Open Letter to President Iván Duque Márquez from colombians Academics and around the world

The Southern Conceptualisms Network (RedCSur) exposes the open letter to the President of Colombia Iván Duque Marquéz, with the purpose of making visible the situation of persecution, threat and assassination of social leaders. Academics from Colombia and the rest of the world are demanding from the Colombian government the lack of recognition and action.

May 21, 2019


Iván Duque Márquez

President of the Republic of Colombia,

Bogotá, Colombia

Open Letter

We are academics from Colombia and from all over the world and we wish to voice our concern over recent events in Colombia that include death threats, legal persecution and the assassination of social leaders, former guerrilla combatants and human and environmental rights defenders. According to the Centro de Investigación y Educación Popular, CINEP/Programa por la paz (Centre of Research and Popular Education, CINEP/Peace Program), of the cases categorized as political violence in 2018, there were 648 assassinations, 1,151 death threats, 304 people were injured, 48 people were victims of attacks, 22 forced disappearances, 3 sexual attacks and 243 arbitrary detentions. In 2019, at least 62 social leaders have been killed so far. 

Given these facts, we are outraged at the Colombian government’s failure to acknowledge the situation and we ask the government to take steps to avoid this continuous and systematic bloodshed and to prevent a repetition of deplorable events, such as the attempt on the life of Francia Márquez and other leaders from the North of Cauca that occurred on the 4th May this year.

We have observed that hate and violence are encouraged from within places of power and the media and that this disrupts not only the little peace that has been achieved, but as noted by Daniel Pécaut (2001), is a declaration of war against society.

As academics that conduct research on local, regional and international dynamics, we have seen how territories of geopolitical interest have been put in the spotlight and as a result have seen an escalation of conflicts linked to the expansion of the extractive industry. At the same time, we have noted that nefarious links have developed between legal and illegal forces in order to expel the local population from their territories. These types of relations have also been evidenced by Sassen (2015), Harvey (2004), Escobar (2014), and the analyst of defense, Herold (2007), among others, who have written on expulsion and dispossession as a means to make way for the large-scale accumulation of extractive projects.

In Colombia, a similar situation has been noted in relation to the country’s economic policy, a policy that promotes extractivism as a core strategy for development. This favorable policy climate is used by different sectors holding power, and which represent diverse interests, to take control of territories. As a result, there has been an escalation of assassinations against leaders who are defending the rights of local communities and peoples. Although this has been a reality for a long time, there has been an increase in cases since the signing of the agreements with the FARC – EP in 2016, in clear opposition to the hoped for ‘territorial peace’. 

We can conclude that these threats and assassinations are linked to various sectors who have a specific interest in regions in the country where there is a proposal to develop large-scale extractive projects. This also coincides with accounts given in ‘free version hearings’ at transitional justice processes and in decisions made by the Colombian Constitutional Court.

Recurring phrases in death threats like ‘finish off anyone who interferes with the development of the country’ identifies the local population as a military target, as this population, as voiced by their leaders, opposes extractive projects and wishes to avoid the negative impacts they have on ecosystems and populations.

We have also noted that State bodies and the press have failed to take measures to prevent the threats, legal persecution and assassinations taking place and yet at the same time do not hesitate to signal and stigmatize social protest, the activities of social leaders and opposition to government policies.

It is also worrying that it was only when an attempt was made on the life of Francia Márquez, a leader known internationally as winner of the Goldman Environmental prize, who was with other well known leaders at the time, that you chose to make a public pronouncement. Your government has failed to communicate what efforts are being taken to respond to this crisis. We are concerned that the measures taken to date have been insufficient and appear to be limited to weak security plans for social leaders at risk and a hunt for the material authors of these crimes. However, in order to identify the intellectual authors and the sectors behind this strategy of dispossession and extermination, it is imperative to understand the wider context.

As academics we ask that as head of state you order an investigation in order to uncover what is really behind the despicable acts of violence taking place on a daily basis.

At the same time, given the lack of action by your government and the size of the problem, we feel it is urgent and necessary to invite international organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to establish a Commission of Verification to investigate the causes of these violent acts so that we can have reliable information, prevent new cases occurring and ensure justice for the victims of the previous cases.

We hope that you recognize that this is an historic moment for Colombia and that it is possible to change the course of the national economy and of social policy to ensure that life and the environment are protected, resulting in a better life, a ‘buen vivir’, for future generations

We invite you to share with us the measures taken and decisions made to date, to avoid more blood shed in Colombia and ask what new actions will be taken to resolve this painful and intolerable humanitarian situation.

We the undersigned continue to work towards world peace, towards territorial peace, towards a peace that is longed for in every corner of the earth and here, in Colombia, that has suffered so much.

cc: Most Holy Father Papa Francisco, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International

Suite à la vente des Archives d’artistes de Juan Carlos Romero

Gráfica de Lucía Bianchi y Silvana Castro enero 2018.

Communiqué de la Red Conceptualismos del Sur*

*Réseau Conceptualismes du Sud

Aujourd’hui, alors que commence l’année 2019, nous souhaiterions exprimer nos plus vives inquiétudes suite à la nouvelle de la vente des archives de l’artiste Juan Carlos Romero (1931-2017) à une collection privée d’art latino-américain à New York, décidée par ses héritiers (la veuve et les enfants de Romero) par l’intermédiaire du galeriste Ricardo Ocampo. Cette vente implique que les archives seront désormais privatisées, fermées, soustraites à l’accès public et délocalisées du lieu où elles avaient été constituées, à la faveur de la passion obstinée, lucide et persistante de Juan Carlos Romero, qui tout au long de sa vie a défendu la condition publique et accessible de ses archives. Dans un contexte où les politiques de préservation, de soin et de valorisation de la documentation artistique et politique se trouvent dans une grande précarité, laissées à l’abandon et dans la plus grande indifférence, ce fonds d’archives extraordinaire et d’une grande valeur est beaucoup plus que le fonds d’un artiste et de son œuvre. C’est une collection unique, réalisée grâce à une grande générosité réunissant de nombreux enregistrements des pratiques artistico-politiques et de la culture matérielle d’une partie importante du XXe siècle en Argentine et en Amérique latine. Les archives de Juan Carlos sont extrêmement pertinentes non seulement pour l’histoire de l’art argentin, mais aussi pour l’histoire politique, syndicale, culturelle de ce pays. Il comprend des fonds documentaires comme la collection des affiches politiques argentines et latino-américaines, le fonds sur le Centro de Arte y Comunicación (CAYC), sur des aspects de la culture populaire (le mate, le tango, la mort), ou encore des tracts syndicaux, lesquels excèdent largement le domaine de l’art.

Dans un pays comme l’Argentine, traversé par une crise économique de la dette féroce, due à l’évasion des capitaux et à la spoliation généralisée, nous condamnons la fuite des biens communs et des capitaux symboliques. Nous travaillons à ce que la gestion du capital économique, aussi bien que culturel, affectif, politique, défasse la codification entre le public et le privé, afin de reconfigurer de manière située une politique du commun. Aujourd’hui, les formes de thésaurisation et d’accumulation ne se réduisent pas à celles des grandes institutions du nord global qui cherchent à enrichir leur patrimoine de manière coloniale. Elles comprennent aussi celles de mercenaires dont le but est de trouver les moyens de faire fructifier ce patrimoine, dont le radar est la spéculation économique et symbolique, boussole moins prévisible et plus difficile à suivre et à contrôler.

En tant que Red Conceptualismos del Sur, nous avons travaillé de manière engagée auprès de Juan Carlos Romero, pendant des années, pour que les Archives Juan Carlos Romero soient accessibles au public et qu’elles acquièrent un statut institutionnel à travers la création d’une Association civile, et nous savons que sa volonté expresse était que ses archives ne soient pas dispersées mais organisées en un fonds en accès libre basé en Argentine. Les archives Juan Carlos Romero ont constitué un projet prioritaire au sein de la politique des archives impulsé en divers endroits d’Amérique latine par la RedCSur, telles que les archives de Clemente Padín à Montevideo, ou les archives du groupe CADA à Santiago du Chili, pour ne citer que deux exemples. Cette alliance remonte à la deuxième Rencontre de la RedCSur (au Centro Cultural Parque de España, Rosario, octobre 2008), lorsque Juan Carlos Romero fut invité à présenter ses archives. Elle se constitue formellement en 2011, quand la RedCSur commence à travailler à la constitution d’une Association Civile pour poser les bases de ce fonds, et qu’elle a inventorié et déménagé objets et documents vers le lieu que Juan Carlos Romero avait choisi lui-même à cette fin. Menant à bien un travail d’expérimentation institutionnel, la proposition a été de créer une alliance de travail avec d’autres institutions, telles que le Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (MNCARS) et l’Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero (UNTREF), lesquelles ont rejoint le projet en 2014, quand a été élaboré une convention de collaboration tripartite (entre l’Associación Civil Juan Carlos Romero Archivo de Artistas, la Red Conceptualismos del Sur, le MNCARS et la UNTREF). Le but de cette convention était de créer une initiative commune qui permettre de mettre en place un cadre de protection, de préservation et d’activation de ce fonds d’archives sur la base d’un accord éthique: la défense de l’intégrité de l’archive, sa condition publique et accessible, sa localisation là où ont eu lieu les pratiques dont elle rend compte. En 2014, le siège de l’Associación Civil Juan Carlos Romero Archivo de Artistas a été inauguré au 443 de la rue Santiago del Estero dans la ville de Buenos Aires, afin d’accueillir le fonds et d’ouvrir un espace de consultation et de recherche. Contrairement à d’autres initiatives d’archives initiées par la RedCSur, les archives Romero disposaient de leur propre espace, ce qui a empêché leur absorption ou leur soumission à la logique de fonctionnement des institutions impliquées dans le projet (ainsi qu’à leurs propres critères de classement, d’inventaire et de traitement des matériaux, entre autres), et que ces dernières respectent les logiques émanant des archives elles-mêmes. Cela a fait des Archives Romero une expérience unique ouvrant la possibilité d’engager de nouveaux projets plus autonomes institutionnellement, et a conduit à proposer à d’autres artistes d’y déposer leurs archives, un pari énoncé dans le nom même de l’Association Civil Juan Carlos Romero, présentées comme des “Archives d’Artistes”. Durant ces années-là, la RedCSur a travaillé au classement et à la mise en accès de plusieurs parties des Archives Romero, notamment de sa Colección de Gráfica Política (collection d’arts graphiques politiques) (comprenant plus de 2000 affiches et accessible en ligne: et d’une partie de ses archives personnelles.

Nous lançons un appel à la communauté artistique et culturelle, aux différentes initiatives d’archives, aux institutions artistiques ainsi qu’aux universités, à la société civile, afin qu’elles prennent position et refusent la vente et la privatisation des Archives Juan Carlos Romero, vu que ce patrimoine public d’une très grande valeur reviendrait alors à des particuliers, délocalisé, assujetti à une logique de “collection d’art” encourant la dispersion et l’inaccessibilité.

Nous demandons instamment aux responsables de la vente des Archives Juan Carlos Romero que soient rendues publiques les conditions de la vente de ce fonds, dont il n’existe aucun inventaire complet à ce jour. Les archives ont été enlevées de la maison de la rue Santiago del Estero où elles se trouvaient. Nous devons savoir où elles se trouvent, dans quel état de conservation, si elles ont été conservées de manière indivisible tel que cela avait été établit par l’Associación Civil qui les a conservées ces dernières années.

Nous appelons l’État Argentin à ce qu’il intervienne à travers les ressources qu’offre la protection du patrimoine culturel, afin que soit assuré le maintien des archives dans le pays. Nous lançons également un appel aux institutions et aux archives publiques qui ont lutté sur le terrain de la mémoire et de la culture des différentes gauches, au-delà des gouvernements au pouvoir, afin de produire les conditions institutionnelles indispensables à ce que ces Archives soient accueillies et soient constituées en tant que fonds public.

Nous proposons que les Archives Juan Carlos Romero soient déclarées en tant que patrimoine culturel compte tenu de leur grande valeur documentaire concernant la vie politique et artistique au XXe siècle en Argentine aussi bien qu’en Amérique latine. De même, en tant que RedCSsur, nous nous engageons à collaborer activement à:

  1. Poursuivre la mise en œuvre du classement/digitalisation des parties d’archives ainsi que leur socialisation  à travers le site web archivos en uso.
  2. Trouver les fonds afin de soutenir les projets sur ces archives le temps que leur institutionnalisation soit garantie en Argentine.
  3. Relancer les activités de l’Association Civil “Archivo de Artistas Juan Carlos Romero” afin d’accompagner et de veilleur à l’inaliénabilité de ce fonds d’archives, à sa préservation et sa socialisation, tout en œuvrant à son inscription locale.

Pour adhérer à la déclaration:

Regarding the alarming news about the sale abroad of the archive of the Artists’ Archive Juan Carlos Romero

Gráfica de Lucía Bianchi y Silvana Castro enero 2018.

At the beginning of January 2019, we became aware of the alarming news that the Archive of the artist Juan Carlos Romero (1931-2017) has been sold to a private collection of Latin American Art located in New York, by decision of his heirs (the widow and the descendents of Romero) and through arrangements made by the gallery owner Ricardo Ocampo.

This means that the archive will be privatized, closed down, deprived from public access and delocalised from the place where it was established, by the stubborn, lucid, persistent passion of Juan Carlos Romero, who throughout his life defended the public and open condition of his archive.

In a context in which the policies of preservation, care and appreciation of artistic and political documentation are in conditions of precariousness, abandonment and disinvestment, this huge and invaluable collection is much more than the personal archive of an artist and his work, is a generous and unparalleled registryfile of the artistic and political practices and the material culture of an important moment of the twentieth century in Argentina and Latin America.

The archive of Juan Carlos Romero is tremendously relevant not only for the history of Argentinian art, but also for the country’s political, labor union and cultural history. It includes documentary collections such as: the collection of Argentine and Latin American political posters, the CAYC fund, diverse aspects of popular culture (mate, tango, death), or the fund of labor union pamphlets, which far exceed the limits of art.

In a country like Argentina,  going through a fierce economic crisis based on indebtedness, capital evasion and generalized spoliation, we repudiate the leakage of common goods and symbolic capitals. We seek that the management of economic cultural, affective and political capital,  dismantle the codification between the public and the private to configure in situ, a politics of the common.

Nowadays, the forms of hoarding and accumulation are not only those of the great institutions of the global north that seek to enrich their heritage colonially. But also those of mercenaries whose purpose is to find a  return to these collections, because their radar is the economic and symbolic speculation, a compass less predictable, more difficult to track and verify.

From the RedCSur (Network of Southern Conceptualisms) we have been working for years with Juan Carlos Romero, in the public access and institutionalization of the Juan Carlos Romero Archive through the constitution of a nonprofit organization, and we know that his express wish was that his Archive will not disintegrate but will become an open access collection located in Argentina.

Thus, the Juan Carlos Romero Archive was a priority project within the archives policy that RedCSur has been promoting in various parts of Latin America, such as the Clemente Padín archive in Montevideo or the CADA archive in Santiago de Chile, to mention two examples.

This alliance goes back to the RedCSur Second Meeting of (Spanish Park Cultural Center, Rosario, October 2008), when Juan Carlos Romero was invited to present his archive and it was formalized in 2011, when RedCSur began formally working on the constitution of the nonprofit organization that laid the foundations of the archive, and in the inventory and moving of objects and documents to the space that Juan Carlos himself assigned to that end.

Continuing with a work of institutional experimentation, the proposal was to create a common working alliance with other institutions, such as the Museo Reina Sofía and the National University of Tres de Febrero, which were integrated into the project when in 2014 it was formalized a quadripartite collaboration agreement (between the  nonprofit organization Juan Carlos Romero Artists Archive, the RedCSur , the MNCARS and the UNTREF), in order to create a joint initiative that would allow the promotion of a framework for safeguarding, preserving and activating the archive based on an ethical agreement: the defense of the integrity of the archive, its public and accessible condition, its location in the context where it’s practices occurred.

In 2014, the principal space of the Juan Carlos Romero Artists Archive nonprofit organization  was opened in Santiago del Estero 443, City of Buenos Aires, to house the archive and become a space for consultation and research. Unlike other archives initiatives promoted by the RedCSur, the Romero Archive had its own space, which made possible it’s independence from the different institutions involved in the project (allowing an own particular criteria of cataloging, inventory and systematization of the material, among other issues).

This opened the possibility for the Romero Archive to be considered as a unique experience,  to try out projects with greater institutional autonomy and it was proposed to host other artists archives in its space. This characteristic was even present in the name itself as the nonprofit organization Juan Carlos Romero, which is presented as an “Artists Archive”. During these years, RedCSur also worked on the cataloging and open access to different areas of the Romero Archive, including the Political Graphic Collection (composed of more than 2000 posters and available at: and part of his personal archive.

We call upon the artistic and cultural community, the different archive initiatives, the artistic institutions and universities, the civil society, to pronounce themselves and repudiate the sale and privatization of the Juan Carlos Romero Archive, because this valuable public patrimony remains in private hands, delocalised, inscribed in the logic of an “art collection” and subject to dispersion and inaccessibility.

We demand that those responsible for the sale of the Juan Carlos Romero Archive make public the conditions of sale of a collection from which, to date, there is no complete inventory. The file was removed from the house in Santiago del Estero where he was based. We need to know where it is located, what is its current state of preservation, if it has been maintained as an indivisible archive, as established by the nonprofit organization that protected it during the last years.

We appeal for the intervention of the Argentine State through the protection of cultural heritage, to ensure that the archive remains in the country. At the same time, we call upon institutions and public archives that are disputing the memory and the left wing culture, beyond the nowadays governments, to generate conditions of institutionality that allow the archive to be accepted and to claim their constitution as a public heritage.

We propose that the Juan Carlos Romero Archive be declared a cultural heritage, considering its important documentary value in relation to the political and artistic processes of the 20th century in Argentina and Latin America. Likewise, we commit ourselves from the RedCSur to collaborate actively in:

  1. Continue the processes of cataloging / digitalizing areas of the archive and to work on its public access through the website archivos en uso.
  2. Manage funds to sustain projects for the archive until it’s institutionalization in Argentina is achieved.
  3. To re-launch the nonprofit organization “Artists Archive Juan Carlos Romero” to accompany and ensure the inalienability of the archive, its preservation and socialization, promoting its local registration.

For adherences: