archivos de los protestos globales

Colombia's Invisible Popular Struggles

Background on Representatives of Invisible Popular Struggles Tour

The social movements to be represented in the Canada-Colombia Campaign's 2001 invisible popular struggles tour are the Afrocolombian autonomous movement, known as the Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN), the Peasant Peace Communities Movement, the Indigenous autonomous and peaceful co-existence movement know as Proyecto Nasa, the Women's Path to Peace or Ruta Pacífica and the Trade Union Movement and their Social and Political Front initiative.

1) Hernan Cortés, National Coordination, Proceso de Comunidades Negras (PCN)

The Black Communities Process (PCN) is one of the most important and creative autonomous movements of Colombia and Latin America. The PCN's struggle has been based on the recognition of cultural, ethnic (the right to their own identity) and collective territorial rights and seeks to challenge Western modernization and development efforts for the vast rainforest region of the Colombian Pacific coast.

The Colombian Pacific Coast is rich in natural resources (gold, timber, biodiversity, water, fish, etc) and of interest to both legal and illicit capitalist development. The Afrocolombian communities' collective land rights are an obstacle to globalization. As a result, these communities have been the targets of an intensified campaign of systematic violence and terror leading to their massive forced displacement. Afro Colombian people are the most affected among the 2 million forced internally displaced people in Colombia. As they leave behind their ancestral territories, these become available for extraction and exploitation by global interests.

The Black Peoples Process resists becoming symbols of an active and peaceful struggle facing a devastating process that has turned them into the main victims of genocide. As of May 2000, military and paramilitary violence against the Afro Colombian communities increased dramatically. Over 76 lives have been lost from May to December 2000.

2) Agustín Reyes, Peasant Leader Tocaima Peace Community, Cundinamarca

Tocaima, a rural community located in the province of Cundinamarca, not far from the capital city of Bogotá, declared itself a "peace community" in 1997, after 14 peasants were massacred by paramilitaries. For the last 30 years, the peasants from several communities in this region have organized themselves around ASOPRICOR, an association of rural individuals and families seeking to establish their own cultural and development projects. ASOPRICOR has accumulated unique political, cultural, organizational and productive experience for self-sufficiency and self-determination. Agustín Reyes, one of the founders and leaders of ASOPRICOR, has suffered the consequences and punishments reserved to those who struggle for social justice and peace in Colombia. He has been threatened and forced on several occasions into hiding and internal displacement. He has shared the experience of ASOPRICOR throughout Colombia, helping other communities to organize. He has returned to his hometown to face threats from paramilitary forces that have murdered and terrorized the region. Agustin is now one of the coordinators of a national "network of communities and territories for peace" whose aim is to articulate and provide visibility, voice, recognition and legitimacy to those other actors immersed in the Colombian conflict whose vision and actions are aimed at profound social transformation without resorting to armed struggle. The peasant "communities and territories for peace" are an attempt to create new spaces where peasant communities can define their own development in an autonomous way, protecting themselves from traditional forms of exploitation, social exclusion, globalization, crime and war.

3) Ezequiel Vitonás Talanga, Indigenous Leader
Proyecto Nasa, Cauca

Ezequiel, an elder and former mayor of the indigenous municipality of Toribío by way of popular election, is a traditional leader of the Paez Nation as well as a leader in their long struggle to recover dispossessed territories, protect their culture and achieve respect for their traditional way of life. He is also a leader of the "Nasa" Project (Nasa is a Paez word meaning "living being" and also describes the language of the Paez people). The Nasa project is a 20-year-old process of unified struggle for the recovery of land, culture and the construction of autonomy. The aim is the consolidation of the "New Community" that is conscious, united and organized, educated and trained, healthy, content, without vices, free of traditional national partisan politics and founded on ancestral values of the Paez people. The Nasa project has achieved economic viability and autonomy, a solid social organization based on traditional forms of government, recovery of ancestral territories and growing political recognition. The project has established higher education programs in conjunction with UNESCO and several prestigious national universities. Unesco has granted degrees in "wisdom", while the first group of students of Economics and Anthropology are about to graduate. The Nasa project has been recognized by the European Parliament and by a number of academic and social institutions in the European Union.

The struggle of the indigenous people in Cauca has cost over them 300 lives over the past 20 years. The Paez have recovered over 140,000 Hectares of land from large landowners, making it the one of largest popular agrarian reforms in Latin America since the beginning of the 20th century. The Paez have been some of the most marginalized and impoverished people in the continent. The have been victims of systematic violence and terror. They constitute an example of commitment, wisdom and bravery. These indigenous communities established at La Maria, a territory for "Coexistence, Dialogue and Negotiation" on October of 1999. La Maria is a space that gathers indigenous, regional and national organizations and individuals committed to social transformation, respect for autonomies and negotiated solutions to the Colombian crisis. Ezequiel brings this experience and many stories of terror and struggle with him

Recently, Afrocolombian, Indigenous, peasant and other popular sectors rallied behind an indigenous candidate whose election platform was alternative development, autonomy, respect for cultural identity and social justice. Floro Tunubala became the first democratically elected indigenous Governor in the history of Colombia. His election as governor of the Cauca province has brought about a violent reaction from the United Self-Defense (AUC) forces of Colombia - the national paramilitary front. Over past months communities from Cauca have been the victims of assassinations, disappearances and massive displacement.

4) Ruta Pacífica de Mujeres y Organización Femenina Popular del Magdalena Medio(OFP):

The "Women's Path to Peace" is a national Colombian social movement dedicated to the achievement of social transformation and peace through non-violent struggles. The Path was born as a reaction to the fact that women are being ignored as victims of war, exclusion and violence in Colombia. Pilar Córdoba, one of the founders and leaders explains how "violence is a macho approach to politics and social processes, yet women become the invisible victims of war". The founders of the "Women's Path to Peace" heard testimony from inhabitants of Urabá in North-West Colombia, providing evidence of the fact in one war torn community, all women older than 12 had been rape victims of members of different armed factions. The reaction was the establishment of this now national movement. The "path" has gathered momentum and strength. It now involves women and women organizations from the entire country. On a yearly basis, on October 25th, they rally at one violent stricken community. National and international participants join a journey of symbolic activities, workshops and exchanges. The "Path" has established the principles of a women-based approach to peace and social transformation and is joining with other social movements in this direction. Social justice, self-determination, reciprocity and non-violent conflict resolution are some such principles.

The OFP, Popular Women's Organization is one of the most visible and exemplary women organizations in Colombia. Established in Barrancabermeja, home of the largest oil refinery in Colombia and to the strongest popular social organizations and Unions in the country, the town is the victim of the worse crimes against humanity in Colombia. The May 1998 massacre in Barrancabermeja, one of many against unarmed civilians by military and paramilitary forces, led to the Toronto and Montreal tribunals where Canadian jurors heard evidence of military involvement in this atrocities. The October 2000 Women's Path for Peace rally took place in Barrancabermeja and was hosted by the OFP. This organization has worked for justice and reciprocity from interpersonal to collective, national and international relationships. Their leaders have led Unions, strikes, research projects, political projects, educational and organizational national and international solidarity efforts. They have fallen victims of state and paramilitary terror. Yet, they remain an example of strength and commitment against insurmountable obstacles.

We hope to be able to invite a leader of one of these movements to join us in the Invisible Popular Struggle leadership tour.

5) Trade Unions and the Frente Politico y Social (FPS):

While globalization and structural adjustment policies lead to fragmentation and dismantling of unions, and, in-spite of war and persecution against them, the Colombian trade Union movement has grown in strength and numbers in the last 15 years. CUT (Central Unitaria de Trabajadores) has become the largest union in the country. Since the beginning of 2000, more than 120 trade union leaders have been assassinated in Colombia, representing 80% of all union leaders assassinated in the world. Besides growing, the unions are leading national democratic mass social movements. Luis Eduardo Garzón, the President of CUT, is also the National leader of the FPS, a broad based opposition movement of the democratic left whose ranks involve growing numbers of people and organizations committed to profound social transformation and peace. The FPS opposes Plan Colombia and structural adjustment policy, promotes and participates in peace processes towards a negotiated solution, promotes social organization for regional autonomous movements and fosters national policy in protection of national interests and national resources from global predation. The FPS was born 2 years ago and many of its local, regional and national leaders have been threatened or assassinated. The tour would give Canadians an opportunity to learn from the experience, wisdom and struggle of this unique movement.

invisible popular struggles - A Canadian Tour | Plan Colombia | FTAA Québec | PGA