While they stir up hatred of Colombians exercising their right to asylum in Panama, while they continue the deportations to Colombia, while they systematically stigmatize the work, support and humanitarian accompaniment that the Panamanian Church and Human Rights Organisations carry out in the Darien…indigenous communities, in solidarity with those Colombians forced across the border, indigenous communities who have paid the price through threats, intimidation, selective assassinations, the burning of our homes, and displacement, have met, talked, laughed, danced, remembered our dreams, our history, and our solidarity in defence of life and land.
Declaration of the Indigenous Communities of the Darien and Colombian border region
We declare that:
1. The problems along the border of Colombia and Panama have been produced by the violation of human rights of indigenous peoples, black people and the peasant sector, within the framework of the globalisation of markets and international privatisation.
2. The policies of security, along both sides of the border, have been developed under a purely military vision, inspired by Plan Colombia and the Andean Regional Initiative. These policies have increased the budgets of the Armed Forces, and have led to an increase in the violation of the civil and political rights of those who attempt to find asylum and of the communities who receive them.
3. The internal conflict in Colombia which has now spread to Panama has forced thousands of Colombians to seek refuge in Panama, has been the pretext to militarize both sides of the border, and employ repressive measures against the population. The restriction of travel, accusations and threats, looting, forced displacement, torture and rape have been used against the civilian population, both those fleeing and those who receive them.
4. The governments of Colombia and Panama have violated international agreements, International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights Law. They continue to do so without respect for the rights of indigenous communities. We denounce the terrible conditions in which refugees in the Darien are forced to live, and those of the internally displaced in Colombia, who live without any meaningful support from the State.
5. We envisage a further deterioration in our living conditions. The majority already live below the poverty line as a result of the social and economic policies imposed by the governments of Colombia and Panama. These policies accentuate the historical inequality, such as the slavery, racism and discrimination that indigenous communities have suffered.
6. It is worth examining the awful conditions of marginality in which thousands of indigenous people live in the towns and urban centres along the border. Our young people are criminalised, unemployment and drug addiction are rife, and there is little access to education, healthcare, housing, electricity, transport or drinking water, and is added to the lack of opportunity for people of indigenous origin.
7. The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) alerts all social and ethnic organisations to the risks in terms of economic, political, social and cultural damage upon our indigenous society.
8. The presence on the ancestral lands of the indigenous communities of valuable natural resources, including great biodiversity, genetic resources and the traditional knowledge that we have of these, has led to exploitation by international economic groups, including drug traffickers, causing huge damage to the ecosystem, food security, and the development model based on our cultural identity and respect for nature.
9. The Colombian and Panamanian governments must stop accusing human rights organisations and the Church that work in the Darien, of protecting delinquents and subversives.
We resolve to:
1. Create a space for indigenous peoples of the region, and formally integrate ourselves in a binational effort to stop exploitation, discrimination and abuses.
2. Demand that the Colombian and Panamanian governments put into immediate effect, plans and programmes that recognise the existence of the rights of indigenous communities, the eradication of racism, and the historic abandonment and marginalisation that our communities have suffered from, and recognising our territorial, civil, political, economic, social, cultural and environmental rights and right to development as stipulated in International legal agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
3. Demand the immediate cessation of all military activity in communities of the civil population.
4. Reject the FTAA as it is nothing but a mechanism for economic domination, which will lead to the further dependence of our countries on the USA.
5. Denounce the violation of the human rights of indigenous people, particularly those committed through action or omission of governments to the internally displaced people of Colombia.
6. Reject the increased militarization of the region, as a product of the implementation of Plan Colombia by the USA, and the violation of International Humanitarian Law.
7. Demand respect for territorial rights, natural resources, biodiversity and traditional knowledge and cultural patrimony of the indigenous people, given that those affected most by the exploitation of such resources are generally indigenous or black, and given that we have protected these resources as an alternative to globalised economics. For these reasons we demand that both governments include our perspective in all policy regarding these resources.
8. We firmly reject the posturing of the Colombian and Panamanian governments, in linking the work of the Church and the human rights organisations in the Darien, with delinquent and armed organisations.
9. We defend the right of our peoples to autonomy and self determination; we defend our strong opposition to militarization. In short we renew our commitment to nature, world peace and to our region.
Yaviza, 23 August 2003.
Signed representatives of the Wuonan, Kuna and Embera people, and ONIC, OIA, OREWA, MIZBA,CODHES.