October 25, 2008

Colombia Review: The Minga Continues

Colombia Review: The Minga Continues

Colombia Review is a project of Pueblos en Camino and La Chiva


Continuing our previous coverage of the popular and indigenous Minga underway in Colombia, we have compiled a number of articles, communiques and audio and video material for you. This is by no means exhaustive, as new developments are flooding our inboxes every day. Still, we hope this synthesis will help you to translate consciousness into action. We would like to acknowledge the writing and translations of Mario Murillo, who has been a formidable force in these past months, producing excellent analyses and up to the minute coverage of what has been going on in Cauca. Check out his blog for regular updates on the situation: http://www.mamaradio.blogspot.com.

We cannot emphasize enough the need for continued international pressure in support of the Minga, especially as the horrible news of bombings in Bogota and the habitual ignorance of the Colombian press in covering the Minga serve to distract and distort what is truly a monumental step towards increasing people power in Colombia.

At the bottom of this edition, please read our call to action, where we propose that the Minga be transnational. Now is the time to think of ways in which we can break the divisions imposed by distance, false borders and supposedly different realities. The pain of the Minga is being put into action: the word is being walked. Can we share that pain and take it on as our own? Can we make all causes our own and articulate transnational responses to transnational problems? We must!

La Chiva

To recieve future editions of Colombia Review, please send an email to La Chiva: lachivacollective at sign gmail dot com

The Declaration of the Minga

No More Terror and Avarice: We propose a new path for the people for a new country
This important text is the Declaration of the Minga of the People, La Maria-Piendamo, Territory of Dialogue, Coexistence and Peace, a proposal for a new country. It speaks for itself.
12 October 2008

The Minga's Agenda Advancing
Uribe responds to the five point agenda of the popular and indigenous Minga. The Minga responds.
ACIN, translated by Mario A. Murillo, 20 October 2008


Pueblos en Camino: A Letter to Canadian Authorities on Cauca
We strongly urge the Canadian government to call on President Uribe to cease violence immediately and support an International Commission to the region to monitor the situation. We also strongly urge the Canadian government to rethink its position on free trade with the Colombian government, which has demonstrated a complete disdain for the rights of Indigenous people and other groups, and has a long history of brutal human rights violations.
Pueblos en Camino Collective

La Chiva, Canada: Your Pain and Demands We Make Our Own
We not only empathize with your demands for justice and the desperate situation you have faced in these last days, decades and centuries, imposed by so-called governments. We feel the sadness of your injured and dead. Your pain is ours, too. Your struggle is not only an indigenous struggle confined to Colombia. We have made this struggle ours, for it is one for life, peace and human dignity, values that transcend all false borders. […] Our victory will be the laughter of our children, in dignified peace and freedom.
La Chiva Collective, Canada, Canada-Colombia Project, 24 October 2008

International Federation of Human Rights: No More Murders of Indigenous Peoples in Colombia
The FIDH repudiates this disproportionate use of force and expresses its profound concern for the reports of armed civilians protected by the police shooting at the protestors from the mountainside, as well as for the acts of barbarity committed by members of ESMAD, which resulted gravely wounding an indigenous person with a machete. They had also left this person on the ground for several hours and impeded the arrival of ambulances to assist him.
FIDH, 18 October 2008

European Union Parlaimentarians' Declaration
A model for Canadian and US representatives?
Various MEPs, European Union

Communiques (ACIN)

The Minga Continues: We are Neither, Nor Do We Condone, Terrorists
We will defend ourselves with no arms other than our staffs of authority. We call on all social movements and peoples to mobilize, but to do it without arms, peacefully and towards the fulfilment of the objectives of the agenda. Those who use arms act expressly against the orientation and position of the process and the Minga, serving the regime the excuse it needs to attack.
ACIN, translated by La Chiva, 16 October 2008

Uribe, ¿por qué no te callas?
Impresionante. El Presidente rodeado de la cúpula militar en el Palacio de Nariño. El General Naranjo vuelve a hablar con su característica convicción y fuerza. Estaban rectificando con supuesta valentía una mentira: la Policía sí disparó. Pero habría sido mejor que se callara a que rectificara una mentira con otras.
ACIN, Nasa-ACIN http://www.nasaacin.org , 23 de octubre 2008


La Otra Colombia
La Minga es el modo en que los de abajo han decidido "concertar la palabra y convertirla en camino". Es apenas el primer paso. Pero el que marca el rumbo y deja huella.
Raul Zibechi, La Jornada, 24 de octubre 2008

Who is Behind Today's Six Bomb Blasts in Bogotá?
The editorial writer for El Tiempo, (which just so happens to be owned by the Vice President's family) tells us we should not come to any preconceived conclusions that ultimately play into the hands of terrorists by "planting uncertainty in the people," thereby destroying "the confidence the country has recuperated in its institutions." It is ironic that this so-called "confidence" in the country's institutions comes amidst the troubling revelations at the DAS, the mass indigenous mobilizations in the south, and the ongoing Para-política scandal surrounding close allies of the president, a scandal that, for various reasons, seems to have been put on hold for the time being as the media focus on other unfolding crises.
Mario A. Murillo, MAMARadio, 23 October 2008.

To Cut Down a Rebellion
On the convergence of the sugarcane workers' struggle and that of the indigenous of Northern Cauca… "Colombia's movements continue to shoulder more than their fair burden against one of the most brutal regimes in the hemisphere. The regime can't be allowed to drown out their story."
Justin Podur, Killing Train, 21 October 2008

Por que decidimos marchar a Cali y NO a Popayan
La Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria decidió marchar de La María (Piendamó-Cauca) hacia la ciudad de Cali. En ningún momento se pensó ir a Popayán, capital del departamento. Esa decisión tiene razones de gran peso político. La Minga tiene conciencia de que hoy ya no enfrentamos a la vieja clase terrateniente de Popayán. A ella la derrotamos en los años 80 del siglo pasado (s. XX) cuando empezamos a recuperar, de hecho, nuestro territorio.
Anonymous, La Maria-Piendamo, 21 de octubre 2008

Media Representations of Popular Mobilizations Ignore Movement's Message
This is an excellent article on the propaganda war waged by the Colombian mainstream media against the participants of the Minga. It would take a video broadcast by CNN to force Uribe to admit that the army had indeed fired on protesters (see the video by CNN's Karl Penhaul below).
Mario A. Murillo, MAMARadio, 18 October 2008


Indigenous Colombians Begin 10,000-Strong March Against Uribe Government
More than 10,000 indigenous Colombians have begun a protest march against President Alvaro Uribe. Marchers are protesting the militarization of their territories, the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and the failure of Uribe's administration to fulfill various accords with the indigenous communities. We speak to Rafael Coicué, an indigenous leader who lost sight in his left eye when he was assaulted by [ESMAD – the Colombian Riot Police], and Mario Murillo, a US journalist and professor currently in Colombia.
Democracy Now!, 23 October 2008

Update from Cauca, Colombia: Indigenous resistance and state repression
Colombian activist Manuel Rozental discusses the current situation in Cauca and outlines the five point popular and indigenous agenda proposed by the Minga
Interview by Dawn Paley, The Dominion, 16 October 2008


CNN Exposes what the Colombian Press Could Not
Uribe was forced to respond to this specific report by CNN, showing what the ACIN has been proving all along. Still, with over 130 wounded and one dead, Uribe claimed that one member of the public forces had opened fired on the protesters. One bad apple?
Karl Penhaul reports for CNN, 22 October 2008

Rafael Coicue on CNN en espanol
Long-time indigenous activist, Rafael Coicue, explains the situation in Cauca. Rafael was shot in the eye this past July 2008 by ESMAD, the Colombian riot squad, while passing by confrontations on his motorcycle, costing him vision in one of his eyes. This interview is in Spanish; however, for English content, please check out Rafael and Mario Murillo on Democracy Now! (above).

Uribe miente: pruebas contundentes
A pesar de que el presidente Álvaro Uribe insiste en que los pueblos indígenas somos terroristas y niega la brutal agresión de la fuerza pública contra la movilización de los pueblos, aquí están los hechos que demuestran todo lo contrario.
Video produced by ACIN, 22 de octubre 2008

Call for Action


You've read the communiqués, watched and listened to the videos and audio. You recognize the need for, and value of, international pressure in support of the popular and indigenous Minga of the Peoples and against the repression of the regime in Colombia. You recognize the complicity of the Canadian government by declaring the regime a close ally, negotiating a free trade agreement with no one's consent but its own, and remaining silent while the regime massacres its own people. You want to do something about it.

As a first emergency step, we encourage you to write letters to your MPs, the Prime Minister's Office, the Canadian Embassy in Bogota, and the Colombian Presidency telling them that you will not stand for it. "Not in our name," as they say. If you don't feel you have the time to write a letter of your own, copy and paste or print off one of the letters above, and tell them you support it (The Pueblos en Camino Letter is an excellent model, which you can also sign on to by sending an email to caucasupport@gmail.com).

This should take less than five minutes. Easy peasy!

Write them…
Prime Minister's Office: pm@pm.gc.ca
Canadian Embassy in Bogota: bgota@international.gc.ca

Phone them…
Department of Foreign Affairs: 1-800-267-8376 (toll-free in Canada)
Canadian Embassy in Bogota: 011 (57 1) 657 9800

Better yet…


La Chiva is organizing a 'fax action' campaign directed at the targets identified below. This weekend, we will be sending all we can to these offices (and over and over again) to ensure that the Minga's agenda is heard. We encourage you to join us!

Fax Action Targets

Canadian Embassy in Bogota: 011 (57 1) 657 9912
Prime Minister's Office: 1 (613) 941 6900
Department of Foreign Affairs: 1 (613) 996 9709

Aside from this initial campaign, supporting the Minga is a process. The Minga is more than an indigenous proposal but one for all peoples. Everyone has their own particular part to play. Free trade agreements affect us all, as do the privatization of our healthcare system, the superficial nature of our democratic processes, the 'flexibilization' of our livelihoods, the conversion of all life into a commodity, the planet a wasteland. The same transnational 'death project' targeted by the Minga is in our cities, towns, schools, hospitals, and forests.

Given that (and more!), we propose that the Minga be transnational. Let's get moving…

Que todas las causas sean nuestras! Tod@s somos nasas!

A Letter to Canadian Authorities on Cauca

Please forward widely.

If you would like to sign on, please send an email to caucasupport@gmail.com or feel free to sign and send on your own copy to the Prime Minister and other relevant ministers.

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

We are deeply disturbed by reports of violent repression being carried out by the Colombian army against unarmed civilians during the past week’s civilian demonstration against militarization and free trade in Colombia, and we urge the Canadian government to take immediate action.

Over the past week, the Indigenous people of Cauca and throughout Colombia have faced severe violations of international human rights. At least 11 people across Colombia have been killed and more than 60 people have been wounded during the peaceful demonstrations – four of these deaths occurred in Cauca. There are reports of unprovoked assassinations of Indigenous civilians by the Colombian Army and the paramilitary groups. One Indigenous man, brother of two of the leaders of the peaceful mobilization, was allegedly taken from a vehicle and shot in front of his wife and child at point blank range by the paramilitary organization “Black Eagles”. There has also been a report of a death threat by the guerrilla group FARC against one of the most vocal Indigenous leaders, Feliciano Valencia. It seems the Indigenous people are a target of all armed groups operating in the region who are vying for control over lands recognized as Indigenous territories by the Colombian Constitution of 1991. Further, there have been blockages of websites and suspicious power outages affecting internet service during the mobilization, reported by Indymedia and FLIP (Foundation for Free Expression in Bogota, Colombia, member of IFEX, based in Toronto, Canada). The international right to free expression is also under threat.

There is a significant danger of a massacre, and governments around the world are being called upon to act to stop this violence and foster a space for dialogue between Indigenous people and the Colombian government. The InterAmerican Commission and UN bodies have been asked to intervene, and support the implementation of an international commission to travel to the region.

This violence is taking place within the context of the negotiation and implementation of free trade agreements with Canada, the U.S. and other countries. As citizens of Canada, it is deeply disturbing that our government is engaged in trade and ‘business as usual’ with a government with well known and documented violations of human rights, particularly against Indigenous people in that country. Canada, as a signatory of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People is obliged to uphold the rights, cultural and territorial integrity of Indigenous peoples around the world.

We strongly urge the Canadian government to call on President Uribe to cease violence immediately and support an International Commission to the region to monitor the situation.

We also strongly urge the Canadian government to rethink its position on free trade with the Colombian government, which has demonstrated a complete disdain for the rights of Indigenous people and other groups, and has a long history of brutal human rights violations.

Pueblos En Camino,

October 24, 2008


Colombia Review is a compilation of news articles, communiques and audio and video materials (in English and Spanish) that we circulate on our email list. They are a means for synthesizing the huge amount of material we receive on the issues we work on and a way to keep people informed without jamming up their inboxes. We usually mail these out every week or two, but it all depends on the situation... sometimes more, sometimes less.

If you would like to receive future editions of Colombia Review in your email inbox, please send an email to La Chiva:


La Chiva

Colombia Review is a project of Pueblos en Camino and La Chiva

October 4 - 13

In this special edition of Colombia Review, we turn to Cauca, Colombia, where indigenous peoples have been mobilizing over the past several days (517 years really) in commemoration of the dawn of Spanish colonialism in the Americas, a colonialism that has changed bosses but never really subsided. Their resistance to the neoliberal project (most explicitly represented by Plan Colombia I and II, Plan Puebla Panama, the IIRSA, and a number of other local, national and transnational projects, all of accumulation and death) and in defense of their Life Plans as well as those of the rest of Colombia's popular and social movements. Readers will have paid close attention to the struggle of the sugarcane workers (the corteros), which is still on-going and in serious need of outside support and people pressuring the states responsible for the terror they are courageously facing head-on. As we watch the struggle of the corteros and express our solidarity with them from outside, the indigenous of Cauca have stood beside the corteros at every step, just as the corteros have supported the indigenous 'liberation of Mother Earth'.

Still, the situation is intensifying in Cauca. In the last 10 days, no less than 13 indigenous have been murdered, this following the threat from the 'Angry Peasants of Cauca' received by the indigenous movement in Cauca on the 5th of August, 2008. Much of the violence is attributed to the paramilitary group the 'Aguilas Negras', a reincarnation (or extension) of the supposedly demobilized right-wing death squads that have hunted down trade unionists, social movement leaders, and the Uribe regimes opposition over the past few years: those same death squads that have taken up their posts in the Colombian state and negotiate free trade agreements with their allies in the North and impose mining codes and displacement for transnational capital.

In spite of the violence and dire situation, the indigenous and popular movements of Cauca in particular have not let up. Their resolve against the free trade agreements and violence in their territories is not only an inspiration but also a message to those of us outside Colombia that we, too, must stand on the side of civil resistance not only in Colombia but in our own communities. The Colombia model is being countered amidst the most difficult of situations. That same model of armed robbery exists in decidedly different forms in places like Canada, the US and Europe; that model is the same and must also be exposed, confronted and challenged at every step. THAT is perhaps the best kind of solidarity we can express.

Find below several articles (most on which have been translated by the formidable Mario Murillo) on the mobilizations in Cauca as well as a video produced by the Communications Network of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Colombia (ACIN) (in English and Spanish). For readers of Spanish, there are some communiques coming directly from the ACIN.

In solidarity,
La Chiva


Dirty War of Terror Being Waged Against Indigenous Movement in Colombia
Come from where they may, these assassins' bullets represent a war against the people. Come from where it may, this plan of death benefits those who would have us silenced and displaced! They should leave now, those who bring war, those who use arms against the people, those who use death to feed their avarice. Leave us in peace!
By Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN), Translated by Mario Murillo,13 October 2008

Indigenous Communities Throughout Colombia Begin Mobilization Amidst Government Imposed State of "Internal Commotion"
Today we mark 517 years of resistance against an uninterrupted aggression. The Neo-liberal conquest, more cruel and technologically developed than the one that started with the European invasion, advances with its insatiable appetite of accumulation.
By ACIN, Translated by Mario Murillo, 12 October 2008

Indigenous Communities in Colombia Mobilize to Protest U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Plan Colombia and the Policies of the Bush-Backed Uribe Government
Today, four years after the First Itinerant Congress of the Peoples, we, the indigenous communities of northern Cauca, reiterate its message and validity and continue through the path we walked back then, a march that was weaved through centuries of memory and resistance… Today we mobilize, as millions of others mobilize throughout the Americas, demanding dignity, justice, liberty and a respect for life.
By ACIN, Translated by Mario Murillo, 9 October 2008

Manuel Quintin Lame: 41 Years After his Death, his Legacy Remains Strong
"My position is to defend through legal means the indigenous territories…my labor I conduct with a grand public spirit…and my voice, tomorrow, will have a different tone, for it will be the voice of the silent lightning that scratches the darkened night sky over the western horizon." – Manuel Quintin Lame
By Mario Murillo, MAMARadio, 6 October 2008

A Call For Solidarity with the Social Movements of Colombia on this 516th Anniversary of the European Invasion
Once again approaching the anniversary of the invasion initiated by Christopher Columbus which is continually mistaken in great offense as the discovery of the continent that today we call America, we bees, compañeras ants and other animals and plants of Abya Yala (South America) have concluded with buzzing from a continual Minga of thought.
By The Beehive Collective, 5 October 2008

Community, Indigenous and Worker Alternatives to Transnational Mining
…[The recent Bogotá Declaration focuses on] combating impunity of transnational corporations, the need for strong environmental and human right protections toward the aim of good living for all, as well as opposition to the whims of sumptuary consumerism of metals and metal products.
By Jennifer Moore, UpsideDownWorld.org, 8 October 2008


Plan Integral de Agresión en el Cauca / Integral Plan of Agression in Cauca, Colombia
The Nasa people of Northern Cauca in South Western Colombia, have become a symbol of resistance and an example of dignity. This documentary explains the occupation strategy being advanced through "Plan Colombia Phase II" on behalf of corporate and geo-strategic transnatonal interests. The exceptional effort of the Nasa people is at risk of elimination for the sake of profit. The documentary was entirely scripted and produced by our indigenous communications network and by our communities in resistance for life and dignity.
En español http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_a7TwMVB8_s
In English http://mx.youtube.com/watch?v=XBhpfdQ2Rng

Contenido en español

¡La conmoción de los pueblos!
Información en español sobre la Gran Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria desde en Cauca, Colombia. Cada día, se encuentra aquí más información a través del Tejido de Comunicación y Relaciones Externas para la Verdad y la Vida, de la ACIN.
Por ACIN-Cauca

Nos encadenamos para alcanzar la Libertad
Lo más difícil de la lucha contra la esclavitud y la tiranía es reconocer que existen. Cuando los pueblos nos sabemos esclavos, las cadenas estorban y desde ese momento, la Libertad se hace indispensable, impostergable, tan necesaria como el aire para respirar. No vale la pena la vida sin Libertad…. Hoy, segundo día de la Minga desde el Cauca hacemos un llamado: a partir de mañana, hagamos visibles las cadenas para quitarnoslas de encima.
Por ACIN-Cauca, 13 de octubre 2008

The Minga´s agenda advancing

ACIN, translated by Mario A. Murillo,
20 October 2008

The Minga´s agenda advancing

As the mass popular mobilization in Cauca and the rest of Colombia continues, the government of Alvaro Uribe finally addressed the five point agenda of the Popular and Indigenous Minga, a small step forward after over a week of intense military confrontations with the protesters. Yesterday, just before indigenous and peasant communities were about to begin their long march towards the city of Cali, the Minister of Agriculture, Andrés Felipe Arias, finally recognized the points in the name of the national government.

This initial recognition of the five points has been superceded today, Wednesday, as the Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, continued to point out that the indigenous protesters were the violent ones who were “firing on Colombian special police forces.”

So as the march moves forward, bringing together indigenous and peasants with sugar cane workers and Afro-Colombian communities, it is important to keep in mind the very important message the Popular Minga is putting forward to the entire nation. In a sense, it’s a response to the many distortions that continue to make their way through the corporate media

1. It’s clear that our struggle…includes the issue of lands, which is transcendental for indigenous people. But we reiterate so that it remains totally clear, that we are not only demanding that the government comply with agreements and resolve the necessities and
rights relating solely to the issue of lands; the issue of land is not a problem exclusive to the indigenous people, nor is it something that relates only to the department of Cauca. We will continue to present our profound ideas and proposals relating to this issue, based on abundant
experience, evidence, and documentation that exists, such that we will expose the superficial pronouncements that the government keeps making about this issue, including from the President himself. In essence what we are demanding is that the government comply with agreements already made, which public opinion should be made aware of. Given that accords
and conventions already exist, we are not looking to negotiate anything new at the current moment, but that the government complies with what has already been agreed upon.

2. Regarding the issue of the Free Trade Agreements: First of all, we reiterate with total clarity that yes, this issue is a fundamental component of our agenda of mobilization, and that it must be addressed. We remind the national government that the FTA with the United States has already gone through its legislative cycles in Colombia and has been approved by the National Congress. Although we have serious concerns about the entire process of negotiation of the accord, of the lack of consultation and the manner in which it was approved, at the moment, the U.S.-Colombia FTA is in the hands of the United States Congress. Recognizing this reality, we propose that mechanisms of interlocution with the U.S. Congress be established. It makes no sense to debate the issue with the Colombian government. Our reasons for rejecting this and other similar treaties have been expressed broadly and repeatedly. We also must remember that we organized and held transparent, internationally verified, and democratic consultations on the FTA in the past, where 98% of the voters in Cauca gave an overwhelming “NO” to the FTA.

3. Regarding the issue of what we call the “Laws of Dispossesion,” we point to Law 1152 or the so-called Rural Statute, as a perfect example. We embrace as a precedent the Constitutional Court (Sentence C-030 of 2008) that declared as unconstitutional the Forestry Law (the court ruled that the measure was approved by Congress without the prior consultation of indigenous
communities, as protected by the Colombian Constitution). With this in mind, we demand that the Rural Statute, the Mining Code of 2007, the Plans for Water Privatization, and all the other laws that should be brought before the people under the provisions of Prior Consultation, be
reconsidered, according to Treaty 169 of the International Labor Organization, represented in Law 21 of 1991, and protected in the Colombian Constitution. Based on this demand, we call on the immediate nullification of all these laws (starting with the Rural Statute) and the presentation before the Congress of new bills that will replace them, which will be based on the consideration of results and contents emerging from an appropriate, democratic process of prior consultation with the communities.

4. With regards to the “Democratic Security” policy of the government, we repudiate the ongoing assassinations of indigenous people, on average more than 100 per year during the six years of the presidency of Dr. Alvaro Uribe Vélez, 17 of which were carried out between the 17th of
September, 2008, and today, October 21. Eight of these assassinations were carried out by the public security forces, one by the guerillas, four by paramilitaries and the other four victims by unknown actors. The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC, has been putting
together a comprehensive report of the serious and systematic violations of human rights carried out against indigenous people, yet there has been no serious or effective commitment on the part of the government to put a stop to this dirty war, to carry out thorough investigations into
these crimes, so that they don’t remain in absolute impunity, and that guarantees can be established to protect the life and the security of individuals and collectives, in coordination with the indigenous authorities and the people. The record of the National Government vis-a-vis indigenous people is shameful.

The diagnosis and recommendations made by the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Indigenous Peoples continue to be valid. There is evidence of a deterioration of conditions that point to an ethnocide and genocide, in some cases leading to the extinction of various peoples. To this we add the criminal and war-like treatment of our current mobilization, something that warrants an investigation resulting in documentation that will lead to the truth, justice and integral reparations for indigenous people. At the moment, as a consequence of the false accusations that the government and the public security forces have made against us, calling us terrorists manipulated by FARC, we have been indirectly drawn into the internal armed conflict, and in turn, everybody involved in the Popular Mobilization of the last few days is under imminent risk of attacks against our integrity, and individual security.

We hold the government responsible for having created this situation of risk and imminent threat against our people. The state, which has the duty to protect us, actually threatens us. As a consequence, we find it necessary that there be an immediate presence such as an international
commission allowed into the territories, in order to assume concrete functions that could result in a response to this grave situation.

During the current mobilization, and throughout his mandate, President Uribe and his government have taken on an extremely alarming attitude towards indigenous people, insisting on negating our specific rights, which he should recognize and guarantee us given his constitutional mandate as head of state. He insists on presenting these rights as undeserved or abused privileges, with the objective of generating resentment against us, and promoting conflict with other social sectors.

We are calling attention to these attitudes andpolicies, which continue to generate discrimination and promote prejudice.

The President and his minister of Agriculture manipulate statistics and interpret some of our actions in distorted ways in order to get the rest of the Colombian population to believe that we receive unwarranted privileges, or worse yet, that we are responsible for the problems and
difficulties they as different sectors face. These manipulations are false and are not based on reality. Poverty and social injustice affect us all, and they are the responsibility of deliberate state policies that victimize us all.

We reaffirm our commitment to the well being of all peoples, with equality and social justice, and we do so as ancestral and ancient peoples. Therefore, we demand that the government stop deliberately confusing the guarantee of collective rights, social justice and equality, obligations permanently delayed or negated by the state, with the right to differences and the respect for diversity.

As Indigenous peoples, we demand that the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People be ratified by the Colombian State as a law of the Republic. At the same time, we support the specific rights of other peoples and social sectors, always within the frame of social justice and equality. What for us is abhorrent and should disappear immediately is the high concentration of land and wealth, and the laws that guarantee benefits and privileges to political bosses, wealthy landowners, the upper classes and transnational corporations at the expense of poverty and exploitation of the majority.

Once our full agenda is recognized, the much-delayed process of resolving our many differences in a serious and integral way will finally begin. This will mean profound transformations, not only for indigenous people, but for all social sectors and the entire country. This requires understanding this reality in a very serious and mature fashion. To continue to postpone these transformations is irresponsible, and will send the country in a direction that up to now only benefits a few interests, and in the short term is unsustainable, even for those same interests. To transform Colombian institutionality in order to benefit all of society is necessary, possible and inevitable.

The irresponsible management of these important issues by both the government and the commercial mass media, requires a highly conscientious mobilization of a broad cross section of sectors, and the consolidation and development of a practical national agenda to advance
towards the country that is possible and necessary. This popular Minga proposes to establish a solid path of the people, to march together in unity, through diverse voices and mutual respect, sharing the pain of one another as we walk towards life and liberty.

Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca-ACIN
ACIN – Cxab Wala Kiwe
Santander de Quilichao, Octubre 20 de 2008.

EU Parliamentarians' Declaration on Repression of the Minga and Trade Unionist Movements in Colombia

We, the undersigned MEPs, have been informed about the repression perpetrated against the indigenous demonstrations taking place since October 12th in different Colombian regions, and the murder of 27 indigenous people, the disappearance of many more and the injuring of others. We have also learned about the repression against the sugar cane workers movement which begun in September.
We want to express our deep indignation about these serious violations of indigenous and trade unionists' rights that should not go unpunished.
We consider as legitimate the claims of the indigenous people for the respect of their land and autonomy, for the survival of their 102 different peoples, of which 18 are in constant danger of disappearance and for the indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources. Likewise we recognize the legitimate claims of the sugar cane workers for decent work.

We urge the Colombian government to order the police and army force to immediately stop the repression against the indigenous peoples' and workers' movement.

We express our rejection of the unfounded expulsion of three European citizens who were observing the current demonstrations.

We condemn the permanent use of the pretext of fighting against terrorism to repress the social movement in Colombia.

- Vittorio Agnoletto, Italy
- André Brie, Germany
- Giusto Catania, Italy
- Gabriele Cretu, Romania
- Bairbre De Brun, Ireland
- Ilda Figueiredo, Portugal
- Claudio Fava, Italy
- Monica Frassoni , Italy
- Vicente Garcés, Spain
- Ana Maria Gomes, Portugal
- Pedro Guerreiro , Portugal
- Umberto Guidoni, Italy
- Jens Holm, Sweden
- Richard Howitt, United Kindom
- Marie Anne Isler-Béguin, France
- Eva Lichtenberger, Austria
- Marie-Noelle Lienemann, France
- Caroline Lucas, United Kindom
- Mary Lou Mac Donald, Ireland
- Helmuth Markov, Germany
- Erik Meijer, Holland
- Willy Meyer-Pleite, Spain
- Luisa Morgantini, Italy
- Tobias Pflüger, Germany
- Miguel Portas, Portugal
- Miloslav Ransdorf, Czech Republic
- Marco Rizzo, Italy
- Raul Romeva Rueda, Spain
- Esko Seppanen, Finland
- Eva-Britt Svensson, Sweden
- Feleknas Uca, Germany
- Gabriele Zimmer, Germany.

Por que decidimos marchar a Cali

La María, Piendamó, Cauca, octubre 21 de 2008

La Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria decidió marchar de La María (Piendamó-Cauca) hacia la ciudad de Cali. En ningún momento se pensó ir a Popayán, capital del departamento. Esa decisión tiene razones de gran peso político.

La Minga tiene conciencia de que hoy ya no enfrentamos a la vieja clase terrateniente de Popayán. A ella la derrotamos en los años 80 del siglo pasado (s. XX) cuando empezamos a recuperar, de hecho, nuestro territorio.

La Minga sabe que hoy desafiamos a una clase terrateniente de carácter capitalista, oligopólica, globalizada, representada por los dueños de los ingenios azucareros.

"(…) hoy Ardila Lülle, quien se precia de ser "el productor individual de azúcar más grande del mundo", controla más del 33 por ciento de la producción y el mercado (Silva 2004, p.p. 208-218). Es propietario del Ingenio Cauca, tiene el 52% de Providencia y por lo menos el 35% del ingenio Risaralda, fundado en 1979 con inversión de la Federación de Cafeteros, el estado y la Corporación Financiera de Occidente dominada por el Citibank."[1]

Cali representa el poder de esa clase, que además de ser económicamente poderosa es profundamente antidemocrática, reaccionaria, racista y sobre-explotadora. Su poder está manchado de sangre, especialmente la violencia de los años 50. Consolidaron su poderío territorial (240.000 has cultivadas con caña de azúcar) que les permite producir además de azúcar, etanol, energía eléctrica (utilizando el bagazo) y otra gran cantidad de productos derivados.

Hoy, ellos son los que pretenden desalojarnos de nuestro territorio. Nos quieren convertir en jornaleros y esclavos del gran capital. Les estorbamos. Somos "mal ejemplo".

La Minga tiene absolutamente claro que Cali representa ese poderío económico construido con base en el engaño y la mentira. Muchas trampas utilizaron para robarles las tierras a los campesinos negros que fueron los que domesticaron las "vegas" de los ríos Palo, Desbaratado, Paila, Cauca y demás ríos que recorren y alimentan con agua la región.

La Minga sabe que hoy en día los vestigios de la vieja clase terrateniente que hoy vive en Popayán es un apéndice insignificante de la burguesía agro-exportadora del Valle del Cauca. La rancia estirpe payanesa desde los años 80, echó a un lado sus sueños y prejuicios aristocráticos, y vendió su alma al diablo (gran capital).

Todas las decisiones importantes para el Cauca en las últimas tres décadas han sido tomadas en Cali: construcción de la represa de la Salvajina sobre el río Cauca que después en 1995 fue entregada al gran capital internacional (Unión Fenosa) cuando se creó la Empresa de Energía del Pacífico EPSA; la aprobación de la Ley Páez, que se justificó para beneficiar a los pueblos indios afectados por la avalancha del río de ese mismo nombre, y que realmente sólo le ha servido a los empresarios vallecaucanos y empresas transnacionales para construir un gran emporio de riqueza en los municipios de Guachené, Santander de Quilichao, Villarrica y Puerto Tejada.

Ya están construidos grandes anillos viales en el norte del Cauca y el sur del Valle, se tiene proyectado el tren de "cercanías", en alianza con la Anglo Gold Ashanti (Kedahda) y otras empresas mineras están detrás del oro que queda en los municipios de Suárez, Buenos Aires, El Tambo, Tierradentro y el Macizo colombiano. Su mirada avariciosa está sobre los lechos de carbón que van desde Jamundí hasta el Patía en la cordillera occidental. Y, en contubernio con Smurfit-Kapa desde hace 50 años explotan los bosques de pino y eucalipto con altos costos para la biodiversidad y el medio ambiente.

Vamos a Cali porque en sus alrededores se desarrolla una de las luchas más importantes de la clase obrera. Los trabajadores "corteros" de caña llevan 37 días de una histórica y valerosa huelga. Los obreros cañeros enfrentan el eje principal de las políticas laborales que se empezaron a implementar desde 1978 (la reconversión industrial aplicada en casos como los de la empresa Croydon del Pacífico). Las Cooperativas de Trabajo Asociado CTA representan la forma de explotación más descarada y "eficiente", en donde el obrero figura como "empresario", dueño de las CTA, y por tanto, debe responder por su seguridad social (salud, pensiones, riesgos profesionales), y hasta por su dotación de trabajo. Las condiciones de vida de los "corteros" es aterradora: jornadas de trabajo de 12 y 14 horas, ingresos miserables, hacinación en las ciudades como Puerto Tejada, Candelaria, Florida, Pradera, Guacarí, Bugalagrande, Miranda, Corinto, Guachené y Villarrica, entre otras.

Vamos a Cali porque allí viven cientos de miles de caucanos desplazados por la violencia, la pobreza y el hambre. Vamos a Cali porque allí nos encontraremos con los compañeros corteros y sus familias, con desempleados, moto-taxistas, los obreros y habitantes de barrios populares de esa ciudad. Y allí, en Cali, se empezará a construir de verdad la alianza entre indios, mestizos y afros, campesinos y obreros, y desde allí le gritaremos al mundo que nosotros – los verdaderos creadores de riqueza – nos merecemos una vida y un futuro mejor.

Por ello, mirar hacia Popayán no tiene sentido. Sólo volveremos a esa ciudad para "enterrar" esa clase política representada ejemplarmente por Juan José Chaux, exgobernador aliado de la mafia y el paramilitarismo. Hoy, los herederos de los terratenientes caucanos son una pequeña casta en proceso de descomposición y desaparecimiento. Es una clase sin futuro, que no merece interlocutar con la Minga.

Por eso nos vamos hacia Cali e invitamos a todos los sectores sociales y políticos a acompañarnos. Allí vamos a defender nuestras raíces y nuestra gente, para volver a Popayán llenos de orgullo y de entusiasmo, a reconstruir un Cauca indio, mestizo y afro, recuperando nuestros territorios de economía campesina, nuestros recursos naturales, nuestra biodiversidad, y por sobre todo, nuestra dignidad.

En Cali, con los corteros de caña consolidaremos la "alianza maravillosa" entre indios y corteros de caña. Marchemos sobre Cali con fuerza y decisión. Allí se cocinará nuestra inserción en los nuevos vientos latinoamericanos. Desde allí empezaremos a enterrar el "embrujo" uribista. No lo dudemos.

¡Vamos a marchar sobre Cali! ¡Vamos a derrotar a quien verdaderamente hay que enfrentar en este momento: los agroindustriales vallecaucanos productores de agrocombustibles!

Vamos a impedir la judicialización de nuestros dirigentes (indios y corteros). Vamos a decirle al mundo que no somos guerrilleros y que nuestra lucha es justa.

La Minga marcha sobre Cali. Acompañarla es cuestión de dignidad.

Colombian Brothers and Sisters, Your Pain and Demands We Make Our Own…

Over these last days, Mother Earth is once again tinted red with the blood of our indigenous sisters and brothers, a consequence of the brutal and inhumane repression used against them by a government obsessed with silencing all opposition to its neoliberal policies. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Colombia’s populist dictator, which acts as the agent of national private interests and transnational capital, seeks to gain for his allies the few lands left for indigenous peoples through genocide and baseless threats. Álvaro Uribe and his ministers have targeted indigenous groups in Colombia who have articulated their opposition to large-scale mineral extraction projects and monocrops like sugar cane, for ethanol and the agrofuel industry. He has made false public statements directed against them, and when proven wrong, he uses distraction. He cries that they are linked to terrorists, while many from his government sit in jail for collusion with right-wing paramilitary death squads, the demobilized bandits who continue to roam the country putting into violent acts the dictator’s baseless utterances. In Colombia, mere opposition to the multiple free trade agreements, designed to hand over natural resources (life itself) to transnational capital, is marked by the dictatorship as a terrorist act.

The Colombian government is the real destabilizing agent. In Cauca and the Cauca Valley, it is the government that has put a price on the heads of indigenous leaders who have fought for their rights and that the government comply with its responsibilities. It is the government, convenienced by other armed groups, that is imposing this latest climate of terror and injustice.

Sisters and brothers, we not only empathize with your demands for justice and the desperate situation you have faced in these last days, decades and centuries, imposed by so-called governments. We feel the sadness of your injured and dead. Your pain is ours, too. Your struggle is not only an indigenous struggle confined to Colombia. We have made this struggle ours, for it is one for life, peace and human dignity, values that transcend all false borders.

The Canadian government is playing its role in this genocide by supporting the Uribe dictatorship, making all Canadians accomplices in yet another genocide directed against indigenous peoples in this land called America. The Canadian government tells us that the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement will create a more secure, prosperous and equitable Colombia. Is Canadian capital somehow different? Mr. Harper, do you really believe that democracy is solidified through confronting attempts at inclusive dialogue with massacres?

From Canada, and with a profound feeling of shared struggle in which the indigenous of Cauca have courageously and rightly taken the lead, we reaffirm our desire and commitment to work together with our brothers and sisters in humanity. It is our historic responsibility to oppose and resist fascist and neoliberal policies and to stop, for once and for all, the globalization of misery. Alternatively, we struggle for another globalization, where our struggles transcend all frontiers constructed to divide us, to emphasize our distance. Our victory will be the laughter of our children, in a dignified peace, prosperity and freedom.

La Chiva Collective, Canada


Hermanos Colombianos, su dolor y sus demandas las hacemos Nuestras…

Durante estos últimos días, otra vez, la Madre tierra se esta tiñendo de rojo con la sangre derramada por nuestros hermanos indígenas, consecuencia de la brutal e inhumana represión desatada en su contra por un gobierno que se empeña en acallar cualquier tipo de oposición a sus políticas neoliberales. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, quien actúa como el agente del voraz capitalismo transnacional, y aliado con claros intereses privados nacionales persigue apoderarse de las pocas tierras que hoy les quedan a los nativos, a través del genocidio y el señalamiento. Álvaro Uribe y sus ministros se empeñan en señalar de perturbadores del orden publico, falsos, aliados de la guerra e incluso terroristas a los grupos indígenas colombianos que se ponen en pie de lucha contra la implementación de planes extractivos de minerales del subsuelo, y monocultivos como la caña de azúcar y la palma africana. Señala de terroristas a quienes se oponen a los múltiples tratados de Libre Comercio que le entregarían estas riquezas nacionales al capital internacional.

Es el gobierno el verdadero agente desestabilizador que hoy continua poniéndole precio a la cabeza de los lideres de cabildos y resguardos que luchan por sus derechos, es el gobierno el que impone un clima de terror e injusticia.

A pesar de que la tristeza embarga nuestro corazón, entendemos las justas demandas y la desesperante situación que ha impuesto el gobierno sobre ustedes y queremos decirles, valientes luchadores, que sigan adelante, que su causa es justa y noble; que este no es solo su dolor porque lo hacemos nuestro y, que desde este portal hacemos presencia y entendemos también su lucha como nuestra, rechazamos y denunciamos los atropellos oficiales, nos solidarizamos con los sufridos pueblos americanos originales, en la lucha por la vida, la paz y la dignidad humana.

El gobierno Canadiense está poniendo su cuota en el genocidio al apoyar al gobierno de Uribe Vélez, y de esta forma nos hace a todos los canadienses cómplices directos de las masacres. El TLC se promociona en nuestro país como una forma de ayudara a solidificar los esfuerzos del gobierno colombiano para crear una democracia mas segura, prospera y con equidad... Señor Harper cree usted que la democracia se solidifica asesinando a nuestros hermanos indígenas cuando ejercen su democrático derecho a la huelga, a la oposición y a la movilización?

Desde Canadá y con profundo sentimiento fraternal, les expresamos a nuestros hermanos indígenas colombianos el deseo de trabajar conjuntamente con ellos y con otros pueblos, pues es nuestro deber histórico oponernos y resistir las políticas fascistas y neoliberales y frenar de una vez por todas la horrible maquinaria explotadora que se nutre del dolor, la sangre y la miseria de los hijos pobres de la tierra. Nuestros descendientes y los suyos tienen derecho a la paz, la prosperidad y la libertad.

Colectivo de Solidaridad con Colombia “La Chiva”, Canadá

October 16, 2008

The Minga continues. We neither are nor do we condone terrorists

Written by Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca
16 October 2008

The Minga of the People is growing. President Uribe has lied in such an evidently crass manner that even the mainstream media in his service, those dedicated to being his echo, have exposed it. He has repeatedly stated that the police bear only shields and batons, while the indigenous are armed "thugs".

The shamelessness is incredible. The president ordered a military assault against a peaceful protest in which the police and the army have left two dead and many more wounded by government bullets. It was not us who notified the media but irrefutable evidence showing state forces attacking us with bursts of gunfire.

The Minga continues. Our mobilizations will continue until the agenda of the peoples is heard and until a concrete mechanism is put in place to carry it forward. We have an agenda. We are not only demanding the fulfilment of the government's responsibilities; our demands go much further, and they are not solely the demands of indigenous peoples.

We will carry out more actions in Cauca and all across Colombia. These are mass-based, direct actions of indigenous peoples. We will defend ourselves with no arms other than our staffs of authority. We call on all social movements and peoples to mobilize, but to do it without arms, peacefully and towards the fulfilment of the objectives of the agenda. Those who use arms act expressly against the orientation and position of the process and the Minga, serving the regime the excuse it needs to attack. Such acts only help the enemies of the popular struggle against the model of development imposed by transnational capital.

We will continue to share audio with information on today's events to the entire country and photos of the brutal attack at La María, Piendamó. We will also send out the synthesis of our political proposal and the CONIC's offer to carry out a Verification and Accompaniment Mission. We will also include some of the many expressions of solidarity that we have received and that we still need.

Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca
16 October 2008

Declaration from the Minga of the People, La Maria-Piendamo, Cauca, Colombia

No More Terror and Avarice:
We propose a new path for the people for a new country.

October 16, 2008

Author: Minga of the People

What we are proposing today was already presented to the public in September 2004, when we organized the 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 injure more than sixty Indians, the majority with bullets. They assassinate at least two civilians, and mistreat 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 trying to kill us. According to him, we only have the right to let them kill us, to mistreat us with 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 infiltrated us, sent by the public security forces in an attempt to validate these lies of the President. 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. We come to you as a result of our struggle, and with the meaning of peoples and processes. 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. 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 on 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 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 these 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 Economic Model of global transnational capital and the Free Trade Agreements strategies 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, he 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. Demand the observance and strict abidance to the agreements and obligations that guarantee the rights and freedoms of all people such as the ILO agreement 169, the UN Declaration on Human Rights of Indigenous peoples and others.
  5. 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.

October 13, 2008

Dirty War of Terror Being Waged Against Indigenous Movement in Colombia

Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN
For Immediate Release: October 13th, 2008

Second Day of Indigenous Movement’s Popular Mobilization Begins After Two Indigenous Community Members Were Killed on Day One

More than 7,000 indigenous activists and representatives of other popular and social sectors of the department of Cauca and the southwest of Colombia continue to congregate in the “Territory of Peace and Coexistence” in La Maria Piendamó, in Cauca. With this gathering, the popular mobilization, or Minga, is now in its second day, commemorating 516 years of resistance, and consolidating the “Commotion of the Peoples” against the current regime of terror, permanently at the service of the greed of transnational capital. Simultaneously, there are various other
actions and rituals being carried out throughout the rest of the country by other sectors of the indigenous and popular movement in Colombia.

These actions of protest and resistance have been accompanied by yet another wave of violence directed against indigenous activists and civilians in the communities of northern Cauca. In the last 24 hours, two indigenous men have been assassinated by the forces of terror.

Come where they may these assassin’s bullets, this war is a war against the people. The results of these actions benefit those actors who want to displace us from our territories and dislodge our community process.

These calculated actions of cowardice and cruelty, by armed men with weapons directed at civilians and common people, are designed to silence us and place us in a war against our rights and our Life Plans.

Yesterday, on the first day of this Popular Mobilization, the people united in La Maria participated in inaugural acts of protocol to begin the Assembly, listening to the words of the indigenous authorities.

Today, on the second day of the Minga, the work agenda includes meetings and workshops with leaders and representatives of other sectors of the popular social movement, including peasant farmers, the sugar cane workers - now on strike for almost one-month, the Afro-Colombian
movement, and trade unionists.

The reaction of our enemies against our people and our struggle is not surprising. The language of terror and death lingers over this moment of mobilization and dignity. Yesterday we heard the moving words of Ligia Coicué, the companion of Nicolás Valencia Lemus, the Nasa activist
assassinated on Sunday morning. We also listened to his brother, the indigenous leader Silvio Valencia. And as we write this communiqué, still pained by the news of Lemus’ death, we confirm the assassination of another indigenous civilian, Celestino Rivera, 25, member of the
resguardo of Jambaló and resident of the village of Zumbico. His corpse was found on the road between Toribío and Jambaló, in the village of Quinamayó, in northern Cauca.

His cadaver contained at least two bullet wounds in the head. Eyewitnesses said they had heard at least four rifle shots at about 9:30pm on Saturday, October 11th, within the area.

Meanwhile, the Council of Chiefs of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, CRIC, received a call from the office of Cauca’s governor, informing them of intelligence reports that provide evidence that the FARC’s Teófilo Forero column intended to assassinate the indigenous leader and member of the CRIC’s council of Chiefs, Feliciano Valencia.

CRIC was able to record the voice of the governor, but up to this point we have not been able to confirm this report.

Since receiving a detailed email threat from a group that described itself as “Angry Peasants of Cauca,” CEC, on August 11, 2008, 5 indigenous people in Nariño, 3 in Riosucio Caldas, and now 3 in Cauca have been assassinated. The Governor of the indigenous cabildo of Canoas was saved only by the courageous act of a member of his community, who refused to provide details of his whereabouts to armed gunmen who were looking for him two weeks ago. Along with these murders, an Afro-Colombian leader in Tumaco, two peasant activists in Cauca, and Olga Luz Vergara, a woman’s rights leader from the organization Ruta Pacífica de las Mujeres in Medellín, have been assassinated since this threat was sent out.

Come from where they may, these assassins’ bullets represent a war against the people. Come from where it may, this plan of death benefits those who would have us silenced and displaced! They should leave now, those who bring war, those who use arms against the people, those who use death to feed their avarice. Leave us in peace!

We will continue to mobilize with dignity, in defense of our rights, in defense of life, against the tyranny of the regime, and their supporters.

For more information about how the mobilization is unfolding, visit: http://www.onic.org.co/

Or contact:
Tejido de Comunicación y Relaciones Externas para la Verdad y la Vida
Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca - ACIN
Telefax: (011) 57-28 - 290958 or (011) 57-28- 293-999
Email: acincauca@yahoo.es
Web: www.nasaacin.org
Santander de Quilichao Cauca -Colombia

Tejido de Comunicación y Relaciones Externas para la Verdad y la Vida
Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca - ACIN
Telefax: 0928 - 290958 - 293999
Email: acincauca@yahoo.es
Web: www.nasaacin.org
Santander de Quilichao Cauca -Colombia

Translated by Mario Murillo.

A call for solidarity with the social movements of Colombia in this 516th anniversary of the European invasion.

The Beehive Collective,
5 October 2008

Once again approaching the anniversary of the invasion initiated by Christopher Columbus which is continually mistaken in great offense as the discovery of the continent that today we call America, we bees, compañeras ants and other animals and plants of Abya Yala (South America) have concluded with buzzing from a continual minga of thought. Recognizing that…

in the 516 years of the European invasion, the ethnocide, territorial expulsion and plundering of the first peoples of the continent called America and the Caribbean continues,

in the 189 years that this country liberated itself from Spain, we lie to ourselves that we are free when we simply exchanged Iberian masters for Criollo masters,

in the 156 years that the "legal" slavery of the afro descendent populations ended the State continues to promote a racist oppression manifested in the socio-cultural, institutional and environmental,

in the last 44 years of the country's armed conflict which is also a political and economic conflict, the situation has been untruly contextualized that the groups referred to as guerrillas, such as the FARC, ELN and others in history, are the reason the conflict exists and not as the result of a society in conflict because of large differences of equality and equity that are profoundly unjust and oppressive. As part of this false contextualization, the paramilitary groups such as the AUC, Águilas Negras, Campesinos Embejucados, among others, have been founded, bred and spread by wide sectors of the State, few privileged families and national and transnational companies, protecting their personal economic interests against a peoples who demand the rights' to a life and territory with dignity,

in the 9 years of Plan Colombia communities and territories have been destroyed by means of militarization and aerial fumigations of glyphosphate, in its second phase it has costumed itself to appear to be a aid of social character though with true intention of infiltrating, debilitating and finishing off the popular and social movements of the country,

in the last weeks the strikes and resistance of the employees of the judicial branches, the sugarcane cutters in Valle and Cauca which have had more than 35 wounded by means of State repression, the truck drivers reconsidering resuming their strike because of the State's lack of maintaining their commitments from previous negotiations, and the assassinations by the National Army of two compañeros of the indigenous guard of the indigenous resguardo of Pastos in Cumbal, Nariño,

in the last days the assassination of the indigenous governor Raul Mendoza of the cabildo Peñon this past September 28th in Popayan, Cauca, as well as the assassinations of leaders like the youth Ever Gonzalez of the Committee of the Integration of the Colombian Macizo-CIMA and César Marin of the ANUC in Cauca, Nicholas Neira, Johnny Silva, and many more whose assassinations continue in a perpetual state of impunity, in addition the Andrés Palomino in the city of Cali continues to be kidnapped, imprisoned by the State since this past April 3rd when the ESMAD isolated the university autonomy of the Universidad of Valle.

Within this social and political habitat, the populist dictator Álvaro Uribe, the supreme focal point of the paramilitary politics (para política), continues to offer the country to the interests of transnational companies and the government of the United States of North America by means of his persistence of a un-consulted and widely rejected FTA. This facilitated by an array of policies such as the Rural Statute, Paramos Law, Plan of Waters, Mining Code, extensive reforestations of monocrops to be used as biofuels, the widening of the use of genetically modified crops varieties and agro chemicals that erode food sovereignty and the vitality of the territories biodiversity and the implementation of megaprojects, disguised as development, as part of the Plan Puebla Panamá (PPP) and the Iniciativa de Integración Regional Suramericana (IIRSA).

The evident is that as the State tightens the grip of its chokehold, the persistence of the right to freedom and self determination of the peoples strengthens. For these reasons amongst many others, we South American bees and other plants and animals, send this calling for that before, during and after the 12th of October, multiple and diverse acts of direct action be realized against the locations of the consulates and embassies of the Colombian State outside of the national territory, in solidarity with the continued and permanent acts of struggles and resistances of the indigenous peoples, afro descendents, peasants, popular urban sectors and students of the country that today encompasses us. We call the Colombian State be has strongly challenged internationally as the peoples from our regions are doing so within the national territory. That the wide, deep and strong unconformity of our peoples be felt in all spaces in which State is present.


Un llamamiento de solidaridad con los movimientos sociales de Colombia en la 516 aniversario de la invasión Europea.

Acercándonos nuevamente al aniversario de la invasión iniciado por Cristóbal Colon que se sigue equivocando ofensivamente como el descubrimiento del continente que hoy en día llamamos América, nosotras abejas, compañeras hormigas y otras animales y plantas de Abya Yala hemos concluido con unos zumbidos de una continua minga de pensamiento. Reconociendo que…

en los 516 años de la invasión Europea, el etnocidio, expulsión y saqueo territorial de los pueblos originarios de este continente llamado América y las isla Caribeñas continua ,

en los 189 años en que el país se liberó como colonia Española, nos mentimos de estar libres cuando simplemente cambiamos amos ibéricos por amos criollos,

en los 156 años que la esclavitud "legal" de la población afro descendiente se concluyó pero el Estado sigue promoviendo una opresión racista manifestado en lo socio-cultural, institucional y ambiental,

en los 44 años del conflicto armado que también es un conflicto político y económico del país, se ha descontextualizado los grupos que se llamados guerrilleros, como las FARC, ELN y otros de la historia, como la razón que existe el conflicto y no como el resultado de una sociedad en conflicto por unas grandes diferencias de igualdad y equidad severamente injustas y opresoras. Como parte de este descontextualización, los grupos paramilitares como las AUC, Águilas Negras, Campesinos Embejucados y otras, se han fundado, reproducido y difundido por amplias sectores del Estado, unas pocas familias privilegiadas y empresas nacionales y transnacionales para proteger sus intereses económicos personales de ante los pueblos que reclaman sus derechos a una vida y territorio digno,

en los últimos 9 años el Plan Colombia ha destrozados comunidades y territorios con la militarización y las fumigaciones aéreas de glifosato, disfrazándose en su fase dos para aparentar como una ayuda de carácter social pero con la verdadera intención de infiltrar, debilitar y acabar con los movimientos sociales y populares del país,

en los últimas semanas de los paros y resistencia de los empleados de la rama judicial, los corteros de caña de azúcar del Valle y Cauca con más de 35 heridos por represión estatal, los camioneros consideran resumir su paro por la falta que el Estado cumpla con los acuerdos de sus anteriores negociaciones y el asesinato por parte del ejército nacional de dos compañeros de la guardia indígena del resguardo indígena Pastos en Cumbal, Nariño,

en los últimos días han asesinado el gobernador indígena de Raul Mendoza del cabildo Peñon este pasado 28 de septiembre en Popayán, Cauca, igual los asesinatos de líderes como el joven Ever Gonzalez del Comité de Integración del Macizo Colombiano-CIMA y César Marin de la ANUC en el Cauca, Nicholas Neira, Johnny Silva, muchos y muchas otras que continúan en un estado de impunidad perpetua, a la vez el compañero Andrés Palomino en la ciudad de Cali sigue secuestrado, encarcelado por el Estado desde este pasado 3º de abril cuando el ESMAD violó la autonomía universitaria de UniValle .

En este hábitat social y político, el dictador populista Álvaro Uribe, el eje supremo de la para política, continua entregando el país a los intereses de las empresas multinacionales y el gobierno de los Estados Unidos de Norteamérica por medio de su persistencia de un TLC, no consultado y a la vez ampliamente rechazado, facilitado por políticas tan diversas como el Estatuto Rural, la Ley de Paramos, el Plan de Aguas, Código de Minas, reforestaciones extensos con monocultivos para agro combustibles, la ampliación del uso de semillas transgénicas y agroquímicos erosionando la soberanía alimentaria y vitalidad del biodiversidad del territorio y la implementación de mega proyectos, disfrazados de desarrollo, como parte del Plan Puebla Panamá (PPP) y la Iniciativa de Integración Regional Suramericana (IIRSA).

Lo evidente es que a la vez que se apreté, el ahorcar de los pueblos por parte del Estado, la persistencia al derecho a la libertad de autodeterminación de los pueblos se fortalece. Por estas razones entre muchas más, nosotras abejas suramericanas y otros plantas y animales, hacemos un llamamiento que antes durante y después el día 12 de octubre, se realizan múltiples y diversos actos de acción directa en contra las sedes de los consulados y embajadas del Estado Colombiano fuera del territorio nacional, en solidaridad con los actos continuas y permanentes de las luchas y resistencias de los pueblos indígenas, afro descendientes, campesinos, sectores populares urbanos y estudiantiles del país que hoy nos encasilla. Llamamos que el Estado Colombia sea enfrentado tan fuertemente en el exterior como los pueblos de nuestras regiones lo están haciendo desde el territorio nacional. Que se sienta el desacuerdo amplio, profundo y fuerte que sienten nuestros pueblos en todos los espacios donde haga presencia el Estado.

October 4, 2008

TRADE AGREEMENTS: Defending the Rights of Corporations at the Cost of the Rights of the People

By Héctor Mondragón
Presented in Chicago September 5, 2008

Greetings to all and my appreciation to those who are present here, to hear my reflections despite my inability to be there with you in person.

I’ve had to turn to the help of technological experts to be able to share with you as had been planned.

You know that I’ve come to speak about the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia. This is an important theme currently in our countries; it’s a topic of much debate.

You know that the unions of the United States, in particular the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, have said to Mr. Obama, Democratic candidate, that a central condition for their support of his candidacy will be that the Democratic Party not support the FTA with Colombia.

The unions of the United States have this perspective because they know the terrible reality that their companions in Colombia have been living over the last 20 years; that more than 2,600 trade union leaders have been assassinated during this time. And how the labor rights of the Colombian people have been systematically violated; and that effectively, in Colombia, labor rights are no longer applied in the large majority of economic sectors because unions have been weakened through assassinations and violence.

The reason for my inability to travel for this presentation is related to this terrible reality that Colombia is living; the historic reality of voices of resistance, voices in favor of the rights of the people, being silenced.

We have many years of history of violence in our country, sometimes turning to assassinations and massacres, like those against the union movement. Other times it takes the form of judicial and state repression in an attempt to criminalize social and political protest and the defense of rights of the people.

In my life I have been subject to all of these strategies of the powers that govern Colombia. I’ve been subject to torture that still scars my body and mind. I’ve needed to deal with years of death threats, needing to go into hiding time and again, not because I had violated any laws or state norms, but because of an illegal death apparatus that threatens and kills in Colombia, as has been the case of the union leaders, and that has obliged me, for the most part of my life, to be vigilant for a moment when they might come and kill me, these assassins, sustained by the governing powers in Colombia.

In this moment I’m needing to face this situation in which they are trying to judicially and politically attack me, and I have stayed in Colombia precisely because I don’t want to flee from this strategy to criminalize my activities; this strategy of defamation and slander that is being brought against me. I have decided to confront it with the truth.

It is for these reasons that I am not physically there with you. But I am here to tell you what I had to share with you on this tour.

And thank you to Rebecca who is accompanying me and who now is with you. I hope you will receive this message, which is mine but is also that of the people with whom I work—indigenous peoples, peasant organizations, the labor movement—people whom I have been accompanying for many years and whose weariness—and dreams—I have witnessed. As well as the misfortune of living in a country subject to the terror of violence of a never-ending armed conflict that is used systematically to strip the people of their rights.

In what framework—not just in Colombia but internationally—are these free trade agreements being negotiated? I think that in this moment in the world we are at a crossroads because, on the one hand, we’ve come far—since the French Revolution—in the struggle for human rights. As a result of the strength of the struggle and the mobilization of peoples, these rights—since the moment of the Declaration of the Rights of Man of the French Revolution—have been winning their place in the world. After the defeat of Nazism after the Second World War, the United Nations approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and after that the Declaration of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This recognized what many refer to as second-generation human rights, which are, effectively, collective rights. These are an integral part of this generation of rights that humanity has been achieving.

It is within this framework that we find the rights of children, environmental rights, which are not only collective rights of human beings but also of animals, plant life—of all living things. The rights of indigenous peoples, which are also part of this generation of social, economic and cultural rights. There have been significant advances in this area.

The Colombian Constitution also recognizes these rights as constitutional. The international agreements and conventions on human rights are guarantees of individual as well as collective rights. The latest was the declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that the General Assembly of the United Nations approved on September 13 of last year, 2007—unfortunately with opposing votes from the United States and Canada and abstention by Colombia, which was the only country in all of Latin America that did not vote in favor of this declaration, which, although it does not have co-active force, is a guide for the rights of indigenous peoples.

This process of winning rights, however, is being put into question by another judicial process which is trying to establish a new global constitution, including another set of norms which have as an objective to define new norms which will protect the interests of what we call investors—in other words, the interests of transnational corporations. It is within this framework that the Free Trade Agreements appear.

Initially, the 29 countries named the “most developed” in the world wanted to arrive at a global investment agreement. But it was precisely the resistance of people from Europe, from Japan, from Canada, and the United States that impeded the establishment of this global agreement and made the agreement fail, in 1998. These people—you yourselves—were aware of how this agreement would affect fundamental guarantees of collective and individual rights. Of how this type of agreement would favor rights of transnational corporations and investors which would be in contradiction to the construction of individual and collective rights.

However, they have tried to implement this global trade agreement by other means. Sometimes by the World Trade Organization, which also has not been able to consolidate this global framework, although it has taken steps to establish some norms that have created and perpetuated hunger. But fundamentally the Free Trade Agreements have been the path to establishing this normative framework.

What is the message that I am wanting to bring to you? That the Free Trade Agreements are not simply about trade. Trade is one of the themes that are dealt with in the FTAs. Only one. For example, in the Colombia-U.S. FTA, there are 5 chapters on trade but 15 others dealing with 13 other themes—and these themes are precisely the rights of transnational corporations.

So, then, what do we say?

The FTA does not only jeopardize the people of Colombia, it jeopardizes both peoples, Colombians and citizens of the United States alike. Your rights are also going to be affected, because the rights of the investors are placed above the rights of the citizenry.

I’m not proposing a world without investors. I’m saying that the people must come first, that human beings must come first, that communities must come first—their rights must come before the rights of investment.

What, then are these rights of the investors that are being guaranteed by the FTAs?

First are the extraterritorial provisions, in other words, the rights of the transnational corporation to not respect national domestic legislation, rather be able to refer conflicts to private international tribunals that do not judge according to domestic law but according to the rules and norms of international trade agreements—in other words, according to their own rules of engagement.

This is very serious.

For example, for the indigenous peoples of Colombia, this means that an entire process of construction of rights for them, that the Colombian constitution recognizes, will not be recognized under the FTA.

In fact, this is true for all Colombians and their constitutional rights, but this will be the same for you.

The second right that the transnational corporations are seeking to guarantee is what they call “judicial stability.” This serves to guarantee the rights of investors to sue governments for changing laws that might impede the transnational corporation from making as much money had the laws not been changed.

This is extremely serious. This means freezing legislation. It is an attack on democracy. Basic democratic rights of all peoples include the freedom to change governments and modify laws to best serve the interests of the common good, which is part of the right also to elect them. If the people realize they made a mistake in voting in a certain political party, they have the right to modify their vote, hold a referendum, and vote for a different party. This is the essence of democracy; but the FTA, by establishing “judicial stability” and indemnity for virtual expropriation, is proposing that in the interests of the transnational corporation the laws cannot be modified.

At first glance this is much more serious for Colombia, because many more companies from the United States will invest in Colombia than Colombian companies investing in the United States. But there could be Colombian companies that perfectly enjoy these same conditions, with the only intention of investing in the United States and enjoying the same invulnerability, or impunity, vis-à-vis U.S. domestic law.

The third right that the transnational corporations are seeking is so-called intellectual property rights, according to their perspective. Why do I say “their perspective”?

For example, the indigenous from Mexico began to grow corn 7,000 years ago. In that time, corn was like a thick stick, heavier than other grains. The work of indigenous cultivators over thousands of years, and more recently by peasant farmers, has brought us the corn on the cob we know today and allows us to enjoy the great diversity of corn that exists. Obviously, the transnational corporations do not recognize the immense intellectual property that exists in all the biodiversity just found in the variations in corn. If the transnational corporations obtain rights to corn, they will patent it, and at this point in Colombia a law has already been passed—Law 1033 of 2006—that penalizes peasant farmers for using a patented seed without permissions with 4-8 years in prison—which is coincidentally, the same prison term assigned to a paramilitary who confesses to crimes against humanity and massacres of hundreds of people under the Peace and Justice Law.

So we have a regime of laws that favor the transnational corporation and allow them to gain control of agriculture and other means of production. The FTA seeks to allow for the patenting of living things—not only to patent products developed laboratories through scientific experiment, but to patent living creatures, which is much more serious, and which was prohibited by the Andean Community.

Through pressure to approve these FTAs, the Andean Community approved a revocation—for uncertain reasons, and I say uncertain because it was passed by three votes: from Colombia, Peru and the outgoing government of Ecuador (the current administration does not agree). Bolivia was not allowed to vote because supposedly they were behind on their debt payments, which in turn caused Venezuela to pull out of the Andean Community, jeopardizing an internal process of economic integration between neighbors, as Colombia and Venezuela are, that should be strengthening their economic and commercial relations. And it wasn’t because of the political questions being debated currently, but rather because of a very concrete issue—that being the patenting of life.

So it is these that are the rights of the transnational corporations.

The corporations want everything to be for sale, everything to be commodified. That water be commodified. That the corporation have, by definition, a right to privatize public utilities and services like electricity and water—water, which should be a right for all human beings, and as I have said before, of all animals and plants and all living things. Today it is at risk of being converted into simply a business.

These are the rights of the transnational corporations, which when put together bring us mechanisms that undermine collective and individual rights.

To see how these mechanisms actually operate through the FTAs, let us remember that Colombia has signed the FTA with the United States twice: the first time in November 2005, and the second time in June 2007. Why then has the treaty not been ratified?

Because from the United States there was significant pressure, from the unions and from human rights organizations, not only regarding the FTA with Colombia but also regarding other FTAs being negotiated at that time with Peru and South Korea. These democratic organizations of the United States demanded at the very least three major changes in the agreements:

First, to limit intellectual property rights for the pharmaceutical industry, with the objective of establishing minimum protection of the right to health.

Second, to limit the rights of the transnational corporations by establishing minimum protections for environmental rights.

Third, to obligate fulfillment of the International Labour Organization conventions by the signers of the agreement, in order to protect labor rights.

This was not just in the case of Colombia but for Peru and South Korea as well. In regard to Colombia, these organizations asked for something more, realizing that only putting these provisions in the text of the agreement was not enough: actual adherence to these three conditions was required so that union leaders would no longer be assassinated in this country. So these three conditions, or changes, were introduced so that the United States Congress would approve the FTA with Peru and South Korea, but they would not suffice for the agreement with Colombia: human rights organizations and unions demanded that there be an end to the assassination of union leaders for that agreement to be signed.

The changes in themselves are positive. But as we have seen, these changes still fail to guarantee the respect of fundamental individual and collective rights that are violated by other norms included in the FTA. For a free trade agreement to be just, it would be necessary that such provisions as “judicial stability,” extraterritorial provisions, and intellectual property rights favoring corporations not be included in the agreements that supposedly are trade agreements. It would be necessary that these agreements not be agreements concerning the rights of transnational corporations.

And in Colombia, it is necessary that the grave situation that our country is living come to an end. Because in Colombia, the systematic assassination of union leaders hasn’t been the only problem; it is just one manifestation of an intense violence whose protagonists have been illegal armed groups, like the paramilitary and the guerrilla, as well as the state’s own armed forces.

This violence has not begun recently but has been present for many years now; a violence which has as a primary objective to rob the peasants, Afro-Colombians, and indigenous of their land. It is a violence that expresses intolerance of political opposition as well as social protest. It began in the 19th century with numerous civil wars, products of this social and political intolerance, and resulted again and again, in the dispossession of lands and the concentration of land in the hands of a few. If we think back to the time between 1946 and 1958, 2 million people were displaced, 200,000 assassinated, and the displaced lost 350,000 farms in an undeclared war between the Conservative and Liberal parties.

Today, over the last 20 years, more than 4 million people have been displaced. This has created an extreme level of concentration of land in which some 15,000 people are owners of 67% of arable land in a country with a population of 45 million. And within that group, there is a minority of 1500 people who own more than half of the land in the country.

This has been the result of the violence.

You can investigate every case to see who orchestrated the massacres, who used mechanisms of terror, to see if it was illegal armed groups—the paramilitary or guerrilla—or if it was the military. But we will always find the same result: the dispossession of the peasants, massacres, and displacement.

We will also find the elimination of political opposition, the elimination of grassroots leaders, the destruction of the social fabric. This is evidence that processes that are happening in other countries in Latin America are not occurring here in Colombia. In Ecuador, in Bolivia, in Brazil, in Argentina, in Mexico, we find a widespread resistance movement that is countering the measures of transnational corporations and acting in defense of collective and individual rights of the people over and against the rights of the investors. It explains, for example, why in the last referendum in Bolivia, two-thirds of the voters supported President Evo Morales. These are strong social movements that know what they want to achieve and where they want to go. But in our country, things are not this way. The policies of “free trade” are imposed through blood and bullets, over the debilitation of social movements through the elimination of their leaders and the massacre of their peoples.

This is what we have in Colombia.

This is what has caused the assassination of so many social movement leaders…how many of my friends…? If I tell you that 5,000 of my friends have been assassinated, I may not be counting them all.

These things cause in us, in the social movements, to be constantly living with threats against our lives from legal and illegal actors.

This is the way in which this policy has been imposed, these free trade agreements, and it is why we turn to you, who have a democratic regime in your country, and why it is no surprise that this agreement has not been approved in the United States while it has been approved in Colombia, because our social and political fabric has been destroyed while you in the United States can still organize to block an agreement that violates the rights of the people.

This, however, does not mean that in Colombia there isn’t still massive resistance. In 2004 the indigenous in the Department of Cauca achieved a large march to the city of Cali, and later they conducted community consultations in 6 communities on the free trade agreement, which produced an encouraging result because 85% of the population voted and 80% voted against the FTA. The Catholic Church and other organizations have organized similar consultations, resulting in similar outcomes, and there have been mobilizations, like that of May 2006, which was harshly repressed with, among other things, helicopters bequeathed through Plan Colombia.

But the reality is that the existence of this war serves as a pretext for this regime to continue threatening us, repressing us, and silencing the social movements in Colombia.

For these reasons it is urgent for this terror to cease, by all the perpetrators of the violence. Of the political and economic powers behind the violence—what is being uncovered through the “para-politics” scandal: the groups that have financed paramilitaries. Of the guerrilla forces that commit terrorist acts, which serve as a pretext for the regime to destroy social protest but also cause immense damage to the people. And of the state armed forces that collaborate with the paramilitary, that repress unashamedly, and that have also been perpetrators of serious violations against the population.

For us, the struggle of civil resistance to which we have been dedicated to all these years sometimes causes us to almost lose hope. But the Colombian people have something very important, the social movement here in Colombia has something very important, which is faith.

Faith, which is the experience of what we can hope for because we have known small victories through our struggles.

And with these small victories, like when the indigenous won the constitutional recognition of their rights in 1991, we see as though a ray of lightning lights the night, we see how the future will be, and we maintain our faith.

And this is why we continue the struggle. And in this struggle we are ready and willing to give our lives.

We are in a historical moment that might be compared with what the United States went through in 1860. At that time there was an economist—an economist whom today the neoliberal economists dismiss—who was very important for you, for the United States: Henry Charles Carey. Carey understood that the future of the United States depended on two things: that free trade not be permitted and that slavery be abolished. And he clearly understood the relation between those two things. Carey projected that if the United States allowed for free importation from England, which at that time had much more advanced technology than the United States, the effect would be the ruin of the U.S. economy, the ruin of U.S. small businesses, and the impossibility for the U.S. to become a prosperous country.

For these reasons, he maintained that it was necessary to protect production in the United States, so that the U.S. would prosper. Today he’s viewed as a protectionist, and frowned upon, but what is certain is that you triumphed because Carey’s policy included another essential element, which was the abolition of slavery.

Carey said that if free markets were allowed, the United States would simply become an exporter of cotton and a net importer of industrial goods. And to become an exporter of cotton, it would have to become a country of slavery, because as you know, cotton came from the large cotton plantations where the slaves were. And the United States would have remained what today we call underdeveloped or backward—a colonial country dominated by England. Carey had nothing against England, he only wanted his country to prosper.

A person whom perhaps you are more familiar with, Abraham Lincoln, named him as his chief economic advisor, and you all know the rest of the story. These positions prevailed, slavery was abolished, the United States protected its industry, and for these reasons the United States is today a powerful nation.

What would we like at this moment?

We would wish, just as Carey wanted, that our country not become a country of slaves; we want a country that doesn’t continue being underdeveloped; we want a country where people can live with dignity. This is also our objective when we say we don’t want a free trade agreement.

We don’t want to be another United States of America. This does not interest us. Forget it. I think the experience of being a superpower is not a good one.

But what is good is to be a prosperous country, and this the U.S. has done well.

So now we think that if you fight the ratification of these free trade agreements, in particular the FTA with Colombia, you will be supporting our right to dignity and prosperity.

But, as I’ve said before, in doing this you are not just defending the rights of Colombians; you will be defending your own rights.

Mr. Samuel Huntington, of whom you all know, came up with the idea that the internal enemy of the United States is the Latino community; the reason, according to him, is that Latinos, because of their indigenous ancestry, believe in collective rights and for this reason are threatening to the central thesis of the free trade agreements, which is that collective rights must be eliminated.

I call on you—and this is the central theme of the tour I was going to make and what I want to transmit to you through this medium: Defend collective rights. Because they are your rights—environmental rights, rights to health, rights to shelter and housing—don’t let them take these rights, as is already happening to 2 million U.S. citizens and may happen to 6 million more. These collective rights—your collective rights—depend on our unity in the struggle against the free trade agreements. It is the same struggle, we have the same cause, the defense of our collective rights as peoples, our rights as humanity, against the rights of investment. This struggle for our collective rights is the same cause. There is one difference: we [in Colombia] are giving our lives in this struggle. But be sure that we will continue, and we trust that you and we, together, will triumph.

Thank you.