimistic development and visible growth, and the ever-changing tension between good and evil, that makes me want to live here. It’s why I so passionately love downtown Medellin, even though it doesn’t always love me back.

The article also includes an interactive map.

July 10 2013

Intra-urban Displacement in Medellín, Colombia

[...] ultimately, every one of the thousands of people displaced within Medellin faces the same grim choice: Lose your house, job, and community — or lose your life.

James Bargent in In Sight Crime writes about intra-urban displacement -”when victims are displaced to a different part of the same city”- in Medellín, Colombia.

July 03 2013

Economic Issues Behind Colombia's Peasant Revolt

The agrarian problem explains the restlessness and open rebellion of the peasantry against the neo-liberal economic policies and the growing encroachments of rentier capitalism.

In Cuadernos Colombianos, a blog from The North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), Nazih Richani explains the motives behind a massive peasant mobilization in Catatumbo, North Santander, that has lasted more than 20 days.

June 26 2013

“Advocacy,” yes, that is what we do

Pilar Sáenz has been a trained physicist for years, but after joining Colombia's free software community, she became a software and free culture activist. 

Until less than a year ago, I did not know the name for what I began doing in 2011 when I decided to oppose what at the time was called the Lleras Law, a bill similar to those presented in other countries such as the Sinde Law in Spain and the Hadopi Law in France. Efforts to oppose the law resulted in the creation of an Internet collective that called itself RedPaTodos [es] (WebForAll).

Advocacy is an English word that does not have an exact translation in Spanish, except for the vague term of “political influence“ [es], defined as a series of actions on behalf of an individual or group that aims to influence public policies within political, economic and social systems as well as institutions.

In Colombia, saying that “political influence” is being done generates mistrust. When someone says he or she is trying to influence Congress members or people in government, there are three reponses: They treat you like a utopian dreamer, one who likes to waste time thinking about nonsense; they consider you a snake asking for favors; or, even worse, they think you are corrupt and looking to get business.

Interveción en Maloka el Día de Internet. Ley Lleras para cuidadanos y Piratas. Foto por Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero, compartida en Flickr por RedPaTodos Aztlek (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Operation in Maloka on Internet Day. The Lleras Law for citizens and Pirates. Photo by Luis Alejandro Bernal Romero, shared on Flickr by RedPaTodos Aztlek (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When someone affirms that he or she wants to have a political impact, they tend to tell you to stop dreaming of changing things and to do something practical like work, to conform to living in the happiest country on earth. They tell you that complaining does not serve any purpose unless you are someone of “political class”; this select group that, for whatever reason, continues to be in power in government after government and, with the exception of limited cases, does not act in interests of the people but rather in those of its own kind.

So, how does a group of citizens who are not politicians, military, or party members (nor do they wish to be so), end up sitting with advisors from two ministries (Communications and Commerce) and in the offices of various Congress members? How have we had dialogues with politicians regardless of whether their party is traditional, like the liberal party, supportive of the current government like new movements of the U party or the Green party, or an opposition party identified with the left like the Democratic Pole? How is it that we were able to have an influence?

The only answer is the very reason we started everything and the one that allows us to discuss these issues publicly: the Internet. For us the web is a new public space that allows for organization and participation.

Let's return to 2011, the moment when Congressman German Vargas Lleras presented a bill [es] that proposed the creation of a mechanism for providers of online services (such as search engines and social networks) to be able to remove content in clear violation of copyright laws, thus shielding them from liability for the actions of their users. This bill was part of the implementation of the FTA (Free Trade Agreement) with the United States and the text of the law is a direct copy of what appeared in the Agreement. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a law that was created for the Internet 15 years ago when Google was recently born, Facebook and Twitter did not exist, and we surfed at the exhilarating speed of 56 kb per second. This law allows companies in the US to block content that is “possibly” infringing.

The Lleras Law text was a poor copy of the old and controversial DMCA, with additions such as treating the country's Internet users as criminal suspects susceptible to the worst punishment, disconnection. The Lleras Law [es] violated our freedom of speech, favored censorship and restricted access to information. It would interfere with the very type of actions online that allow us to have influence as citizens.

It could have been one of those bills that passes without fanfare, voted on without discussion, without question, in the style of a mediocre congress that does not study the issues on which it votes and presents badly written (or even worse, copied) laws that are poorly defended. A congress that looks more like a circus than the cabinet where laws are constructed.

Nevertheless, a group of friends and acquaintances who are software and free culture activists, and who live off of the use and transformation of these technologies, decided to say no, to come out in opposition and go beyond complaining online and joking around about this #LeyLleras bill. We stubbornly decided to use this very technology so that our voice would be heard beyond our circle, to “do something,” to see what legal mechanisms we had and use them. That is how RedPaTodos was born.

With this bill we began learning about advocacy and though it may sound pretentious, that is what we have done. In these two years we have participated in congressional debates [es], informal meetings with congress members [es] and the government [es]; we have written informative articles [es], documents of support [es] for demands in the Constitutional Court and legal comments [es] for laws presented on the issue. After two years of work we saw three bills fail (one archived [es], one declared unenforceable [es], and another withdrawn [es]) and we have already been promised a dialogue [es] on the fourth bill. It is not a bad balance for a group of citizens without experience in the world of politics.

When we started we did it with the pessimistic security that we would not be successful. The strangest part is that so far we have succeeded. Our hope is to keep the Internet free and open so that other activists can use it for that which we are already doing and much more. We do this so that advocacy from the virtual world, on issues such as health, impunity or gender, to name a few, continues to be possible.

RedPaTodos is a civil society collective of organizations and individuals in Colombia that promotes an inclusive use of the Internet and champions the fundamental rights and civil liberties of all Colombians in the digital realm.

The original version of this post, written in Spanish, appeared on the Las 2 Orillas blog.

June 19 2013

Colombia: Learning from Vallenato

Amongst Colombian users of Twitter, the trend of publishing phrases from Vallenato songs -under the tag #Elvallenatomeenseñó [es] (Vallenato taught me)- has emerged, with the intention of highlighting famous lyrics immortalised in songs that reflect different life lessons.

As a musical genre, Vallenato is defined in Wikipedia as “native folk music from the Colombian Caribbean Coast [...]. Traditionally, it is played with three instruments: the Diatonic Button Accordion, the Guacharaca and the Caja Vallenata drum. Vallenato has five different rhythms which are the paseo, the merengue, the puya, the son and the tambora. Vallenato is also played with the Guitar and with the same instruments as Cumbia in cumbiambas and groups that play with the millo”.

Vallenato forms a fundamental part of Colombian culture and it could be said that it is one of the most characteristic features of the country's history.

Alexandra Osorio (@alexaaOsorioo) [es] published:

@alexaaOsorioo: #ElVallenatoMeEnseño que si me llego a morir, no la culpen a ella culpen a mi corazón que se enamoro sin conocerla ♪

@alexaaOsorioo: #ElVallenatoMeEnseño (Vallenato taught me) that if I die, don't blame her, blame my heart that fell in love without knowing her. ♪

Margy Salgado (‏@Mar_FisioUMB) [es] also joined in with the Vallenato song “Parranda, Ron y Mujer” (Party, Rum and Women):

‏@Mar_FisioUMB: #ElVallenatoMeEnseñó yo gozo mi vida y otro que la sufra, porque con lamentos no se gana NADA (Diomedez Diaz)

‏@Mar_FisioUMB: #ElVallenatoMeEnseñó (Vallenato taught me) I enjoy my life and another suffers, because with moaning, you gain NOTHING (Diomedez Diaz)

For her part, Gabriela Nava (@gabyNava12) [es] maintains that it is impossible not to love Vallenato:

Cómo no quererte mi vallenato del alma

“Impossible not to love you, Vallenato of my soul. You turn my sadness into happiness”. Image shared by @gabyNava12 en Twitter.

The user ‘David no existe’ (David doesn't exist) (@Tuunicoacosador) [es] remembers one of the most emblematic Vallenatos in the history of this genre: “Obsesión” (Obsession) by the group El Binomio de América (The Binomial of America).

@Tuunicoacosador: #ElVallenatoMeEnseño que quisiera que el mundo girara al revés, para hacerme pequeño y volver a nacer, y así no tener que extrañarteee.

@Tuunicoacosador: #ElVallenatoMeEnseño (Vallenato taught me) that I want the world to turn the other way, in order to make me small and to be born again, and thus not have to miss youuu.

Valentina Montoya (@Valenmontoyaa) [es], sings “La indiferencia” (The Indifference):

@Valenmontoyaa#ElVallenatoMeEnseño que esa indiferencia tuya es la que me domina, me hace perder la calma, me hace sentir cosquillas.

@Valenmontoyaa#ElVallenatoMeEnseño (Vallenato taught me) that your indifference controls me, it makes me lose my calm, it gives me butterflies.

Silvestre Dangond (@Dangond_Ochoa) [es] too, expresses:

@Dangond_Ochoa: #ElVallenatoMeEnseño que no es la plata es el corazón …

@Dangond_Ochoa: #ElVallenatoMeEnseño (Vallenato taught me) that it's not about money, but the heart…

Finally, Dana (@unaejtupida) [es] mentions various, famous young singers and composers.

@unaejtupida: Silvestre me enseño, Kaleth me enseño, Martín Elías me enseño………………..mejor .

@unaejtupida: Silvestre taught me, Kaleth taught me, Martín Elías taught me……………… (Vallenato taught me).

More Vallenato

The following are blogs dedicated to Vallenato:

You can also visit the post that Global Voices published in relation to the festival of the legendary Vallenato that is celebrated annually in Colombia.

May 25 2013

Colombian Vallenato Hats Made in China

Andrés Bermúdez comments on China Files about ” The day vallenato was sung in Chinese” [es], a musical reaction to the Chinese industrial production of sombreros vueltiaos, one of the most important artisan crafts from Colombia.

May 24 2013

TERRA 811: Floods at Campo de la Cruz - Faces

The films of Campo de la Cruz, Faces and Voices, are a complementary approach to tell the story of the catastrophic floods that occurred in Colombia's Caribbean Coast, during the rainy season of 2010-2011. After several months of heavy rains, the town and houses of Campo de la Cruz were covered under 20 feet of water and more than 30,000 people had to flee from their homes. However, some families stayed behind, built plastic shacks on the side of the road and waited for the water to drain. This multimedia approach tells the story of this people, of those who stayed behind and didn't want to leave their land. But, who is to blame? Produced by Federico Pardo

May 22 2013

Update on Colombia Peace Process

WOLA (Washington Office on Latin America) has published an update on the talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The report concludes:

As they pass their six-month anniversary, the talks are proceeding in an atmosphere of increased, though still moderate, optimism. This will grow dramatically if the ninth round makes clear that the agenda has moved beyond the first item, and if the FARC, in its public statements, more explicitly addresses its responsibilities to its victims.

May 17 2013

First Latin American Congress of Living Cultures

Rituals, reflections, poetic “assaults”… From May 17 to 23, 2013, the first Latin American Congress of Community Living Cultures [es] will invade the streets of La Paz, Bolivia. The city will host government representatives from Brazil and Colombia, along with more than one thousand activists.

May 12 2013

Peruvians To President: Our Digital Rights Are Non-Negotiable

The original version of this post was published on the website of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Katitza Rodriguez is the International Rights Director for EFF and a contributor to Global Voices Advocacy.

For years, music, film and other content industries in the US have been lobbying, in national law or within trade agreements, for overreaching rules that would break the Internet in the name of copyright enforcement. Lately, such proposals range from termination of users’ account on the mere allegation of copyright infringement to enacting censorship powers that would make parts of the global Internet disappear from view. Proposed policies could also introduce digital locks laws that stifle online innovation and restrict the ability to use lawfully-acquired digital content.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is the latest forum where these overreaching standards are being laundered. The TPP is a secretive treaty that includes a set of intellectual property rules that target the Internet. The 17th round of negotiations over TPP starts next week in Lima, Peru. Up for debate are the provisions dealing with intellectual property – including online copyright enforcement, DMCA-style digital locks, and Internet intermediary liability.

One of the major concerns about TPP is its capacity to rewrite global rules on intellectual property enforcement. All signatory countries will be required to match their domestic laws and policies to the provisions of the TPP. Future changes to those laws may involve re-negotiating the treaty. In Peru, this is likely to further entrench controversial aspects of Peruvian copyright law and restrict the ability of the Peruvian Congress to engage in domestic law reform to meet the evolving IP needs and realities of Peruvian citizens and their growing technology sector.

This is why a well-known network of Peruvian NGOs, including RedGE and Hiperderecho, have launched a campaign asking President Ollanta Humala Tasso to set clear, non-negotiable limitations to ensure that Peruvians’ fundamental rights in the TPP are respected.

The campaign asks President Humala to:

  • Not accept new conditions in the treaty's intellectual property chapter that hinder or make more expensive our access to medicines and medical treatment.
  • Not accept conditions on the intellectual property chapter that jeopardize the Internet, our freedom of speech or our ability to do research or innovate using art and technology.
  • In the investment chapter, to include the necessary safeguards to ensure the state's ability to enforce national laws, especially on issues of public health and environment.

Miguel Morachimo, Hiperderecho's executive director, is urging other Peruvians to sign the petition:

Would you remain silent if someone is discussing the way you work, create or express yourself? The TPP may change the way we as consumers and professionals interact with cultural goods and technology. But we can stop it if we speak. We invite you to join us in this petition asking the peruvian government to express clear non negotiable lines in this treaty. We won't make it without your voice.

Any changes to the conditions governing limitations on Internet intermediary liability could have a significant and detrimental impact on Internet users’ ability to seek, receive and impart information, and could harm the Internet's end-to-end architecture. How TPP countries approach these issues can determine the future of the global Internet.

If you are Peruvian and think that the President should set clear,non-negotiable limits on the TPP, consider joining the online petition in Peru by signing here If you live outside Peru, but want to help with the Peruvian campaign, please get the word out about the campaign in blogs, and on Facebook and Twitter (using the hashtags #yaratpp and #notpp).

Campaign image from

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