A delegation of the National Peasants Association, of the indigenous U’wa people and the Black Communities Process (PCN), that is Afro- Colombians, visited Europe recently. They were calling for international solidarity. The following is a summary of a speech given by Naka Mandiga, the representative of the PCN.
The struggle of the African-Colombian started from the very moment when the black Africans were taken away from their mother land "Africa" and they were brought to the new continent to submit them to the slavery. Thus was said by the representative of the African-Colombian Communities Naka Mandiga, also known by his Catholic name Jorge Aramburo.
The African-Colombians have not only they suffered the destruction of their own culture but also betrayal during the independence processes in Colombia. After Independence was achieved the blacks continued being slaves.
The processes of independence were no more than an agreement between the Spanish crown and the oligarchy of Latin America. The anthems were sung, and flags were hoisted but the land was never distributed. The motherland is not a flag. The motherland is the land; land that stills is found under the latifundia yoke.
The Black Communities Process form part a federation of 140 organisations from all parts of Latin America. They struggle for their cultural, territorial and social rights, and for a better work horizon. Emphasising in importance that each ethnic group is different and demands different treatment and territorial space for the development of their culture.
During 10 years of fighting for the legal authorisation of their territory, and by taking advantage of a political conjuncture (Constituent National Assembly 1991), recognition of the multiethnic and multicultural aspect of Colombia was achieved. The communities also won other points, such as recognition of the sacred right of these cultures to define their own development.
Law 70, passed in 1993, the Law of Black Communities, has served as a tool for legalisation of territories in the Pacific region (57.000 hectares neighbouring to the river Yurumangui). This has legalised what traditional and historically belongs to the black communities in that region.
Social injustice, the unequal distribution of the land and the awful presence of the multinationals have turned out to be working in alliance against the ethnic minorities in Colombia.
The struggle against the capitalistic and neo-liberal model is a struggle that began a hundred years ago. The multinationals have not only taken the gold of our rivers, but at the same time they have contaminated the rivers with mercury. The Pacific region is for its inhabitants the means of life, it is not just economic potential. Indians and blacks have been converted into hindrances for the neo- liberal development, and therefore they enter in conflict with the multinationals and their projects.
According to Naka Mandiga these projects only represent displacement for the African- American – Colombian, indigenous and peasant, destruction of the environment and natural resources of Colombia, and in many cases death for those opposed to the interests of the multinationals and those who refuse to abandoned their lands.
One of these projects is the extensive cultivation of the African palm in the Pacific region directly affecting the mangrove swamp, which is the habitat of many kinds of aquatics species and a very important a source of food for the inhabitants of the zone. These projects are part of what has been designed as the social component of the Plan Colombia.
The opening of the inter-oceanic canal is another project that has many communities in Colombia under terror. The opening of this canal would include the construction of new maritime ports and all communication infrastructures for trade and all would be made exactly where al these communities are.
With the multinationals comes paramilitarism, that is used not only to slaughter and murder the communities and their leaders, but to sow terror in those that had the fortune of surviving having been in hands of the "paras".
Naka Mandiga told us how the paramilitaries tie up their victims and use chainsaws to kill them, and they played football with the heads in the presence of all the community.
On the 7 September Naka Mandiga was the victim of the paramilitary hunt but he managed to escape, unfortunately seven members of his family did not have the same luck and they were riddled with bullets. The paramilitaries used army and police vehicles to escape. Four hours later the police managed to capture one of these paramilitaries who was wearing a bullet proof jacket, but the investigation that was carried by the commander of the National Police concluded that he was just a common criminal.
During their tour our companions confirmed their categorical rejection of Plan Colombia, not only because it is a plan for war. The people were not consulted. Plan Colombia favours a small minority; it reinforces paramilitarism; its social component is injurious because of the extensive cultivation projects. Plan Colombia’s intention is to alleviate the situation of the displaced (to legalise the displacement) and not to prevent it. But the real intention of USA is to take commercial, economic and military control of Latin America.
"We fight for recognition of our land and work, for the right to life, to culture and to society: life is one alone and they are all making us wretched; they do not want our voices free; they kill us because we say the truth."
Rosana Acuama (Black Communities Process)