Cauca: We will only accept respect for our Indigenous Guard

By: Tejido de Comunicación – ACIN
Saturday, July 14, 2012 18:31

The coordinated actions of our communities have demonstrated to the world that the strength and clarity of our collective efforts can have an impact. As in other occasions, the mainstream media has covered these events without understanding what they actually mean. But we live in a complicated context, one in which there is always someone trying to take advantage. 

With the dismantlement of army installations and guerrilla encampments, our position is clear to the world: there is strength and unity among the communities in northern Cauca, and here the only legitimate actors in confronting war and occupation are the indigenous communities in resistance.

At the same time, however, the legitimate acts of autonomy carried out by the communities have brought about other kinds of reactions that threaten that autonomy and distort our actions.

We’re talking about a situation in which, on the one hand, the war transforms an exemplary people into victims, while on the other, our resistance is seen as an opportunity to serve the interests of those who claim to speak for us, similarly denying us our autonomy.

One group brings us terror and war and promises projects aimed at expelling us, while the other uses our resistance as a pretext for more weapons to serve the interests of their corporate beneficiaries. They all take from us. They all occupy our lands. Not one of them respects us.

As communities, we have the right to name and walk our own word. We demand that this be respected. For example, we’ve heard that the government wants to “evaluate” the legality of the institutional authority of the Indigenous Guard. In response to [Colombian President Juan Manuel] Santos, we would inform him that the Indigenous Guard is the only legitimate entity for the peaceful defence of our territory.

Who is the government to “evaluate” the Indigenous Guard? Who legitimizes actions to defend the people? Only the people themselves!

Media outlets are now speculating, saying that the community of Toribío has asked the government “to legitimize the Indigenous Guard in that community as a mechanism for its own protection against the recent hostilities of the FARC.” This is not the case. The Indigenous Guard has always been legitimate; its existence and actions depend on community support and an orientation rooted in the defence of life.

There are two very different things that must not be confused: the communities’ autonomous expulsion of the of the armed actors, supported by the Indigenous Guard, is not the same as to ask the government to recognize or approve of an entity it has no business recognizing or approving. 

We are not asking the government to legalize or recognize the Indigenous Guard: we are demanding that it be respected and, with that, the withdrawal of the public forces, an entity that has only given us war and abuse. The government must comply with its constitutional obligations and support our efforts to recuperate control over our territories as our ancestral right. 

Imagine if all the resources the government is misspending to maintain the armed forces (which only bring us devastation and death) were distributed in such a way as to strengthen the autonomy of local communities and control over their territories, or even the further implementation of our Life Plans.

Imagine if even a fraction of those resources were used that way, directed away from causing pain and misery. It would certainly be enough to consolidate the Indigenous Guard as the autonomous expression of community authority over our territories.

But this would require a condition for which we have been struggling for more than 500 years: respect for our self-determination.

On the one hand, the state, according to every international obligation, point 4 of the Minga of Social and Community Resistance and the very principle of self-determination, has the obligation to offer all the necessary resources to support autonomous community processes.

On the other hand, no institution can usurp the right of communities to resist and to represent themselves in the defense of their Life Plans. Representatives and authorities, who ought to lead by obeying, should only demand institutional support in accordance with the mandate they are given by the communities.

When institutions, in the name of defending us, submit us to their projects and their interests, they similarly violate our autonomy and undermine our struggle. It is not just the state that must respect us and recognize how we orient ourselves; so too must NGOs and other institutional supporters. If they can’t do that, they have to go, too.

Let us make clear, for once and for all, what our communities want:

  1. That the armed groups leave, no matter where they come from;
  2. That our Life Plans and Indigenous Guard be respected;
  3. That the resources in our territories cease to be managed by the few for a private war that gives what is ours to transnational corporations, and that, instead, these resources be held in common, so as to strengthen our Life Plans and our Indigenous Guard; and
  4. That we reject those who take advantage of our suffering and try to speak on behalf of our resistance. Those who claim to support us must understand and walk with us, in line with us, as people possessing ancestral knowledge of our territory. If that is too much to ask, it would be clear to us that our struggle is being taken advantage of. If that is the case, they must leave.

Some bring war and others try to tell us how to resist. Both deny us as people. We realize that, given the complexity of the situation that permeates our territory, many may want to take advantage. But it would be pointless for us to stand up to some only to bend to others. We will continue our resistance, no matter who the aggressors are!

Tejido de Comunicación - ACIN
Tejidocomunicacion [at] gmail [dot] com

Translated by Pueblos en Camino ( for English, en español). Original Spanish version available here: