archivos de los protestos globales

Date: Fri, 16 Feb 2001
Report of the PCN Tour in a few cities in Germany and Switzerland

hi everyone
this is my first report. It's long but still not complete.
I will hopefully get around to translate most of it into Spanish. If in Austria you absolutely want it in German I can do so, but it's a lot of work, so let me know ok? Shall I send it to other lists too? Or shall it stay 'internal' first? what do you reckon?
Hope it's useful.

Report of the PCN Tour in a few cities in Germany and Switzerland
Düsseldorf, Freiburg, Denzlingen, Karlsruhe, Basel, Bern

I will structure this report first by topics, especially the ones that were more
or less recurrent in every place and then by stops, which had particularities
due to the context in which they were organised.

The presentations given by the PCN folx had generally the following structure:

An introduction by Luciano giving a brief insight into the economic and
political developments that are drawing the worlds attention to Colombia as a
crystallisation point of conflict:

1) Colombia as a crossroad of trade paths of the word market, ist
geostrategic position and the need of interoceanic canal and megaprojects,
transforming the area into a production zone full of maquiladoras, all in
perfect tune with the neoliberal development vision of the FTAA etc.
2) the world situation on oil resources given the position of Venezuela in the
OPEC and in the region.

Both developments pushing towards a military intervention to gain control
over the region, crush social movements, regain hegemony over oil resources
and implement a neoliberal model of development.

Then a bit about how European groups got in touch with the Black
Communities of Colombia: Zapatist uprising, PGA, mobilisation to Prague etc

The presentations were mainly dominated by men (Jorge and Nicanor).
Martina being a bit shy (she's 18), at least when I experienced them. Mama
Cuama, 70, had a hard time with the cultural shock and she has strong
changing moods depending on how she feels.
Jorge and Nicanor generally start presenting themselves. Jorge pointing out
that his name is Naka Mandinga (african origine and tribe). The history of the
black communities starts when people were derooted from Africa and
brought to American as slaves feeling the consequences of global capitalism
right from the beginning. Old history of resistance against slavery, building of
palenques. Collective identity and dynamic of resistance built on struggle for
freedom, life and respect of diversity, right to be different. Slaves were always
separated, so they couldn't be with other slaves from the same tribe. They
were forbidden to speak their language, pratice their religion, live their
culture. Liberation movement based on the principle “I am because we are” ,
meaning a person is only free if the others around this person are free too.
Respect of diversity and right to be different was (is!) a fundamental principle
in this liberation movement.
1851 official end of slavery, people settle down mainly on the caribbean
coast and especially along the Pacific zone ('la Cuenca del Pacifico'). A
region that is pure jungle, isolated by the mountains, leading to a very wet
climate, permanent rain. Rivers flow down the mountains to the sea, most
black communities are based along rivers.  Black people create and recreate
their culture, a way of life not based on monetary values but on life itself. The
land is their ancestral space of life and resource of life (food, water,
culture...). Region has always been marginalised by the State and economic
Today threatened by capitalist development: culture that is being imposed on
them, megaprojects etc. Early 90s the black communities organised in the
PCN (Process of Black Communities), a convergence space for more than
140 organisations. Main lines: autonomy, identity, space for living.
Communities in rivers organise along community councils (Consejos
Communitarios), plenaries with up to 800 people for the administration of the
land. Early 90s, they win the constitutional right to autonomy and self-
determination. Today up to 2 mio ha of land are under collective control of the
Black Communities. Threat by the State: employs paramilitary groups in
order to displace people, implement megaprojects, gain control of the area
etc. Black Communities in cross fire between Guerilla and
State/paramilitaries. Plan Colombia new phase in struggle more militarisation
of the conflict.
Presence of PCN in Europe: Because they feel the causes of the oppression
and development are beyond their land, common enemy needs to be tackled
globally. Would like to join in struggle with other liberation movements along
the lines of “we are because others are” in the sense that their movement
can only advance in the measure that other liberation movements advance.
Would like to work in framework of horizontal relations with social
movements around the world.

getting support in informing international community about the situation in
2) support in creation of communication structures, so their voice can be
echoed beyond Colombia thereby creating more pressure on the Colombian
3) proposal for common action: large international presence in Colombia
together with Black Communities in order to create autonomous 'security
zones', so displaced people can return to their lands, and the armed conflict
can be kept away from these areas.

The presentation was generally followed by a lot of clarification questions and
discussion around different issues.

In general:
the 'one evening' exchange was only enough to spread the information and
initiative curiosity for the situation in Colombia and the Black Communities
process. The political exchange in spaces like the one that Duesseldorf
offered (2 days forums at the university with 100 people) more in depth
discussion and sparked discussion around the situation in Europe too.
The human exchange was most fruitful in situations of long contact.

Some recurrent topics:

* relation to the State (as an institution) and power.

Understandably, left libertarian groups in Germany were quite a bit sceptical
about the relation of black communities to the State and the fact that their
struggle is based quite a lot on making the State accept their autonomy. The
PCN folx talk a lot about the different laws that they succeeded in
implementing in the constitution and Colombian law, the collective titles they
get for the land abd the process of informing black communities about the
procedure to 'title-ise' (titulisar) land etc. J clarified that the Black
Communities are not interested in State power nor are they interested in
creating a 'Black State'. N+J said similarly that they don't aim to destroy the
State as an institution, they said 'we are because others are' meaning in this
case that the Black Communities want to build their own structures (for
instance the structure along Palenques and Community Councils ) which
autonomously administrate land issues acording to their culture and forms of
organising. They struggle to get them respected and recognised by the
J says that the question “power for whom ?” is more important than the
question “who holds power?”. Power should be something spread among the
people, not concentrated in a structure.  Jorge advocates participatory
democracy. He gives the example of his river (Yurumangi). There are about
8000 people living in several communities along the river. Every community
organises around a plenary. The rivers community council involves up to 800
people where decisions concerning the whole river are addressed. They do
have systems of representation, which Jorge described also as 'mandar
obedeciendo' (very same wording as the zapatists' obedient command). An
example mentioned by Jorge , a black communities delegation went to meet
a State commission for some issue. The State urged them to take a
decision there at that particular meeting but they told the State that they
needed to consult the base which would take two months. The State
discredited them a lot and said the delegation had no legitimacy because it
wasn't able to take decisions.

Remark in this context, some info about the PCN working strcuture: the PCN
is a convergence space of many organisations, community councils,
palenques etc etc. They have different regional gatherings (example
gatherings of all palenques and community councils of a certain area), then
they have the annual national gathering with 3000-5000 people depending
where it is organised. The meetings go for 3-5 days depending on what they
need to decided. They work in a system of round tables and plenaries. I
didn't get around to talk long enough with Jorge about it. This plenary takes
decisions and delegates co-ordination tasks to a 'national coordination
group', which is the one that has been maintaining international contacts for
instance.  They do also have some people involved in State structures.

* relation of the Black Communities with the guerilla:

This is probably the most frequent question asked at every presentation. The
standard answer is that the political project of the PCN is a different one from
the guerilla. The Black Communities are not in an armed struggle and are not
interested in State power. They demand the same thing from the guerilla as
>from the State: autonomy, the right to their own identity and self
determination. The experiences between Black Communities and guerilla are
diverse, and Jorge always pointed out that he was talking about his own
experience in his region. There are frictions in cases when the guerilla does
not respect the culture, the way or organising and living of the black
communities. There are experiences of respect and others of clashes. The
paramilitaries pretend the black communities support the guerilla and use
that argument in order to attack them.

* zapatism and anarchism. 'Somos porque otros son'.

The political positions expressed by the black communities often remind
people of the zapatist discourse. The saying “we are because others are”,
comes close to the concept of “a world in which many worlds can fit”. When
they say things like “we want to create an order without authorities and
hierarchies” it reminds people of anarchy. Jorge had never heard of the
zapatistas and anarchists before coming to Europe. In Freiburg we had a
long session on zapatism with a person that was in Chiapas as an
international observer. They are curious and interested in creating more links
with the zapatists. Jorge even adopted some zapatist wording. There seems
to be a natural affinity.
There is a member of PCN that will join the walk of the zapatistas from the
lacandonian jungle to Mexico DF let's hope this exchange will be frutiful. It'd
be also great to give some texts on anarchism in Spanish to our PCN

Nice anecdote: during a spontaneous session in Freiburg with the 'Cuba
solidarity group', we had a really good exchange. At some point in the
presentation a woman asked Jorge “but what are you ? How do you define
yourself ? are you capitalists, communitst, socialists, what are you ?”. Jorge
simply replied: “we are not this or that, we simply are - full stop. We struggle
for the right to be (derecho a ser). We perceive ourselves as a process”.

* Communication structures and strategy
There are clearly two needs: 1) a need to improve communication structures
within black communities 2) need to create structures for international
communication channels, so their voices can be articulated around here.

Radio: We made a good contact around here and there may be a good
possibility to set up and train people to run a radio emitter. It is affordable
and simple technology. According to talks it seems that the black
communities don't have radios. A radio would be an enormous step forward
according to Jorge. He said that communication along rivers is functioning,
but communication between rivers is very very difficult. A radio would improve
this communication enormously. There seems to be experience pools with
radios in wet jungle like regions, we just need to tap them. The basic
equipment to run a radio is not so difficult to get. Apart from that the
geographical conditions of the pacific zone (hills to the east and flat towards
the west/coast) will be very useful. Let's see how things develop, but if there
are other groups in Europe that have experience in setting up radios, it'd be
great to co-ordinate this between ourselves and with the PCN.

International communication:
This was mainly discussed in small discussions. In general it was
recognised that this needs to be a two way discussion on how to develop
these structures. Europeans can support sharing of knowledge and maybe
access to equipment, but PCN people need to find the best way to
implement the acquired skills according to their necessities.

A proposal made by a few people: to organise a international training and
strategy seminar with people PGA and IMC folx.

* Communication strategy
We recognised that the PCN needs to develop its international
communication strategy. Like a precious stone that needs to be polished
into a jewel. After this tour people may be more informed about Colombia
and there may be some solidarity groups, but there needs to be more
powerful articulation for people to have more identification with the situation.
Poetry, music, art, ferrytales etc need to be part of the articulation.

* acompañamiento

The idea of an acompañamiento, an international presence in order to create
'security zones' was mentioned at every presentation. In general people had
a lot of questions about it. “How do you picture doing this ?” etc. Several
people questioned the capacity to guarantee security with their only
presence, as the paramilitaries seem to be paid killers which will not refrain
>from killing even if there is political pressure. Some people said they couldn't
identify with such a project.
It was specified that this is at a proposal stage, an idea, a wish, something
that needs to be developed commonly with the European realities.
In Karlsruhe in the discussion, the idea of acompañamiento was recognised
as a good action, despite the danger, to highlight legitimacy and to push for
a shift in the debate from 'drug war' to economic interests/megaprojects/
right to be different etc. People said it had to happen in conditions of large
media attention and the eyes of the world turned to such 'security zones'.
Except for Karlsruhe the discussions remained rather fluffy. I know that in
other citis there were meetings with PBI (Peace Brigades International)
which apparently offered to support with their experience, hope the other
reports will include more info about it.

* 10 mio black people

if you open a book about Colombia you will find the information that there are
5 to 8% black people in Colombia. If you read a book like Raul Zeliks ( a
german specialist about Colombia), you will read that 15% of the population
is afro colombian. The discourse of the PCN people claims that there are 9
to 10 mio black people in Colombia making up around 26% of the almost 40
mio Colombians. Some people drew attention to this incoherence (also given
the experience we had with the Indian farmers organisation, KRRS for
example which claimed to have 10 mio supporters and which turned out to
be true only for a periode of the movement in the 80s). Jorge said that the
PCN has started making a 'counting of people' (?)(fr. recensement -
d:Volkszählung) in 1995 and that they will have results in future. There
doesn't seem to be an evidence yet.

There were nice discussions about the concept of autonomy. One aspect
was the autonomy discussion was the relation to the State (see above). The
black communities defend also the autonomy among the rivers and the
communities. At the level of the individual, Jorge said that the autonomy
concept is not about being individualistic. Autonomy is very much linked to
the idea of 'the right to an own identity, the right to be different'. Jorge uses
the example of a family he says: “if I have 3 children, one likes eating fish,
one likes eating beans, one likes eating coco. You cannot impose to your
children to eat the same thing or be the same way. If you want unity and
harmony in your family you need to respect that everyone of your children is
different and has different tastes” ...things like that. Jorge said autonomy is
always relative, because humans depend on others (i am because we are). A
nice sentence Jorge said to illustrate it and which is difficult to translate from
Spanish :”mi autonomia en relacion a tu autonotuya da como resultado la
autononuestra”. ['mia' means mine, tuya yours and nuestra means ours. The
sentence is : “my autonomine in relation to your autonoyours results into

Jorge clarified that 'black' for them is not an issue about the colour of skin or
race. 'Black' is about a vision of the world. There are white skinned people
active in the movement that are black. One of the persons to launch the PCN
was white skinned. The PCN discourse is not about 'tolerance' but about the
right to be different.

Some feedback about the different cities and some related discussions:


Briefing: This was the place the PCN participants arrived and had a briefing.
It was the place of cultural shock, cold, snow etc. We spent a lot of time
organising second hand clothes, moving from A to B, getting to know each
other. We got around to talk about themselves, the process of selection,
their expectations, the aim of the Tour, political discussions, security, the
different European groups they would meet,  gender issues, the cultural
differences they may be likely to face etc. In was all too packed, making
concentration during the whole briefing difficult. Some things remained
unclear although they were discussed as the experience showed afterwards
for example with the issue of security or the switch of Tour 1 and Tour 2.
Briefings should be longer, but in general the briefing was good i think, they
said the briefing had clarified a lot of things.
Andrea from Duesseldorf was fantastic in the support she provided us in the
middle of organising a meeting with more than 100 people.

Nicanor+Martina stayed in Duesseldorf for the German meeting of grassroots
groups which went on for a full week end. More than 100 people showed up
for several workshops and discussion on perspectives. It was one of the few
places where I experienced in depth discussion in a group and together with
PCN folx. We had lots of time to do so and a large variety of motivated
people. The discussions were divided as such:
common plenary, divided into two groups
background information on Colombia and black communities PCN
2) background information on the development of global resistance (”from
Chiapas to Prag”). - this group eventually split into several groups of people
that wanted to discuss evaluation and further strategy; and people that
wanted to have more background info first. In the afternoon we came together
again, and discussed two topics together with PCN:

a) limits of punctual mobilisations like Prague, Davos etc; perspectives of
new forms of international solidarity
b) the meaning of the impuls of “identity, autonomy, space” coming from
PCN and what translation for European context

After some common time, people divided in several groups, so I can only
report about b).
About a) I know that there was a lot of discussion, which eventually ended in
directions like 'what is networking and with whom do we network?' and also
how to contribute to this crystalising movement so that it truly challenges
capitalism, oppression and power relations - the discussion is still going on
about 'triple oppression', 'unity of opression' and the meaning of 'capitalism'

b) was the discussion I took part. It was great and the first time I discussed
this in a circle of 25-30 people. The discussion is documented in German (3
pages), so I will reproduce only the main points and questions raised:

- an analysis + question was : Is the dynamic developed by the PCN (unity,
respect of diversity, anti capitalist lifestyle) something that is the outcome of
extreme external pressure (slavery, oppression etc) and the need to develop
something that will defend life or is it a dynamic that has a strength by itself
and is stable ? This reflexion came from the observation that the experience
of people present in the circle was that autonomous structure in Europe
(squatted houses, Wagenburg etc) tend to function when there's external
pressure (repression, danger of eviction etc) but as soon as the pressure is
gone, people tend to reproduce the dominating culture, power structures and
social relations. We concluded more or less that - we needed to always
perceive ourselves as part of the contradictions ('walking with questions on
our lips' or  'preguntando caminamos') and that the social relations in the
palenques and black communities were based on containing the value of life
in itself.

- Economic and political restructuring in Europe, relation to 'surplus people'.
The analysis discussed is based on the observation of the consequences of
neoliberal economic and political restructuring processes are leading and will
lead to in 10-15-20 years. In Europe the developments are leading to the
creation of large production zones with people involved in the production and
consumption circuit, leaving increasingly more marginalised zones behind.
Different zones are specialising in certain activities (i.e mediterranean area in
agricultural production, while London, Munich, Paris hightech technology
etc). The new rationalised forms of production lead to always less people
needed in the production and even in the consumption circuit. This lead us to
use and discuss the term of 'surplus people'. We observed that for the
moment the high unemloyment is increasing competition and thereby
stabilising capitalism, but that the same logic will eventually lead to more
and more people being excluded which cannot cope with the high
competition ('surplus people') . The afrocolombian community is in some
sense also considered as 'surplus' by capitalism, they are being shot,
displaced in the name of development, their lives don't count. We discussed
about the possibilities to develop autonomous structures in such
marginalised and excluded zones, creating structures that would be working
along participatory and horizontal models of organising which would become
attractive for people not having perspectives in the capitalist model.  These
autonomous zones were mainly discussed as a concept, which was labeled
'space for spaces' (relating to the zapatist concept of a world in which many
worlds can fit and also the 'we are because others are'), as a space to
reclaim the right to live an own identity.
We started discussing if relating to 'surplus people' was appropriate or not,
we concluded that it was at least better as talking about 'proletariat' or
'working class' (we had a trotskist in this group).

- A person pointed out that they didn't like a discourse that tended to say
that the situation in Colombia was much more terrible compared to Europe.
This person said that all he could around him was zombies and living-dead
people going to work, junkies etc, that all in all maybe the Black
Communities were suffering displacements and killings, but that their
communities included more life then we could have here in Europe. We need
to create autonomous spaces in Europe too. Every autonomous space is
less capitalism. We agreed that the work with PCN was not about comparing
how terrible situations were in comparison to each other, but to find
synergetic ways of doing things, working along horizontal spaces.

- important point identified by the group: the 'space for spaces' concept was
recognised as good , but to be powerful it had to happen in a broad and
linked way. We discussed that it is a concept which has a multitude of ways
of being implemented, and precisely this diversity of strategies is what we
need. Many autonomous projects in the past failed because they didn't have
enough support from other autonomous structures. He we have truly linked
structures that interdepent from each other, then we will be much stronger
when it comes to maintain the structure or if there is repression etc.
Conclusion: we need to spread the idea of this concept and analysis way
more. In Germany there will be a gathering of people interested in starting
community projects around june in Niederkaufungen. Last year 300
participants. Plans to present the idea there.

*** Freiburg
There had been two public meetings beforehand related to Colombia.
Information had been spread in newsletters and free radio programmes. The
presentation was mainly to spread the information. We had an additional
meeting during a brunch with an initiative of people that work on creating an
autonomous structure for immigrants and illegalised people in Germany
(Rasthaus). Good discussions. The people of this community are interested
in the 'space for spaces' concept.
Possibilities of helping put in setting up a radio. The meeting with the 'Cuba
group' had quite some impact I think in the people that still use to
romanticise guerillas and armed struggle.

*** Denzlingen
Meeting with young people (15-20) from an autonomous centre that is
gathering momentum in the last months. Talk sparked a lot of discussion
among the people. Discussions turned mainly around the need to perceive
our struggles in a global context and what that means for everyday
organising etc.
Great people.

*** Karlsruhe
Trilingual presentation (german, english and spanish), due to the presence of
3 members from the caravan for the rights of refugees and immigrants
coming from Cameroun.  The Africans friends were truly shocked by what
they heard coming from the mouth of Jorge and Mama Cuama. They
highlighted the need to fight racism as an integral part of our struggle . They
pointed out how the State in Europe reproduces the very same structures of
repression as in Colombia. Immigrants and refugees coming here are
excluded, not needed, deported often with the use of physical violence.

Group and discussions were great. The people hosting us are from a
squatted house. (one of the last ones in Germany, and are kind of tolerated,
but having a hard time with police. A few weeks ago they occupied a building
right next to where they are and the police evicted them with 200 policemen).
They are interested in coming to Milan and to do follow up work with PCN.
At the last moment we met an African woman that speaks Spanish and that
is from a pan african womens liberation organisation. We couldn't speak that
much with her as we had to leave, but we'll get in touch with her again.

*** Basel
This was a few days after Davos. You could see in peoples face that they
were all really tired. It was a nice relaxing talk, mainly to inform people, there
wasn't that much discussion. Longo Mai people seemed interested in follow

*** Bern
We were in Bern twice. The first time was the saturday right after the Davos
protests. The anti WTO co-ordination decided to respond with a large demo
against the State repression. In the morning PCN took part in the press
conference which was well attended. Jorge and Mama Cuama both gave
interviews. The voice of the black communities contributed a lot to legitimise
the protesters, by saying things like “the State in Switzerland is doing the
same thing to critical voices as is Colombia, the only difference is that here
they use plastic bullets and in Colombia real bullets. Jorge talked about the
displacements (2 mio people) and killings, which are often ordered by
multinational companies he said 'we are talking about the broken windows of
these multinationals that precisely command killings and displacements in
Colombia. When young people break the windows in order to denounce this
crimes, it's them that are being criminalised and labelled terrorists. The
terrorists are these companies paying for terror and displacement”. The
press was terrible, we ended up being criticised by a journalist that the anti
WTO co-ordination was spreading lies by drawing paralells between the
rubber bullets used in Zuerich and the ones used in Belfast that have lead to
deaths in the past. The journalist was an ex-correspondent in Belfast and
argued that the size of the bullets used there is much bigger. Jorge replied
“the point is not the size of the bullet, but the fact they are being shot and

The demo was great. About 2000-3000 people , many dressed for a civil war.
No police as far as I could see, they just didn't make any presence at all.
Incredible. And we were disciplined enough not to destroy anything. Apart
>from graffiti's or posters being stuck to traffic symbols nothing the police
could attack us for.  As the media saw the Colombians with a banner they
rushed like bees around a bit of honey. Good interviews on French Swiss TV.
We distributed a couple of hundred flyers and Jorge gave a speech at the
end of the demo to which replied with enthusiasm when he said “the there
was only one race, the human race”, that black had nothing to do with skin
colour, and that they wanted to build a world in which there was an order
without authority, that of course pleased the anarchists.

The second time we were in Bern, we had a presentation in a small group
but with great discussions. The Swiss people, through their experiences in
Davos, Geneve against the WTO etc  have already an understanding to
perceive their struggle in a global context. They asked which Swiss
multinationals are active in Colombia. Good talks and contacts. The folx in
Bern produce together with momo and me a special issue of their monthly
newsletter on Colombia with contributions from the Black Community. These
1500 newsletters are being spread around the country and also in Germany.

We had a 1h live discussion in a free radio station, and also a meeting with a
person responsible for the situation of immigrants in Switzerland (an
organisation affiliated to the government). He interviewd the Colombians to
know more about the situation. Jorge highlighted the fact that they are not so
much interested in improving the conditions for receiving refugees in
Switzerland, but that they want to avoid people being displaced from their
land. Good contact and exchange.

Logistical and other things:

For next time, people from Colombia need to bring backpacks instead of
The visual materials they brought are great, but we need more stuff, films,
grafix, flyers, poetry, music etc
The Tour is somehow physically demanding. I kept wondering if Mama
Cuama coming to Europe was a good choice or not, as she had a lot of
trouble with the food, the weather , the rhythms of talks late at night etc
which influenced her mood and made her complain a lot. She several times
said things like “why did they bring me here ?”, insinuating that it was not her
personal choice to come to Europe, which we thought was very problematic.
We had discussions with her, and also nice times, but still it should be
clearer to the people coming what kind of situations they will find here.
People should come to Europe because they 100% want to come here.

The topic of security needs to be discussed separately. I will write something
about it after I have made a few phone calls.

OK there's probably much more to say, but this is the first part of the report
Hope it can be useful to other groups.
Comments and questions welcome.
Curious to read what the reports from other countries and other people will be

In general I feel the Tour is very good. Wonder how things will develop and
how much identification capacity there will be from European and North
American side. I see it as very important to have a much broader social
response to the developments in Colombia, Chiapas and the whole of Latin
America. See my emails sent to the caravan99 list.

La lucha sigue

PCN Tour | Noticias sobre Colombia | Plan Colombia (ca) | Plan Colombia (en) | AGP