BOGOTA, Columbia – Under the banner “Por Una Patria Nueva” – For a New Country – over 1,500 people gathered at the Gonzalo Jimenez De Quesada Convention Center here Nov. 8 for the opening session of the 18th Congress of the Colombian Communist Party.

Jaime Caycedo, general secretary of the Colombian Communist Party, greeted the enthusiastic crowd with a call for unity among all those who support real democracy in Colombia to find “a political solution to the current crisis in Colombia, a solution through dialogue and negotiation based on dignity, national independence and sovereignty for Colombia.”

Sarah Staggs, a member of the CPUSA National Committee and chair of the Party’s Peace and Solidarity Commission, brought greetings from the CPUSA. Staggs spoke of the growing movement against the war in Afghanistan and its adoption of a broader agenda including the endorsement of the pursuit of peace through economic justice and the defense of all democratic rights and civil liberties.

“We resolutely reject President Bush and his administration’s application of the terrorist label to those movements which legitimately struggle for independence, self determination and for social and economic justice,” Staggs said. “We remember well that Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress of South Africa were once labeled as terrorists. Such a definition of terrorism applied to U.S. history would surely have branded the American revolutionaries as terrorists as well.”

The crowd, with a large and spirited youth contingent, endorsed the General Secretary’s charge that the Free Trade Area of the Americas was an aggressive economic plan aimed at colonial domination of the Americas and in particular aimed at blackmailing Venezuela and its government of democracy and national independence led by President Hugo Chavez.

“Plan Colombia, fumigation, and military intervention are connected with a project that goes beyond fighting drugs,” Caycedo said. “The Colombian Communist Party calls on all those of democratic opinion in our country to advance a movement for peace, peace with sovereignty, with dignity, and, therefore, a peace with social justice.”