For Immediate Release
Manuel Rozental (011) 57-311-339-7341
Indigenous Communities in Colombia Mobilize to Protest US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, Plan Colombia and the Policies of the
October 12-13th, Mass Protests are Planned Throughout the Country
WASHINGTON - 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.
On the anniversary of the Indigenous and Popular Mandate we call for the people to mobilize for liberty and against the tyranny of the regime.
Background on the Mandate of Resistance
A little more than four years ago, on September 18th 2004, we proclaimed in the San Francisco Plaza, in the center of the city of Cali, the Popular and Indigenous Mandate, the result of the first Itinerant Congress of the People for Life, Happiness, Justice, Liberty and Autonomy. Now, on the eve of October 12, 2008, we commemorate this anniversary with a mobilization to renovate and reiterate the Mandate, to assume this "conversation among the people" in order for communities, be there where they may, to take up and embrace our position.
The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC, announced that on October 12th, we would mobilize our people. We join forces with the peasant and popular movement, and will hold an Indigenous and Popular Congress, where we will restate the popular mandate of September 2004, because today, the same motives guide us and are valid, the pain we've been through is bitter, dignity calls us, and justice awaits.
The Main Points of the March
1. We do not accept Free Trade Agreements like the ones negotiated behind closed doors with the United States, Canada, the European Union, the European Association of Free Trade, or any other deal that looks to displace us of our rights, our culture, our knowledge and our territory. We want treaties between peoples, for the people, not treaties of the patrons against the people and against Mother Earth
2. We denounce, resist and demand an end 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. There are many laws and statues implemented or in the process of being implemented, including the Rural Statute, the Mining Code, the Water Law and the Forestry Law.
3. No more terror through Plan Colombia, the so-called "Democratic Security," or the Para-Politics of Alvaro Uribe's government. This military strategy has invaded all of our territories and plants the seeds of death and displacement with the false claim of recuperating the "social order." We're drawing attention to the military machinations of the U.S. Southern Command, which has established coordinating centers within Colombia to carry out actions in strategic areas deemed important for multinational economic interests and the exploitation of natural resources therein. This is being carried out with the total cooperation of a government that has been accused of maintaining strong ties to illegal paramilitary groups.
4. We demand that the government complies with a series of agreements, accords and conventions with the indigenous communities that up to now they have ignored systematically. This includes agreements related to the 1991 Nilo Massacre of 20 Nasa Indians, where government forces were implicated in the attack. The government subsequently, agreed to return up to 15,000 hectares of land back to the indigenous communities affected by this massacre. We also call for the government to accept the principles of the UN Declaration of the World's Indigenous Peoples, and that it be respected as law in Colombia. But we demand this not only as indigenous communities, but also in alliance with peasants and trade unions, we demand a respect for the Agrarian Mandate, the right to unionize, the respect of public services, the rights of women, and a defense of the fundamental rights of all Colombians. We declare "All just causes are our cause."
5. The Construction of a People's Agenda: From a country of owners without people we want to build a country of people without owners. We march forward with our own pain, of 516 years of persecution and struggle without end, and we are committed to share and feel the pain of other peoples and processes. We call on a National Congress of the People, to propose the country that WE want, in the face of an illegitimate government serving the interests of multinational and domestic private interests.
With these demands, we call on national and international public opinion to express solidarity with the indigenous, peasant, afro-Colombian and working people of Colombia. October 12th marks the date over 500 years ago when European Colonialism clenched its predator claws on this hemisphere. Those claws have maintained a grip on our peoples ever since.
Today we mobilize, as millions of others mobilize throughout the Americas, demanding dignity, justice, liberty and a respect for life.