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An historic day in Colombia for indigenous dignity

Sunday, October 19, 2008

An Historic Day for Indigenous Peoples

"We don't have a Government" was the conclusion reached by Feliciano Valencia, a native Nasa leader from CRIC during his speech at the press conference at La María Piendamó. In a deep, firm and measured tone, his words were heard in profound silence by an audience of about 5000 indigenous people and some representatives of the Colombian media. Feliciano began the initial part of his speech by making a number of very strong points which began with "It is not truth that....". Indigenous peoples are not terrorists, the mobilization (Minga) is not controlled or run in coordination with FARC, land is not the main nor the only issue, indigenous peoples have not negotiated, nor reached an agreement with the Colombian Government, contrary to what was falsely stated by the Ministers of Justice and the Interior, Agriculture and Social Welfare, Indigenous peoples did not attack the Colombian armed forces and were instead mercilessly and brutally attacked with live ammunition which have left 132 wounded, one dead and one dying, the Government has not fulfilled its obligations with indigenous peoples and has made no effort to keep its promises. He then proceeded to describe the Government's and media behaviour towards the mobilization. "We invited the President to a dialogue and he responded with a military assault" Feliciano described the mediatic manipulations, the lies fabricated by the commander of the Police, President Uribe, the head of the Secret Service and several Ministers. Beyond recent events, Mr Valencia explained how indigenous peoples are being exterminated not only through permanent dirty war, military offensives and crossfire, but also through policies of extermination, exploitation and exclusion that have become systematic under the current administration in order to deliver the country's wealth to transnational corporate interests. This account lead to the indictment: "We don't have a Government in Colombia". Consequently, the Minga convenes the primary constituent assembly. The people of Colombia. All Colombians. Not to follow an indigenous agenda but to weave a collective agenda, a new country from our collective demands and pain.

Feliciano proceeded to outline the five point agenda: No to the economic model and the FTA's with the US, Canada and Europe, removal of legislation that empoverishes peoples, destroys and denies rights and freedoms, delivers the wealth of the country to corporate interests and has not gone through consultation with those affected. No more war and terror as the main Government policy. Respect and application of international and national agreements and establishment of the conditions that will allow the people to construct a new, possible and necessary country. A proposal not for indigenous peoples, but from them.

The authorities announced a march towards the city of Cali, which will leave from La María next Tuesday. Other social movements and organizations have announced that they will join and mobilize and the whole country is invited to mobilize and gather in Cali.

The words have been stated and now the talk will be walked until a new reality gets on the way, from a country with owners and no peoples, to a country of the peoples without owners.

Today, we heard one of the wisest and clearest statements in recent Colombian history. From being marginalized and defamated as terrorists, from being wounded and murdered like rats, from being lied about and abused, from being excluded, indigenous peoples have stood back and shown their wisdom and dignity taking on their leadership as masters of wisdom for the construction of a new world on this territory of Mother earth now known as Colombia. The audio recording will be posted on . Now, tired, saddenned by the wounded and dead who will lead the march, indigenous peoples are standing strong to convene the transformation of Colombia. A major struggle for which they request the solidarity and support of international observers.

The following is the agenda

Friday, October 17, 2008
Official Proposal of the Indigenous and Popular Mobilization
No More Terror and Avarice: We propose a new path for the people for a new country.

October 16, 2008

Official Proclamation of the Minga of the People (Minga de los Pueblos)

What we are proposing today was already presented to the public in September 2004, when we organized the historic First Indigenous and Popular Congress. They are five basic points that cover many other issues. We have listened with considerable attention to the voices of many diverse sectors within Colombia and throughout the world. We have clearly put forward what it is that hurts us, and have compiled the accumulated pain of many peoples and processes. We want to be practical and concrete.

People who occupy important positions of authority in this country - an authority they have surrendered as a result of their actions and words – have come out publicly to say we are terrorists. Absurdly, they accuse us of attacking the Armed Forces, the largest and most powerful Army of all of Latin America, the greatest recipient of U.S. military technology and training, one that launched a military assault combining the force of the Army and the Police, with tanks and armed soldiers, firing live ammunition against men, women and children who have nothing but wooden staffs and stones. They injured more than sixty Indians, the majority with bullets. They assassinated at least two civilians, and mistreated common men and women of the communities. They burned houses, and committed acts of unquestionable brutality, destroying medical and first aid equipment and damaging food supplies, acting like criminals under the order of the Executive.

Nevertheless, when we detained and protected one member of the police force, and we returned him safe and sound to the authorities, a government minister called us “terrorists.” We don’t have the right, according to him, to detain those same police who are shooting at us and trying to kill us. According to him, we only have the right to let them kill us, to mistreat us, with complete obedience to the politics of terror of the regime. According to the President, who gave the order for the brutal attack against us, his government has complied with everything related to the indigenous communities. From his perspective, we are savages, we are dumb, we are irrational. Mr. President, not only have you not fulfilled your obligations to the people, but there are several other fundamental issues that we are raising that you can no longer ignore. We are not liars, we are not savages, we are not irrational.

The government says we are being manipulated by “dark forces,” that FARC has infiltrated our organization and movement. We state through our actions that we are not terrorists, that we are not with the insurgency, that our struggle is legitimate, it is autonomous, and that we do not act under the orders of FARC or any other so-called “dark forces.” We have unmasked a professional soldier who had tried to infiltrate us, sent by the public security forces in an attempt to validate these lies of the President.

Let us be clear: If there are Indians involved in the insurgency, or any other armed group, it is a personal decision of theirs that goes against our organizational and community process. Stop shooting, stop robbing, stop burning and lying. Stop using your public power to exercise terror against the people. You’re wrong. Respect and listen. It is the only way.

The majority of the members of Congress that support the government of President Uribe, those legislators who have elaborated and approved the laws that displace us of our rights and our liberties, occupy their official spaces with the backing of paramilitary groups, and are involved in the Para-politics scandal currently under investigation. Neither they nor the laws they have approved have any degree of legitimacy.

It is time for us to reiterate our position to the rest of the world. We direct ourselves to all peoples and leaders. With humility we recognize that we don’t hold the universal truth. But with pride we defend our reality. Up to now we haven’t even been listened to. Is it that there is so much fear about what we have to say that we are prevented from even being heard? Listening to us with attention and respect will generate what it is we are looking for: a frank, and sincere dialogue that will lead to concrete consequences and profound transformations. To refuse to listen to us, to call us liars, to say we are manipulated by “dark forces,” to say that we don’t have any proposals, is to fear dialogue, to fear change, to fear the future.

We believe that we are correct. We have thought this through carefully. We have questioned our own goals and options. We have observed and discussed a lot. What we are proposing here as an agenda is what we have come to agreement on amongst ourselves, because we believe in diversity, in open debate, in differences, and there are differences amongst us. We will continue discussing, and constructing in a constant dialogue, because we know that there is not only one truth.

La Minga of the People that commemorates 516 years of oppression and resistance is a concrete message. So that people will listen to us, so that people stop trying to kill us and displace us, we have come out, we have blocked roadways, we march. And we will continue to do so until our word is respected, and through the course of dialogue we can transform this reality of misery and horror into one of equilibrium, harmony and liberty. It’s not so difficult to understand: Either our proposals are seriously considered in order to construct an agenda of change, or Mother Earth will be forever in a process of extermination. To do otherwise is to accept the destruction of life. This we cannot accept, we cannot let this happen.

We act with precise urgency. We risk our lives and offer our lives for life itself. We struggle with all our capacity against the sophisticated propaganda that is nothing more than well-crafted lies, against laws and measures that impose the interests of others against life itself and justice. We call, therefore, on the wisdom, the serenity and the respect that comes with dialogue. We love and defend dialogue. But we do so mobilized with firmness. We are people of our word and of dialogue. We live it through our assemblies, and within our Life Plans. Everything that we have created is based on a process of dialogue, a constant dialogue between contradictions and differences. We therefore need and call on an interlocutor who is legitimate, with whom we can dialogue. And we are totally committed to engage in this process.

What is it that we are proposing?

  1. That the necessary conditions for a process of dialogue are immediately established, in order to discuss the five main points of the agenda that we propose;
  2. That the dialogue is carried out under the watch and with the backing of legitimate and unquestionably credible persons, and with authority that is recognized in any part of the world;
  3. That in this dialogue, every sector of society is represented, according to democratic mechanisms of participation, giving priority to the majority of the population that has been excluded, marginalized and exploited;
  4. That the agenda of the people is developed through a very deliberative and transparent and effective process, and that this gives us the time to construct the country we so desire, step by step;
  5. That honesty, truth and respect become non-negotiable conditions for the development of this dialogue, and those that violate these principles are excluded from participating in the process.

Main Issues for the Agenda of Dialogue

These themes encompass many other issues that can fit within each agenda point. We present them more as chapters of the dialogue, whereby each sector involved in the dialogue can have input on the specific issues and points that should be discussed. We recognize that this is simply the beginning of a longer process of listening, absorbing, analyzing and ordering a detailed agenda for the urgent transformations that are necessary. The agenda should not be one of exclusion. All the issues and points of all the people should be considered. The agenda that we propose is the following:

  1. We reject the Free Trade Agreements that have been negotiated with the United States, Canada and the European nations. These treaties are part of a nefarious strategy on the part of major global economic powers. The process of negotiation and the results of these agreements are a threat to our cultures and our territories, our sovereignty. They surrender our collective resources to corporate interests and trans-nationals, and directly threaten our Mother Earth. These are not treaties between people but against people;
  2. No more war, no more terror; we reject the government’s so-called “Democratic Security Strategy,” Plan Colombia, the dirty war, para-politics, the militarization of society and the criminalization of popular protest. We call on truth, justice and reparations for the crimes committed against the people. War is not the answer. And those people who have committed crimes against the people, such as former Cauca governor Juan José Chaux Mosquera, should be judged so that their bad examples will never again be repeated and the victims will be compensated;
  3. No to the Constitutional Counter-reforms and legislation of displacement that has been implemented under the current government, measures that surrender our rights to private interests, and that submit us to silence and forced labor, to exclusion and ultimately death.
  4. The creation of mechanisms of sovereignty, peace and coexistence in order to develop and make reality our agenda through a permanent Congress of the Peoples.

Which Way Forward?

  1. Public security forces must retreat from all indigenous territories for a definitive time. The territory of Peace, Coexistence and Dialogue in La Maria, Piendamó should be respected and immediately evacuated. All the damage caused by the military aggression of the last few days should be repaired in an integral way;
  2. There should be an immediate cease fire, and an end to the repression against the people mobilized there;
  3. We demand that all armed actors leave our territories immediately, and call for the establishment of territories free of war, with civilian, international observers allowed in to monitor the situation, under the supervision of the Indigenous Guard of the Nasa people;
  4. The popular, non-commercial media should be recognized, respected, listened to and supported as sources of truth for the unfolding dialogue. The mass commercial media should be opened up in order to transmit the positions and the proposals of the people, of the excluded voices, of the majority, and they should make public the truth of the repression and exclusion that we have faced, and not simply represent the perspectives of certain economic interests.
  5. We immediately call on the following people to serve as guarantors of the dialogue (without excluding other possible individuals from the process):
    1. James Anaya, UN Special Relator for Indigenous People;
    2. Baltasar Garzón, internationally-recognized Judge, Center for Peace of Toldeo
    3. Evo Morales Ayma, President of Bolivia
    4. Blanca Chancoso, indigenous leader from Ecuador

In Colombia, we are seeing an indigenous and popular uprising that is on the march. They can, through all the force of terror and propaganda, try to silence us once again. But we will rise up again, and we will continue in Minga until the will of the people is fulfilled.

Minga de los Pueblos Territory of Diálogue, Coexistence and Peace La María, Piendamó October 16, 2008.

Posted by MAMARadio at 5:08 AM

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