FOR THE SAKE OF OUR DIGNITY, THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE CANNOT DIALOGUE, NOR MEET WITH A GOVERNMENT THAT CRIMINALISES AND ASSASINATES US
In October 2008 we, the indigenous people of Colombia, decided to leave our territories and communities to spread the word through the roads and streets of our country, in order to make a statement to the national and international community about the strategies of ethnic cleansing and genocide that we face as a consequence of the policies of our government. This "Democratic Security" policy, encourages the paramilitary and members of the security force of the State to exterminate us. That is why we created the National Minga of Popular and Indigenous Resistance, which mobilized over 70,000 indigenous peoples from all over Colombia.
Our Minga also seeks to:
•- Denounce the massacres and crimes against humanity that, for the last seven years, have left one indigenous person dead every three days.
•- Demand respect for our life, territory and authority from armed actors in the conflict.
•- Insist that the National Government fulfills its role as the guarantor of our human rights and that it resolves the humanitarian tragedy in which our people live.
•- Demand protection for the 18 indigenous peoples that are in danger of extinction.
•- Call for an end to impunity and for investigations and sanctions for the assassination of more than 1,260 indigenous people during the two terms of government under Uribe.
•- Demand that the government fulfills and honours the political commitments, designed by the State, on behalf of indigenous peoples and their organisations, above all those related to sentences from international tribunals.
•- Seek truth, justice and comprehensive reparation for all the victims of the internal armed conflict.
•- Demand that all agression, violent occupation and the expropriation of our territories comes to an end.
•- Call for the government to revoke new legislation that causes us to lose our territories, ignores our human and collective rights, whilst offering legal and military guarantees to foreign investors who exploit our natural resources and biodiversity.
•- Demand that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples is approved without further question.
•- Demand respect for the good name of our people, organisations and leaders and that the National Government responds to our legal demands, and abstains from branding us delinquents, terrorists or guerrillas.
•- Contribute and work towards the construction of a lasting peace with social justice for our country.
•- Share our dreams for a dignified future for our children, thereby guaranteeing the survival of our people and culture.
•- Hold a direct and constructive dialogue between the National Government and our organisations and authorities in order to find solutions to problems, needs and threats that affect our survival.
Even though our Minga is a peaceful protest in which unarmed civilians exercise their constitucional rights to social protest and free expression, the Police received us with premeditated force; converting us into a military target and as a consequence of these policies, various members of our peoples were assasinated by the National Police during the Minga; as well as the hundreds that were injured or wounded due to Police fire arms. The police also used non conventional fire arms to attack us. What more could we the indigenous people have expected from a government that ignores our human rights and considers us to be a hindrance in the development of its neoliberal policies, in its eagerness to impose treaties of amity and free commerce, whatever the cost, with states that have historically invaded our territories .
We have been asking for a direct dialogue for more than six years with President Uribe, so that he may hear our demands directly and without intermediaries, demands for protection and the guarantee of our rights, which also apply to us as both Colombian citizens and first nations. There has never been a reply or the least bit of interest shown by the National Government to receive us.
Confronted by the force and determination of our Minga and the demands made by the international community, President Uribe accepted to meet with the indigenous people in the indigenous territory of La María-Piendamó, a meeting that due to historical processes of abandonment and exclusion – travesties that we the indigenous people have been subject to at the hands of the State, there was not enough time to go through all the items on the agenda. In La María-Piendamó we decided to meet once again with the National Government by marching and speading the word, all the way to Bogotá where once again we would be heard.
For 20 days we marched between Cali and Bogotá, taking our protest to the people of Colombia who received us with solidarity and encouraged us to continue all the way to our final destination. A special mention must go to the role played by University students and social and popular organisations: as well as NGOs, human rights organisations, and international cooperation agencies.
In Bogotá our Minga established a work schedule together with the government ,for a committee charged with the reestablishment, guarantee and realisation of our rights. By January we would have decided upon a meeting time to discuss the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we were in the process of doing this, in our desire to find a solution to our problems.
But once again history teaches us that it is not possible to hold dialogues with a government that does not respect its word or previous agreements and only knows violence and death as ways of forming relationships with indigenous peoples.
During the early morning on the 16th of October, Edwin Legarda was assasinated in an ambush perpetrated by the Army, he was the husband of Aída Quilcué, the Chief Councilor of the CRIC (Regional Indigenous Council of the Cauca deparment), the woman who, due to her courage and dignity is one of the principal figures of our Minga and has been sent death theats by paramilitary groups. This attack was aimed at Aída Quilcué, who would normally have been travelling in the vehicle that was attacked with bullets.
The ONIC (National Authority for Indigenous Government), does not believe claims made by the National Army which suggest that the occupants of the assaulted vehicle passed a military checkpoint without stopping,. A military checkpoint cannot exist in the darkness of the early morning, with entrenched soldiers and when there are no offical signs recognising the presence of such a point.
The facts surrounding the vile assasination of our brother EDWIN LEGARDA are nothing more than an ambush by the National Army on defenceless civilians probed by our system of ‘Democractic Security.’ The indigenous people of the ONIC, wish for it to be made known that we are not ready to tolerate this disgraceful event as another anonymous murder committed by the National Army.
In light of the assassination of our brother EDWIN LEGARDA, we the indigenous people of the ONIC wish to show our catagorical rejection of any possible dialogues with the National Government, until the facts are made clear with regards to the assasination of our brother EDWIN, and until those responsible are punished. We cannot dialogue with a government that criminalizes us and promotes our extinction.
We demand that President Uribe makes a statement about the facts and makes it clear to the international community that the National Army is to blame for the ethnic cleansing that is being carried out against the indigenous peoples of Colombia.