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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Letter from Cuvarado to Reconciliation Commission

Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)

September 6, 2009
Humanitarian Zone of Caracoli
Mr. Eduardo Pizarro León Gómez
Director, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission
We have learned that the Reparation and Reconciliation Commission intends to develop the work of the Commission on Historical Memory with our communities and in our territory. To do this you have been sending letters and establishing relations with members of the superior council of the Río Curvaradó watershed. It has been said that you are hoping that we will participate in the search for truth, justice and reparation, as well as administrative reparation, strengthening of our organizations and recognition of the victims “if there are any.”
We know that mister Camilo Villamizar will be in Río Sucio between the 15th and 17th of September; one of those days he will go to Carmen del Darién to meet with the authorities of the area.
Through this open letter, we wish to make our position known with respect to the Reparation and Reconciliation Commission, which you head, in relation to our communities of the Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó watersheds, which form part of the Humanitarian Zones and Biodiversity Zones.
  1. No one has been authorized by us in the Curvaradó watershed to establish contact or reach agreements with the National Reparation and Reconciliation Commission.

  1. The Reparation and Reconciliation Commission does not recognize the decision we made as part of the Movement of Victims of State Crimes to not be part of the mechanisms created under Law 975, in which there is no recognition of the creation of the paramilitary forces as part pf the strategy of the State. In the midst of the armed conflict, we have been victims of the paramilitaries; we have suffered 15 displacements, more than 140 murders, documented forced displacements, sacking, environmental destruction, loss of land and fraudulent mechanisms to avoid returning the land; the XV and XVII Brigades are there, and they have had support from the levels of highly placed generals.

  1. Mister Eduardo Pizarro León Gómez, on different occasions we have said that the reason for not returning the land is to divide the communities, in a previous communiqué en which we denounced this and gave the lie to it.

You have not served truth, and have hidden from the eyes of humanity that what has been created here is a model of agrarian counter-reform, a model for the destruction of our identity and of human life, and that military officers, business people and high-level commanders and politicians are behind this.
  1. The Reparation and Reconciliation Commission refuses to see that we come to it seeking real truth , justice and reparation within an international system before the injustice of the Colombian justice system that has not responded to the demand for justice.

  1. The government of which you are a part has wanted not to recognize our right to seek mechanisms of protection such as the Humanitarian Zones and Biodiversity Zones, accuses us of being guerrillas, all in order to develop infrastructure projects and agro-businesses that assault our biodiversity and our nutrition, our education, our health.

  1. Through its intervention, the government forgets that the people responsible for the crimes, and the beneficiaries of the crimes continue operating here; they threaten us, they kill us, the pressure us. How can the truth be constructed under these conditions? We have read things written by members of the Historical memory Commission and we do not understand, we do not comprehend how it can be, knowing their qualities, serving in that role, that they do not want, nor do they believe, to crate a false reality about our country, since although they are not part of the government, their actions give legitimacy to the government.

  1. As part of the Movement of Victim of State Crimes, we have opposed mechanisms like extradition, like the Law of Victims because it does not recognize the truth and the history we have lived through. As part of the Movement, we have gone to the Ethics Commission; there for a year and a half, we have demonstrated the mechanisms of impunity, we have provided proofs and testimonies, they have come to out territory to corroborate what we say, our memory is deposited there until conditions exist for life, for free expression, and this truth will be delivered to a Truth Commission. We feel obliged to reiterate once again our opposition to participating en spaces called for by the Reparation and Reconciliation Commission.

We demand respect for our decision, that there be a true return of our territory in the least possible time.
We are victims of human rights violations, of the illegal appropriation of our territory and of the failure by the government to return it. We are victims of impunity, which allow the threats against our lives and the lives of those who accompany us, and the use of the land and our territory by the business people who are the beneficiaries of paramilitarism.
We sk you, Mister Pizarro, to share this letter with the members of the historical Commission, and we invite them to join the efforts of the victims, to join the Movement of Victims of State Crimes, that they recognize the Ethics Commission and thence provide the truth that Colombia needs to have democracy. This includes decisions about life, including resigning, coming here, to see what we are living through here, what we are, what we have been and what we dream, because the truth is here, with proofs and witnesses.
The Association of Humanitarian Zones and Biodiversity Zones of Jiguamiandó and Curvaradó

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

UWA resistance against oil and megaprojects

 ( Translated by Silvaine Zimmermann, a CSN volunteer translator)


Actualidad Etnica - 09 Oct/2009 

The U'wa Indigenous community (which has opposed the exploitation of natural resources within their sacred and ancestral territorry since 1995) has announced that simultaneously with the large "Minga National" (a traditional type of civil rights march which harkens back to ancient times) this 12th and 13th of October, it is planning an event to demonstrate their resistance in Cubará, Boyaca. This is to express their opposition against current Ecopetrol activities in the area and other mega projects that the National Government intends to implement there. 
Photo: Daniel Leon / Censat 
"We reject any intervention in the U'wa ancestral territory that goes against our culture ... We will not negotiate and we want to make it clear that anything that happens to the U'wa  people is the responsibility of these companies and the national government". Based on the decision of these same authorities and communities,  the U'wa are publicly relaunching their fight to defend their territory and their collective rights. 

The Uwa are denouncing megaprojects in its territory that the Government proposes to implement  in the short, medium and long term. One is the Ecopetrol Gibraltar 3 gas exploitation well located in a place that is sacred according to the Uwa worldview, the other is the building of a bi-national highway connecting Colombia with Venezuela, which is projected to traverse through the heartlean the Indigenous Reservation. The other large megaproject, which the community feels will severely affect their land rights, is the proposal to boost ecotourism in Cocuy National Park, because this initiative will bring forth an invasion and is disrespectful of the sanctity of their ceremonial sites. 

"We are also worried because of the militarization has come along with these mega projects. We now see members of the military constantly walking around with their weapons 'for our protection',  polluting our holy places with thoughts of war. We now have a minibatallón in the neighborhood, one that provides security for the oil company" expounds Beru, ASOU'WA secretary, the association of U'wa Traditional Authorities and Councils. 

U'wa resistance march: October 12th and 13th 

U'wa announced the mobilization for the road connecting Santander with  Arauca and specifically 2 points North of Santander: The China and the Laguna, which meet approximately one hour from Cubará. Approximately 2000 U'was from all communities are expected to participate. 

The China and Laguna, where Ecopetrol has planned further exploration activities, are part of the U'wa ancestral territory and  therefore the position of the U'was remains to not permit the exploitation of any resource in its territory and they demand that the national government clean the reservation up. 

In their statement about the march  the Association of U'wa Traditional Authorities and Councils, Asouwa, stated  that through this mobilization they would like to show three fundamental things: "1) reaffirm our position on the non-exploitation of any natural resources and non violation of our ancestral U'wa territories; 2) fight for the intrinsic right as indigenous peoples to celebrate our culture and 3) to commemorate the cultural changes that have occurred since the arrival of the conquistadors.     

They defend their territory 

Photo: Ethnic News 
The U'wa have opposed the U.S. multinational Occidental Petroleum Company, Oxy since mid 1992. OXY, while developing a partnership contract signed with Ecopetrol for the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the country, was granted an environmental license for a four hectare, privately owned piece of  AsoU'wa property that, with the support of police had been violently appropriated by this company.

After completing their work, Oxy, given that the company did not find the expected oil reserves, ceded the environmental license rights to Ecopetrol. Since then, the state-owned company has taken on the responsability for managing Gibraltar 1 and 2 and recently opened Gibraltar 3, which is a well from which they will draw gas condensate, an easier to refine hydrocarbon than oil. This implies a change in the type of natural resource exploitation: gas instead of oil; and the intervention of another new company, Trasoriente, which will be responsible for the installation of the pipeline. 

Since the arrival of oil companies, the U'wa have been trying to prevent the exploration and exploitation of natural resources through legal means. However, they have not been as successful as thay had hoped  because the exploitation is not performed within the realm of legally constituted protections, but in the arena of what the U'wa consider sacred territory for the use, transit and practice of ancestral customs, and this makes for difficulties in   arguments before the court and in gaining visibility for the problem. 

To provide security to the country's energy infrastructure, the presence of Ecopetrol has led to the militarization of the area, to the point that they have built two mini battalions for operations of the Special Battalion Energetic Road No. 5, which operates within the U'wa sanctuary. "The military bases have closed  the area  and affected the movements along the paths of the U'wa, impinging upon their freedom to come and go between their orchards and farms," explained Tegria. 
Cultural considerations in the territory affected 

Tor the U'wa the Cedeño path, where the Gibraltar wells are, signifies the very heart, the central place to acquire and communicate knowledge about the antivenom serum of the U'wa. It is where one studies and learns to cure diseases, it is the specific place to cure snakebite. 
"The area where the Gibraltar 3 hole is is like the heart of the earth, if they exploit this the world will become sick. By not paying attention to nature, little by little humanity will disappear", remarked the Asouwa President, Sirakubo Tegria, in a statement sent to national and international media. 

 National Park 

The park has overlapping functions, ie part of the park is within the U'wa reservation/sanctuary. The Government proposes that through a co-administration body it can formalize the presence of the two (the government and indigenous communities) and to enhance ecotourism programs. The park project is supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). 

Since 2007 the National Parks Unit, under the coordination of the Ministry of the Interior and of Justice, has been promoting the Decree 622/77 pre-amendment consultation process, with indigenous peoples, black and native islander communities who inhabit,  regularly or permanently use the  Parks areas under consideration.  The legally established Uwa reservations so far  that overlap with the Park are the U'wa, Angosturas, Sibarita, Valles del Sol, and Laguna Tranquila Sanctuaries. 

The Uwa decided not to meet with the government because they will not negotiate their position because they disagree with promoting tourism in their holy sites, and they see mass tourism as a threat to the survival of their culture and especially the conservation of the environment. For example they have given assurances (witnessed)  that last Easter 1,000 tourists entered the park. 

"When a nature park overlaps with indigenous territories is difficult maintain the authority of the indiginous government; indigenous autonomy and the implementation of special jurisdiction can not be exercised," said the Embera indigenous leader Alberto Achito, in his article: Analysis Conflicts and Concepts of Nature in Indiginous Territories in Colombia. 
Achito, who is also member of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC, believes that in the case of indigenous territories overlapping with a natural park, there is an incompatibility for the control, management and administration of the territo there arise problems of competition between authorities , one elected by the community council and the other imposed by the Ministry of Environment who is director of the park. 

"What happenes is that the final decision on the uses and management of natural resources, is the park administration in the person of the Director. Thus, indigenous authorities are relegated to second place and there is no territorial autonomy, and the governance of the council is weakened because its decisions will always be pratronized/superceded by the park," proclaimed Achito . 

The overlapping of nature reserves with indigenous territories is totally harmful for indigenous peoples in terms of territorial autonomy. In addition, coadministration instated by the government is seen by indigenous authorities as an act of westernization of indigenous thought, which means that communities have to comply with direction defined by the Natural Parks authorities. 


The project wants to link Colombia with Venezuela, including the construction of an international bridge over the  Arauca River. "The highway will pass through the center, the heart of the Reservation and apparently corresponds with one of the strategies for implementing the South American Regional Infrastructure Integration  Initiative (IIRSA)," said Sirakubo Tegria. 

IIRSA is an initiative of 12 South American countries and aims to promote the development of transportation, energy and communications infrastructure in the region. Admittedly, no further information on this project has been received to date. 

"We are the expression of the historic, hereditary and millennial right, the living law, which is clear proof of our legitimacy in reclaiming the administrative, judicial, legislative and political right to decide what we do with our lands and territories," announced the Uwa people as one of the principles of his campaign. 

Recommended articles

The U'wa against oil <http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/america_latina/2009/06/090624_especial_indigenas_colombia.shtml> (BBC News, Colombia. Hernando Salazar) 

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Monday, October 19, 2009

Open Letter from ONIC to the FARC

( Translated by Dan Baird, a CSN volunteer translator)

Letter from the
National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) to the General Secretary of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC)

(“The  Colombian Indigenous Movement, represented in ONIC, considers that a possible dialogue with your organization should take place before the eyes of the country and the international community.  
It should be held with the knowledge of:  the Colombian state and its institutions, civil society, and organizations for the defence of human rights”)
General Secretary,
Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia FARC
In the mountains of Colombia.

Bogotá, 7 October  2009
Dear Sir,
In response   to the communications sent by you at the beginning of the year to the indigenous organizations of  Cauca y Nariño  and to  the massacre then carried out last February by FARC against the indigenous  Awá people,  ONIC is instructed  by  the indigenous authorities that comprise it  to open  space for dialogue with the armed participants  who occupy  our territories in the internal conflict.  
These participants have sunk to genocidal acts of extermination, characterized by massacres and assassinations, confinement and forced evacuations,  and the systematic violation of the human and collective rights of our peoples.

The  Colombian Indigenous Movement, represented in ONIC, considers that any dialogue with your organization should take place before the eyes of the country and  of  the international community.  It should be held with the knowledge of:  the Colombian state and its institutions, civil society, and organizations for the defence of human rights.  Those taking part should be people who are committed to peace and to a political exit from the Colombian conflict.
         In addition, FARC should keep in mind the commitments it has  made in the past regarding the autonomy and the rights of indigenous communities at local, regional and national levels.  At the same time, it should take account of  the autonomous pronouncements and the self-governing acts of the indigenous organizations of  Cauca, Nariño and  Caquetá among others.  
        ONIC considers that a first step to facilitate this dialogue and to reduce the intensity of  the conflict  should be the commitment of FARC to stop its criminal actions against the indigenous peoples of Colombia. Equally, it should stop criminalizing indigenous people by taking them into its ranks. Furthermore, it is necessary to have an agenda, arrived at by consensus, that allows us to meet, whether  in our own country or outside, with our autonomy being respected.  


Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org

Uribe announces the Panamerican Highway

( Translated by Marguerite Brink, a CSN volunteer translator)

To the people of the world, Uribe announces the Panamerican Highway.
We reinstate to the people of the world, and of the Cacarica, Cavida community, self-determination, life, and Dignity. With this we object to the development of the Panamerican highway inside the territories of the indigenous towns. Its development would cause irreparable damage to the environmental integrity.  Neither have the indigenous communities been consulted nor has there been a dismantling of the paramilitary structure.  The armed conflict continues.  Agro-business continues to develop, stained with corruption and supportive of corrupt institutions.
The communities do not matter. Bogotá, D.C. October 6, 2009 Intereclesial Commission of Justice and Peace.
Humanitarian Zones of Cacarica.  October 2, 2009.  

Mestizo and Afro-Colombian men and women threatened with having to defend their lives, territories, and the inhabitants of their collective territories denounce the continuing construction of giant works such as the Transversal of the Americas recently referred to by president Uribe.  On the agro-industry side of the banana harvest for the sale on the part of Delmonte, Multifruis, and others plans for a business project directed by Amador Caicedo, ex-mayor of Chigorodo occupant of bad faith, to that which was called the International Commercialization Cacarica.  The announcement of these huge works on roads and energies began to solidify just as was suggested by the advice of the communal government of Apartado, Antioquia on Saturday October 3rd.  Alvaro Uribe Velez made a public decision to construct the Panamerican Highway, which is now called the Transversal of the Americas, on a plot of 62 kilometers on the left bank of the Atrato River in the area of Choco. Within the Transversal, arose the construction of a bridge that permits the connection of the higway that was built during the Turbay administration from Baranquillita to Lomas Aisladas. He also said that this would connect with the Caribe Highway from the boundary of the Paraguachon bridge with Venezuela.  President Uribe said also, that the construcion of the highway would act like an open check to the ISA, one of the biggest companies in Colombia, so that in time there could be an electrical interconnection with Central America.  This would guarantee according to the government that there wouldn’t be any great difficulties in the development of either of the projects. The construction of the Transversal of the Americas would pass through our territory, the collective lands of Cacarica from which we were forcefully displaced in February of 1997 and again in 2001 when the paramiltaries settled in Balsa for the development of their banana project. The locations named by the president are stained with blood.  Baranquillita is under paramilitary control, the same with the whole trajectory up to Lomas Aisladas.  Even though the president has named many of the paramilitaries that should be arrested, the same day that he announced the construction of the Transversal of the Americas, the control continued benefiting the biggest businesses.  On the America Bridge, where a woman was abused during Operation Genesis, lead by General Rito Alejo del Rio, today there is permanent control by the military who acts in conjunction with the paramilitaries that we encountered during our displacement. Also, on the America Bridge, over the Perancho River, the point known as the “Loma” was the site of the murder of many of our brothers.  Now we can clearly see that which we have always known, that our forced displacement was meant to ensure that these lands would later be free for their development projects.  On this point on the America Bridge, which we have traditionally called the Travesia, is where the government wants to construct the bridge. In Palo de Letras is the boundary with Panama.  To get there from America Bridge one would have to cross through all of our collective territory. The government wants to make it appear that there are not people in the lands on which they will construct these projects.  Here we are, women, men, children, Afro-descendents and indigenous peoples and we occupy the Katios en Huinphubur area that would also be affected by the construction. The Trasversal, the bridge and the electric interconnection are works that threaten our cultural integrity, biodiversity and the ecosystems upon which we survive.
Additionally the implementation of these mega projects failes to recognize the ethnical territorial rights granted to the communities that were traditionally occupied.  This include the right  to be consulted before implementation of projects that affect our social, cultural, political and economonic lives.  As communities that make up part of Consejo Mayor of the basin of Cacarica and live in zones of biodiversity, we form part of the Association of Cavida, the movement of victims of crimes of the state and the network of Alternatives.  We reclaim our right to be consulted.
We demand of the Colombian government that they recognize our humanity in the media announcement, like what Consulta Previa has done in conformity with the 169 of OIT
We demand of the Colombian government that they give us the results of environmental/social impact studies that have been completed to asses the effects of these projects.
We demand of the Colombian government that they recognize operations that seek to dismantle the paramilitary operations found in Cacarica. We ask the Colombian government to act urgently against the illegal sale of our lands. We invivte the indigenous, Afro, and mestizo peoples of Panama and the social organizations to participate in the town consultations.

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621
e-mail:  csn@igc.org



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