The war starts here,let’s stop it here
[Joint statement of the #NoMásExpodefensa campaign] 6 December 2023
We started our call for the end of Expodefensa six years ago. For more than a decade our city Bogota has hosted this infamous exhibition where the businesses of war and death meet. Unfortunately, it is now promoted as the largest arms fair in Latin America.
As organizations and individuals who are here today, and who signed and delivered a petition to the President of the Colombian Republic last November 29th, we want to express our deepest repudiation to the realization of this arms fair. We consider that this fair, organized with the support of the Ministry of Defense, has not only favored the atmosphere of militarism in the country, but that with the different weapons that are commercialized in this fair human rights have been violated and through which a strategy of surveillance has been consolidated in Colombian society. The weapons that are exhibited here as innocent toys, have not only been used to violate human rights in this country, but also in the world, as we are witnessing in Palestine. The Israeli arms industry is present at this fair today.
Expodefensa brings together more than 200 exhibitors from more than 20 countries of the world, who come to show different machines and technology with the aim to kill and guarantee repression. Tear gas, bean bag ammunition (filled with pellets), stun grenades, rubber ammunition and a series of other tools whose sole purpose is to injure, and which in several cases have been shown their ability to kill.
For example, the electric pistols known as “tasers”, that are used by the national police, were promoted at a past Expodefensa by the U.S. company Axon. A year later, they were used to torture to the point of murdering Javier Ordóñez on 8 September 2020 in a police station in Bogotá.
It is not only physical weapons that are traded here. The market for cyber-surveillance and espionage technology, which has repeatedly been used to surveil journalists, human rights defenders and opposition politicians in different countries in the region, is becoming increasingly important. For example, leaked documents reveal that in 2021 the Military Forces met with the Israeli company Cognyte “after meeting one of its directors at the fair of Expodefensa.” The military received a proposal for a Cognyte system “to monitor communications, intercept phones and locate them.” This company is participating in the fair again this year.
It is not only what Colombia imports, but also what is exported from here. This fair promotes the sale of goods and services of warfare that are produced by four Colombian state-owned military companies. Indumil is part of this group, which has managed to attract international buyers at this fair, positioning itself as the first national export war company (75 billion in export sales in 2019). Its clients include states that violate human rights such as Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia and Guatemala.
Why does a government whose motto is “Colombia, power of life” decide to continue supporting a space that profits from war, and consequently, from death? Why continue supporting a space that goes against any peace proposal, simply because peace is not a business for those who profit from the generation of violence. For them the only possible and profitable business is war.
There is no answer to this question from the Colombian government, but we hope to have it soon, we and the dozens of people and organizations that demand “No More Expodefensa!” in Colombia. We hope that the answer will be the cancellation of this fair.
We reject the imports of technology used for repression and assassinations in Colombia, we do not want our taxes to favor the export of war, we consider that there is no peace possible if war continues to be a business. For all these reasons, we demand the cancellation of this and future versions of Expodefensa.
Because there is no peace possible while a few continue to profit from war, we say #NoMoreExpodefensa.