In 1996, Marino Córdoba, well-known community advocate and national Afro-American leader from Colombia, was forcibly displaced from his home as a result of illegal paramilitary actions against the civilian populations in Chocó. Early in his life, Mr. Córdoba distinguished himself as a dedicated leader and representative of his community, peasants and small farmers of the many communities of African heritage that people the Pacific region of the country. Within the widespread violence of raids and massacres, he was specifically targeted and threatened as an important outspoken leader, as President of the Small Farmers Organization of the Lower Atrato Ocaba Region, and as leader and Special Advisor to the Council of Black Organizations.
Having pursued studies in Public Administration, focused on Social Management and Community Development, he had also played a prominent role in the Constitutional Assembly of 1991, successfully advocating for recognition of traditional identity and land rights for Colombian Afro-Americans. At the time of the intensified violence he was working as the Elected as Representative of the African Colombian Communities on the Executive Council of the statewide Development Council of Chocó (Code Chocó) and as a member of the Peace Council and Mediator in Alternative Dispute Resolution in the municipality of Rio Sucio. As has been the case for 3 million Colombians in the recent history of the decades-long conflict, he was forced to flee for his life, together with his family and with those neighbors from the area of Rio Sucio who had not yet been killed.
Marino survived and continued his activities in Bogotá, the capital, under continuous threats to his life during the last few years because of his increasingly prominent national and international leadership roles. During this time, Mr. Córdoba worked as a Special Assistant in the Office of Congresswoman Zulia Mena. He founded and became the first President of the National Association of Displaced Afro-Colombians (AFRODES), and the Bogotá District Council of Black Organizations. He traveled extensively as the representative of the displaced communities, receiving many peace awards and invitations to speaking tours in various countries of Latin America, the United States and South Africa. In 2001, he ran as a candidate to the City Council of Bogotá, representing the interests of the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, of all colors, who have in recent years swelled the population of the marginal neighborhoods of the capital.
He was wounded in the leg two years ago, one of many attempts against him. In November 2001 the Human Rights Commission of the Organization of American States requested that the Colombian Government provide the necessary conditions and preventive mechanisms to guarantee Mr. Córdoba´s and his family´s life and livelihood, though the request was really never heeded. He was finally forced to abandon the country in January, 2002, fleeing from yet another planned assassination attempt, and is now residing temporarily and seeking asylum in the United States, where he works and travels to denounce the deplorable situation for human and civil rights in his homeland, and in particular, to garner support for the cause of Afro-Colombian communities besieged by the violence of war. As he left Colombia, Marino was forced to abandon the home he had established with Nelly Pren Victoria and their three children in Bogotá; reunification for their family may yet take many months, perhaps years.
Mr. Córdoba, who continues to be the spokesperson and legal representative for AFRODES, may be contacted directly to request interviews or appearances, or for further information and material on the situation of displaced communities in Colombia. However, for security reasons, all requests will be forwarded to him through Mary Cuevas (marycuevas @ earthlink.net).