MINGA ?WALKING THE WORD? - WHY THEY ARE MARCHING Print
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Saturday, 15 November 2008 12:25

Emergency Proposal- Social and Popular Minga of Resistance

Colombia 7th November

 

Introduction

The indigenous peoples of Cauca department, South West Colombia, social, peasant and afro-decendant organisations, women, students and workers, have been victim of constant infringements of their civil and political rights, as well as their economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. This situation led the afore-mentioned social sectors to invite the Colombian president, Alvaro Uribe Velez, to a political debate in La Maria area of Piendamo municipality, Cauca department, on October 14th 2008. Nevertheless, the Colombian government’s response was the disproportionate use of force, which between October 14th and 17th led to the death of indigenous community member Taurino Ramos, and 122 injuries, 5 of whom lost an eye; another was left paraplegic. In the Villarica area of Cauca 2 more indigenous community members were killed and at least 20 left injured.

Faced with the irrational aggression of the state forces, which used rifles and tear gas canisters which had been stuffed with nails and pieces of glass, the indigenous movement and the other social sectors decided to leave the La Maria area and make towards Cali, Valle del Cauca department, with the aim of ‘walking the word’ as they went- holding public audiences with the communities in cities and towns as they went- in Santander de Quilichao, Villa Rica, Jamundi and Cali. They also insisted that the Colombian government meet with the assembly of the indigenous movement and other social sectors, and hear the demands and proposals of each of the respective sectors.

Talks with Uribe Fail

On Sunday, October 26th, 2008, 40,000 indigenous community members and various social sectors arrived to the large square of the administrative centre in Cali, the CAM . There they waited for the promised arrival of President Uribe for 7 hours. President Uribe, however, went against the already agreed arrangements, and tried to change the venue of the meeting to the Telepacifico studios with only 200 indigenous community members. The president also tried to change the format of the meeting, from the previously agreed minga debate in which all sides have equal time to debate issues, to one of his ‘community councils’, which see the president in full control of proceedings with very little opportunity for debate.

Through an intermediate commission of guarantors, the president was notified at 5pm that the minga was withdrawing from the CAM square. Although the president’s argument for the change in venue had all day been that of security concerns, he surprisingly arrived as the minga was leaving the CAM square and, from a pedestrian bridge next to the CAM square, tried to hold a ‘community council’ with passers by.

The minga then proposed to meet the president in the Cali football stadium the following day, or in La Maria in Piendamo on Sunday November 2nd. The president accepted and finally arrived to La Maria on the agreed date, having accepted various conditions insisted upon by the minga surrounding the arrangements for the meeting. For 7 hours, the community and the national government debated 3 central points: -

Human rights and international humanitarian law violations perpetrated by state forces against indigenous communities : A 12 minute video presented by the community proved the disproportionate use of force by state forces, proving once again in the recent manifestations that the state persists in its policy of systematic human rights violations. Using statistics and evidence, the community showed that the violent extermination to which indigenous communities are being subjected is a state policy, promulgated by accusations of guerilla infiltration of the indigenous community. -

Unfulfilled Agreements: The community presented evidence of the long list of non-compliance with agreements made between the indigenous community and the state, amongst those the reparation for the 1991 Nilo massacre, which saw state involvement in the massacre of 20 indigenous community members. -

Plundering Legislation: The community demanded the repellation of the legislature which attacks community territories and expropriates the nation’s natural resources, such as the proposed Free Trade Agreement with the United States the forests law, the rural statute, the waters law, the mining code, and the moorland law.

It was also insisted that the government signs the UN declaration over indigenous populations, and publicly retract before the national and international community the misguided accusations which attempt to relate indigenous authorities with insurgent groups- accusations which have sparked murders, attacks and threats against indigenous leaders by paramilitary groups and state organisms.

The Community’s Demands

During the debate, the community explained in detail the problems with the Free Trade Agreement; the government’s ‘democratic security’ policy; the plundering legislation; and the unfulfilled agreements. Sugar cane cutters also expressed their opinions over the strike which they have maintained since September 15th 2008 and the urgency for a negotiation leads to the end of the slavery conditions in which they currently work. They explained the reasons why they are demanding direct contracts with the sugar cane companies, and also how their rights to unionization and freedom of association have been denied.

The president again tried to turn the debate in La Maria into a ‘community council’.   Upon being presented with the evidence of police and army abuses in indigenous territories, he insisted that there is no place in the country where state forces cannot enter, and that during his government he will not allow road blocks as a form of protest- showing a violation of international legislation and of international treaties relating to human rights and indigenous populations. He insisted on talking about the ‘bandits of the FARC who have done so much damage to the fatherland’, but didn’t respond to the Cauca Indigenous Leader Aida Quilcue when she asked him not to talk about the bandits of the FARC but about the community in front of him demanding their rights. The president didn’t give a clear and concrete policy answer to any of the points which are driving the mobilization of the indigenous community. As such, the unanimous decision of the assembley was to continue the minga by marching to Bogota. 15,000 indigenous will set off from Cali on Monday, with the number expected to swell as they go from town to town, and other indigenous and social movements join. The journey is expected to take around ten days.

Objectives

1. Continue an open debate with all organizations on the way to Bogota, with the aim of visibilising the human rights abuses and the non-fulfillment of agreements by the national government with indigenous, social and popular sectors.

2. Strengthen the social movement and co-ordinate, between different social sectors, joint incidence initiatives to halt the aggression against communities by state policies.

3. Demand that the Colombian state guarantee constitutional rights, and internal and international protection norms for economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.

Request:

1. Political support through demanding that the national government gives the necessary guarantees so that the minga can continue ‘walking the word’.

2. Resource support- to help with transport, food, accommodation, logistics.

3. Accompaniment of national and international   human rights organizations on the route, to carry out permanent observation and verification of events.