For the past four nights, students belonging to Miami University’s Students for Peace and Justice (SPJ) have presented to the public on the United States’ efforts in Colombia.
Fourteen students and a professor belonging to the group traveled to the South American country over spring break, visiting both major cities and small villages in the Colombian countryside.
Thursday’s presentation, titled “Plan Colombia: Drugs, Blood, and Money,” focused on the American government’s policy for assisting Colombia, specifically with the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. But the group has touched on other issues throughout the week, such as human rights, free trade agreements, and the nation’s history.
“The conflict in Colombia has been going on for 40 years, and every time we look at it, it’s more and more complex,” said junior Greg Claus, a member of SPJ.
Claus admitted that stereotypes were the only information he had before visiting the country.
“All I knew about Colombia was that it was associated with drugs and cocaine,” he said. “The purpose was to shed light on how U.S. policy was affecting Colombia and how we as citizens can affect change.”
Junior Becca Gunter said that there is both a physical and financial danger that exists for the population of the country.
“There are two main threats,” Gunter said. “One is that the armed conflict is very intense there and the second is an economic danger. Coca aside, the crops that are grown there aren’t profitable, so for people in Colombia, there are few options for economic survival.”
Gunter said the violent conflict stems from the presence of guerilla, paramilitary, and government military forces, and that civilians are in constant danger.
“A lot of people get caught in the middle, and there is that danger of death threats or human rights abuses,”she said.
Roger Marks, a junior at Miami who was in attendance, said he planned on following up on the situation.
“I think I’ll be reading about it,” Marks said. “There’s a lot of horrifying stuff going on in the world, and a lot of times we can forget that in a country like this and a place like this. But it’s hard not to turn a blind eye to all these things, because what really can you do as an individual?”
Marks appeared to be in familiar company during the event. Throughout the lecture and after it as the presenters entertained questions from the audience, not one attendee made an objection to the message.
“(The students in SPJ) obviously have a lot of passion for it, and they put together a really impressive project,” Marks said. “I thought I was just in store for an academic lecture from faculty.”
Whether or not Students for Peace and Justice’s message will be accepted remains unknown.
“It’s hard to tell how effective we’ll be, since the week of events just ended,” said senior Kathryn Anstaett. “It’s kind of hard two weeks before finals to get people to come out, but we had people come who we’ve never seen here before.”