Some key pieces on Cauca struggles

We have been sending a great deal over our list but not posting it here - apologies.

Please see Mario Murillo's reports on the situation in Cauca.

See also this key statement of demands, which was accompanied by the text below:

An Historic Day for Indigenous Peoples

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

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

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

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

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

As well, there are notes on the sugar cane workers' struggle in Cauca. See their blog (spanish).

Last, we sent the letter below to Canada's PM

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

Also a piece by me on killingtrain: To cut down a rebellion.