Colombia: Why do the indigenous people of Cauca protest?

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For more than 10 days, the protest of the indigenous people of Cauca, in Colombia, has generated a social and humanitarian crisis that apparently will not be resolved soon

Colombia: Why do the indigenous people of Cauca protest?

The Pan-American Highway, the main corridor of the southwest of Colombia, is again the epicenter of a protest that has materialized with a blockade involving thousands of indigenous people belonging to the Regional Council of the Indigenous of Cauca (CRIC), who are joined by representatives of rural and Afro-descendants communities. All of them are grouped in the so-called social Minga for the defense of life, territory, democracy, justice and peace.

Leer en español: Colombia: ¿por qué protestan los indígenas del Cauca?

The protest began on March 10, initially with a call to President Ivan Duque to go to this region and engage in a dialogue with the representatives of the Minga. This in order to address fundamental issues that are opposed to many current government policies such as:

  • Respect for the self-determination of peoples and sister nations
  • Guarantees for prior and popular consultations, as tools to protect their territories from extractive projects
  • Care, protection, and defense of Mother Earth and their territories
  • Respect for and guarantee of political, civil, social, economic, cultural and collective rights, as well as the environment
  • Their project of collective life for the good living of the people
  • Defense and guarantee for life, Human Rights and peace
  • The systematic murder of leaders and social leaders
  • The strengthening of the indigenous, rural workers and afro-descendants autonomy and own government

You can also read: Iván Duque and the polemic decisions against JEP

The point of contention

The call of the indigenous, Afro-descendant and rural communities of the departments of Cauca, Huila, Caldas, and Valle del Cauca, with more than 13,000 people who are part of the Minga, has been made from the moment Duque received Colombia's presidency. " In the face of the economic, political, social and humanitarian crisis, and failure to comply with agreements with communities and peoples in the territories and/or little progress with ministers, deputy ministers and directors of administrative entities," the CRIC said in a statement.

The foregoing, according to the protesters, has been aggravated by "the lack of respect and guarantee of our human rights, which is exacerbated by a regressive legislative agenda and policies regarding peace, which, under the discourse of defense and security as elements of equity, seek to deepen the economic model. And before the deepening of the repression to the political opposition, the dispossession and looting of our natural resources".

In that sense, the Minga proposed a meeting with its organizational processes to President Duque, on March 12, in the village of El Pital, in the municipality of Caldono (Cauca), where it remains concentrated. That meeting was never held, due to the fact that so far Duque has not personally visited this region, but has insisted on sending other officials, such as the Minister of the Interior, Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez and the High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Cevallos.

Despite the Minga's requirement and the failure of the dialogues with his envoys, Duque persists in not going personally and personally have a dialogue with them, arguing, among other reasons, that he will not go until the "de facto ways" cease, that, according to him, the Minga has taken. This makes clear reference to the acts of violence that have left several police and military officers wounded, and a dead policeman, alluding to a supposed infiltration of FARC dissidence in the protest.


However, this has only made the situation worse, because the Minga has also denounced aggressions and repression by the Colombian police and army. That has made their demands take more force.


The government response

Both President Duque and Minister Gutiérrez have argued that the claims of the Minga have been taken into account and included in the document of the National Development Plan (NDP), for which a budget of $ 10 billion pesos has been provided. In theory, this was done in order to meet the needs of indigenous communities, after a pact made during the prior consultations for the formulation of the NDP.

However, the newspaper El Espectador records that indigenous leaders and rural communities continue to demand president Duque's presence, to make a political dialogue on the assassination of social leaders in that region, on the Peace Agreement and on the road map of what the implementation of the investments of that $ 10 billion pesos for indigenous peoples will be.

Aída Quilcué, human rights counselor of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), told El Espectador that the Minga will not be lifted until the government explains what happened to the agenda of issues agreed last week with minister Nancy Patricia Gutiérrez and the commissioner Miguel Ceballos, in order to specify the arrival of Duque in the north of Cauca.

Likewise, she stated that the NDP chapter destined for them has no budget allocation and, as has happened in the past, "the government will renege if it is not stated that it is a chapter, not an annex, within the NDP". Quilcué also said that an additional $3 billion pesos are required because that was the result of a study carried out last week, in which the interior minister and the peace commissioner participated, which would be invested for the implementation of health systems, education and land purchase, among other items.

Other repercussions

In the midst of the protests, repercussions on the economy of the region and for the unions have been significant, as there is a shortage of food and fuel, which has been felt most strongly in the departments where the Minga is concentrated.

In fact, the National Federation of Merchants of Colombia (Fenalco) speaks of losses close to $2,000 million pesos daily and that for other unions, such as the transport one, has meant to stop billing around $190 million pesos.


LatinAmerican Post | Samuel Augusto Gallego Suárez

Translated from "Colombia: ¿por qué protestan los indígenas del Cauca?

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