Asociaci�n de Trabajadores Campesinos Carare (ATCC), Colombia


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El Corregimiento de la India came into being in the 1950's when the local peasant workers saw businessmen harvesting the lumber and shipping it out by the waterways of the Minero, Horta and Carare Rivers. The workers realised they could use the richness of the land and so they, too, cut the timber, and started growing corn, bananas, cacao and grain and constructed living quarters of clay and straw along the riverbanks.

In the 60's and 70's the number of settlers increased and El Corregimiento was created along the banks of the Carare River, giving itself the name of 'la India' because in those days the only person who was selling bread, rice and other commonly-known articles was a lady who was called "la India", because every time one needed to buy some article from her, she would say it came from India.

In 1965 guerrillas established a presence in the Carare region. In 1973, when the army came in to evict the guerrilla groups, violence from both armed groups against the peasants started. This was later exacerbated by the presence of paramilitary groups. By 1987 over 500 peasants had been killed and, in a fateful meeting the military and the paramilitary offered the peasant leaders four options: side with the military, side with the guerrillas, leave the region or die. The peasants, who had sought to stay independent of the violence, chose a fifth option: to organise non-violently for peace and development, and thus the association of peasant workers (ATCC) was born, with the slogan for the right to life, peace and work. The ATCC's tactics were simple: constant dialogue with all parties (military, paramilitary, guerrillas, government) and an unshakeable commitment to non-violence.

Today, El Corregimiento de la India is inhabited by persons from Boyac�, Antioquia, Toliza, Choc�, from the valley of Cauca, and from Santander. The majority of these people came to 'la India' after fleeing political violence which occurred in our country in the 50's and 60's. They came because they wanted to find a more peaceful locale in which to live.

The war between the paramilitary forces and the guerrillas is now history in the region. Nevertheless, the town needs social programs contributing to the well-being of the community. Today, the community of El Corregimiento has 27 sectors: a police station, 5000 inhabitants, with 100 living in the inner city, 28 kms. from the municipality of Cimitarra connected by good roads. The community has four churches, three schools, an agricultural college, a community action group, a telecommunications site, a medical station, the first phase of a wharf, and two women's groups, an agroforestry and enterprise cooperative association which promotes health and of course the association of peasant farm workers of Carare (ATCC). The ATCC is the ultimate expression of peaceful co-existence in this area, its strong point is saying "No" to violence and "Yes" to life, peace and livelihood through the use of only dialogue and understanding. As Ms. Maria Medina commented "If someone arrives in town who is armed, we talk with him and tell him he cannot use firearms here. Everyone who comes in a manner of peace is well received". In El Corregimiento de la India the white flag is the only weapon of the town!

In 1990, the ATCC received the Nobel Peace Alternative prize, the 32 million pesos they received as the monetary prize was used; to purchase a piece of land for cultivation programs, to build a mill and to put up a medical post. In 1990 ATCC also received the Right Livelihood Award, from which this description of their work is drawn.