Wednesday, October 16, 2013

40,000 Indigenous Peoples March in Colombia

October 15, 2013
Why are the Indigenous Colombians Marching?

40,000 Indigenous People march to require President Santos to keep promises, call attention to historical grievances.

In Colombia there are 102 distinct Indigenous Peoples, of these 35, according to the Constitutional Court, are at risk of both physical and cultural extinction .  Various factors ranging from armed conflict, to the historical processes of discrimination have created this situation.  So about 40,000 indigenous march with a clear goal: in search for better living conditions.

"Over 70% of the agreements made with the government in three years of negotiations have not been met," explains Luis Fernando Arias, senior advisor of the ONIC (National Indigenous Organization of Colombia) to, about a situation she described as a "historic violation" of the rights of the indigenous communities. 

What are indigenous Colombians seeking? 

There are five key points in the list of demands on the government's failure to major problems of communities, gathered under the Minga (mobilization ) of Indigenous and Popular Social Movement.

These are human rights violations in the context of armed conflict, respect for indigenous territories, obtaining political and administrative autonomy, review of mining policies and the impact of the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement and agricultural policies.

On the subject of peace and armed conflict, the denunciation by ONIC of armed groups, legal and illegal are widespread against indigenous peoples.  In its report on Human Rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law, examples are documented of 78 murders and 10,515 forcible displacements in 2012.

According to the UNHCR, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, 70,000 of those displaced by the armed conflict are indigenous and between 2004 and 2008, there were 48,318 displacements.

As for the territories, the issue is to realize a guarantee of protection of the indigenous reserves.  A general census conducted by DANE in 2005 recorded 710 indigenous reserves.  At this point, the marchers report a "breach of national rules on establishment, expansion and improvement of the reserves."  The ONIC recognizes 600 detained processes of establishment of reserves and another 800 requests for the purchase of land, equivalent to 800,000 hectares.
In addition the organization is denouncing the policies in terms of agrarian issues, mining concessions in the implementation of Free Trade Agreements​​, as Arias defined as "an interest that favors transnational companies over ancestral cultures.

The Embera Katío are an example of this situation.  The community is located on the river Andágueda, in Chocó, has struggled for 35 years to preserve Dadeiba, their reserve. According to a report by the Land Restitution Unit 30 individual mining rights were granted in this area until last October.

In April this year, a land restitution court ordered the suspension of these concessions and the restoration to the Embera of their land.

This mobilization is preceded by a process of protests cutting across distinct popular sectors, and is added to the voices of discontent that are becoming each time more noticeable.  "Only we are concerned that there is repression (...) we have concluded that the only way to become visible is through mass mobilization," said Arias.

The Regional Indigenous Council of Huila (Crihu) claimed in a statement that at least 1,000 people were detained "without justification" by the police as they prepared to endorse the rally convened by the ONIC.

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