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Saturday, March 31, 2012



                                                A  TWENTY-FIVE YEAR-OLD BRUNCH


            On a sunny spring Sunday morning in 1987, Jack Laun, Cecilia Zárate - Laun and Joe Swajza met for brunch at Madison's Ivy Inn, which went out of business several years ago, to talk about Colombia, a country the three of them hold very dear to their hearts. Although coming from different backgrounds, the three agreed on one recurrent topic: the lack of knowledge and activism in the United States about the terrible social, political, economic and human rights situation in Colombia.


            Jack and Cecilia had been to Nicaragua some months before, while Jack visited as an invited guest of Carlos Nuñez, one of the nine Sandinista Commandantes and President of the National Assembly, to advise them on the process of writing their new constitution. Jack had studied constitutional law under Professor Gerald Gunther at Stanford Law School, drawing from his law school experience an abiding interest in constitutional protections and rights for all people. While we were engaged in this activity in Nicaragua, the M-19 guerrillas assaulted the Palace of Justice in Bogotá, killing the sentries on duty at the building. When the Colombian Army retook the building with a tremendous show of force, most of the Justices of the Supreme Court and hundreds of other persons, including the building's cafeteria workers, were killed or "disappeared". Cecilia met some Colombians in Managua, who made her think deeply when they commented that activism for Nicaragua was fine, but what about Colombia? Later on, now back in the States, Cecilia received a long list of names, including those of friends, sent to her by a dear friend who lived in New York City. On this worrisome list were names of friends branded to be killed as enemies of the institution, whatever that meant, and Cecilia noted with horror that some of the names were already marked as "task completed".


            Jack remembered his time as a professor at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota and his research projects. Cecilia recalled her life with her family and friends and her teaching at the National University. Joe had been a Peace Corps Volunteer and immensely enjoyed Colombia, with its great beauty and the warmth of its people, in spite of the political violence. Above all, both Jack and Joe admired the stamina and courage of so many Colombians who were determined to keep fighting for their rights even though so many of their colleagues and companions had fallen as anonymous heroes. 


            They decided to start an organization that would focus on monitoring United States foreign policy toward Colombia. Its main goal was to incorporate the U.S. peace community and the American people into an effort to monitor how their Members of Congress voted on Colombian issues from their electoral districts. Monitoring Congress and demanding the right to be heard is a citizen's duty and keeps a democracy representative, failing which it fades and becomes a mock representative of the people.


            However, Cecilia, Jack and Joe realized that in order to be moved to action, people need to have their heart strings touched. They need to feel compassion for the people of Colombia. This is why from its conception Colombia Support Network (CSN) adopted the idea of developing sister community relationships between cities and regions in the U.S. and Colombian rural communities in areas of conflict. Not only are the Colombian communities an inspiration and offer a lot to learn from them, but they are a tool to make our democracy and theirs more vibrant!


CSN sees the war in Colombia from the perspective of people in rural communities who are not famous or well-known, but who have developed grass-roots community organizations in which people, exhausted by years of war, decided to protest yes, but using non-violence. They are united by a common strategy: to bring change in the country through organizing and to act as a unified body with a common goal: to live in a Colombia with peace!


The brunch continues...............Now we invite you to celebrate our first 25 years by looking through our new web site. We extend our deep gratitude to Professor David Thomas, our webmaster, who has generously donated countless hours to this project and to Tracy Apps for her superb professional web design skills. 










Please be generous - Support our work! Click "Make a donation" from our home page: http://www.colombiasupport.net

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

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Colombia Support Network Website Undergoes Site Redesign

Colombia Support Network has just completed a re-design of www.ColombiaSupport.net finishing a nine month effort.  Unless this is your first visit to this site you surely have already noticed the difference!  But the effort really began about 18 years ago when the Colombia Support Network launched the very first website on Colombia’s human rights, becoming the oldest, continuing voice on the Web for human rights in Colombia.

During the current design process, Cecilia Zarate told of us of the time in 1995, when board member John Fournelle, a Geologist and former resident of Colombia proposed a website for the organization.  Not really understanding the implications, the board gave John the go-ahead.  Not long after, Cecilia noticed an upsurge in phone calls and contact to the CSN office from around the country.  Asking one of the callers how they had heard about CSN, she learned that the interest was being driven by the new web site.  “What is a ‘web site’?” she responded.

Well, Cecilia’s technical acumen has grown a bit since then, but she still relies extensively on the guidance of others to try and keep CSN up-to date.  Following John Fournelle’s pioneering work; the website was managed for several years by Rolando de Aguiar, an activist from Philadelphia.  Rolando worked very hard to expand and maintain the site’s month-to-month coverage and his efforts can still be seen in the CSN “old news archive” section covering the years 1995 to 2004 where over a thousand news articles are still maintained.

Rolando’s efforts to keep the site updated were continued by Cliff Jones, an activist with the Kansas City CSN Chapter who became webmaster for several years leading up to 2004 when he asked the board to start looking for a replacement.  At about that same time, my wife and I participated in a Dane County Chapter delegation to San José de Apartadó.  My wife had attended college in Colombia in the 1970’s and the trip gave us an opportunity to meet her “family” there, as well as carry out all the usual delegation visits, listening to communities and reporting to Colombian and US government officials.  It goes without saying that participating in a CSN peace delegation is a life-changing experience.  Looking for ways to help, I did not hesitate when Cecilia Zarate asked if I would help with the web site.

Without getting into too much technical detail, I will just say that Cliff Jones’ work to automate some of the processes made the initial update to the site rather easy but changes in web technology required that settings on about 200 pages be manually changed.  But the interim redesign in 2005 was considered temporary and we were just laying the groundwork for the full re-design.  Looking at this 1995 news-post, we envisioned “A gradually changing new look to a bold, contemporary design”, as well as “More regularly updated news features”.  The latter goal was quickly realized in 2005 by connecting the news page to a “blog” account that allowed the CSN Staff to quickly post articles to the CSN news page via email.  This accounts for the treasure-trove of over a thousand news articles that were posted to the site in the ensuing seven years. 

The transition to a “bold new look” took much longer than we envisioned.  Now a huge site with a complex structure, links to hundreds of documents and over two thousand news articles it was no longer a job for a weekend volunteer.  In 2010, the CSN board acquired a generous grant for web-site redesign and technology improvements.  At that time, I was asked to look for a student intern who could manage the change-over.  Bright and talented student Emalee Reeder, made a gallant attempt at creating a new site based on a “content management system” or CMS, but it forced us to realize that the project was too large and complex and we needed to look for a seasoned developer.  In 2011, we began that search and found Tracy Apps, who indeed was the dedicated, compassionate and seasoned web developer that we needed.  She tolerated all of our back-tracking, added specifications and internal disagreements on design and structure with grace and wisdom.  You are now looking at the fruits of her nine months of work.  We are also grateful to Steve, Brice and all the members of the UW-Badgers Student Chapter of CSN.  Their energy and social-media acumen helped connect the site to those new media and you’ll see that as a growing area of CSN outreach, thanks to their efforts.  A shout-out also goes to our new web host, www.dreamhost.com who graciously offer greatly reduced rates to non-profit organizations.

It should be noted here that maintaining and continuing a website of this proportion is not easy and should not be attempted “on the cheap”.  Many human-rights organizations have budgets in the millions of dollars to back up their websites.  With this redesign, we exhausted the grant and currently have NO budget for maintenance, upgrades, repairs or improvements.  I strongly encourage you to use the “DONATE” button at the top of the site to vote for continuing CSN’s efforts to engage technology in the fight for peace and justice in Colombia.

Very sincerely yours,

David Thomas, “Interim” Webmaster.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Mining Locomotive at full speed, but does it pay what it should?

The reality is not what the government had hoped:  the mining engine, has gained momentum and continues at full speed, but it is not paying the taxes that it owes and that are necessary to rationalize the State's finances.  The data are conclusive; through tax evasion and circumvention, mining companies are avoiding more of their tax liability that what they are paying to exploit the subsoil resources that are the property of all.


A Close Look at the Mining Sector


Upon taking office, Santos confronted an institutional crisis in the mining sector, the most powerful and most promising of his five economic engines.  Thus, over a year ago, then Minister Rodado Noriega announced deep institutional reforms to ensure compliance with standards and obligations in mining, strengthening the precarious capacity of the State to tax.


The Minister emphasized deficiencies in human, technical and financial resources that impede mining authorities from fulfilling their regulatory function over the use of subsoil resources.  This led the government to take urgent measures, one of the most significant of which is the suspension of the process to grant mining rights, a prerequisite to initiating exploration and subsequent exploitation.


A year later Minister Mauricio Cardenas announced that, before the fifth of May, a new Agencia Nacional de Mineria(ANM) [National Mining Agency] would begin to operate.  With close to 300 employees dedicated to reviewing mining rights petitions and charged with "revoking titles that were granted in the past under which obligations, for example failure to pay the mining fee, were not fulfilled."

The Minister also specifies that in a few days, bidding will open to contract, for a period of 30 months, auditing firms that will examine with a fine-tooth comb the more that 9000 mining rights titles currently granted.  There is a budget of 337 billion pesos available for the project.


This means that 11,200,000 pesos will be allocated monthly to the project.  This is equal to a little more than three fourths of the value designated by the royalty law for this purpose (two percent of total royalties that climbed to 8.79 billion pesos in 2011).


These are, without a doubt, important announcements, especially since they attempt to strengthen the State's ability to control and monitor mining operations throughout the country.  There will have to be an evaluation period to see if this is an effective way of dealing with the institutional problems of the mining sector.


Nevertheless, there is another issue of equal, if not greater, importance that will not wait.  Can the mining engine meet the goals of the Plan Nacional de Desarrollo [National Development Plan] for economic growth and, simultaneously, for the management of the fiscal deficit?


Engine Full Speed Ahead


The Plan de Desarrollo proposes five [economic] engines in which to promote economic growth, increasing from an expected rate of 4.5 percent, without the plan, to 6.2 percent with it.


A crucial role is assigned to the mining-energy engine, estimating that it would contribute an additional 0.3 of a point to the growth rate, an input similar to that of infrastructure (0.3 point), above the estimated contribution from agriculture (0.1 point) and surpassed only by that estimated for housing (0.4 point) and innovation (0.6 point).  This calculation is based on favorable circumstances, given the increasing price of mining-energy resources over the last three years, in the middle of a crisis in the major economies of the world.


Expectations such as these are beginning to be reflected in the estimates of growth in direct foreign investment, particularly in the mining sector, which could significantly raise its participation in the GDP.  In accord with DANE [Deprtamento Administrativo Nacional de Estadistica – National Administrative Department of Statistics] calculations, the sector has been growing steadily, from 5.7 percent of GDP, since the third trimester of 2007, to 7.8 percent in the same trimester of 2011.


This growth trend is mainly explained by the rapid increase in petroleum production.  According to the Agencia Nacional de Hidrocarburos [the National Hydrocarbon Agency], average daily production expanded from 531 thousand barrels of crude per day in 2007 to 914 thousand in 2011.


Fiscal Deficit and the Growth Engine


Despite this, there is concern as to whether this dynamic will be suitably channeled with respect to the other objective: putting public finances on a sound footing.


En effect, central government authorities set, as a macro-economic goal, deficit reduction from 4.2 to 2.4 percent of GDP between 2010 and 2014. In order to meet this goal, the primary balance (the fiscal balance minus interest payments on the debt) must decrease from a 1.4 percent deficit to a surplus of 0.8 percent of GDP.


This objective is consistent with the view of expert consultants to the government, who recommended the establishment of a fiscal rule based on control of the primary deficit, saving in times of high revenues and financing the deficit with these savings during times of low revenues.


This opinion emphasizes the need to take advantage of the predicted expansion in mining-energy activities, countering the undesirable effects that could result from the exchange-rate appreciation caused by that expansion.


How Much Should Mining Companies Pay?  How Much Are They Paying?


Hydrocarbon and mining companies should make two very important types of tax payments:  income tax and royalties, as well as taxes such as value added (VAT), a gasoline surcharge and [tax] on industry and commerce as well as a mining fee paid to the mining authority during the exploitation phase.


The attached table shows, in addition to the performance of paid royalties, the performance of payments on income tax liability from 2002 to 2010, according to two sources:


·      DANE data that include the value of output and that of gross operating surplus (profits);

·      On the other hand sales income (output value), ordinary net income before fixed assets investment deductions (corresponding to profits) and the declared value of income tax payable (real tax).


Based on the data in these two sources and the application of nominal tax rates on profits, one can calculate potential payable taxes before deductions or exemptions.  These calculations send alarm signals:


·      In the first place, while nominal income tax rates fluctuated between 33 and 38.5 percent on profits during this period, in effect corporations applied deductions and exemptions in their tax returns to DIAN [Direccion de Impuestos y Aduanas Nacionales de Colombia-Colombia National Tax and Customs Office] which allowed them to obtain an average tax equal to only 27.6 percent for the sector as a whole.


And the tax is lower still for coal and precious metals.  These subsectors pay less that 25 percent on declared profits (particularly as a result of applying deductions, authorized by the tax law, on fixed asset investments.)


Nevertheless, keeping in mind that the profits reported by DANE (the producer's gross surplus) are substantially greater that those declared for tax purposes by the corporations, the effective income tax rate on these profits is still much lower, less that 15 percent for the whole sector during the period under consideration. They are particularly low in the case of coal (8.1 percent) and of precious metals (2.9 percent.)


·      On the other hand, considering these two ways to pay a reduced income tax – exemption (according to the DIAN data) and evasion (according to the marked difference in profits between the data in DIAN and those in DANE) –one can deduce that corporations, in this way – take off their taxes a value not only comparable to, but in fact greater than that which they pay to the State in royalties. This means that they exploit the Nation's subsoil resources at a cost that is less than free.


Let's see.  Comparing the taxes that result from applying nominal rates to sector profits (reported by DANE), with taxes declared by the corporations (in their returns to DIAN), the total differs by an amount equivalent to 137 percent of the total of royalties received by the State for the use of these resources.


Worse yet, in the case of coal these unpaid taxes are double the value of the royalties contributed by the subsector.  And in the case of gold they reach a value around three times the royalties paid for this activity.


In summary, in the period 2002 to 2010 the sector failed to pay, through income tax exemptions and evasions alone, a value much higher than what it paid in royalties.


·      Royalty performance poses other questions as well.  While the royalties paid for the extraction of petroleum should be between 8 and 25 percent of output value (according to the size of each field), during the period analyzed, they only reach 15 percent of the output value reported in the national accounts of DANE.


In the case of coal, these royalties represented 8.2 percent of output value, when they should have represented more than 9.8 percent of the stated value.


In the case of gold, they should be between 4 percent (seam or vein) and 6 percent (alluvium) of output value.  However they showed only 3.8 percent of that value during the period under consideration.


In the case of minerals other than hydrocarbons, these rates are not only quite low but they represent values lower than those legally established. Neither do they have an adjustment factor to capture a greater proportion of resources in times of higher prices.


Can the Government Get the Mining Sector under Control?


Faced with this situation, and if it is still hoped that the mining sector may contribute to rationalizing public finances, part of the measures that Minister Cardenas has announced should be to tighten supervision and control over the fulfillment of tax obligations by the corporations.


But equally important, a well-informed national debate should begin on the status of the "tax haven" in Colombia. The mining sector has enjoyed these conditions inherited from the recent past and the policy of  "investor security" which seems to be maintained even at the cost of the macroeconomic interests of the nation.


If the current tax environment is maintained, mining contributions to the country will continue to be a vain illusion, especially if one compares it to the high social and environmental risk that this activity implies.

Title:  The Mining Economic Engine at Full Speed, But Is It Paying Off?

Author:  Guillermo Rudas Lleras

Location:  none provided

Date Published:  January 29, 2012

Source:  Razon Publica


Translated by: Emily Schmitz, CSN Volunteer Translator

Edited by: Susan Tritten, CSN Volunteer Editor

Thursday, March 08, 2012


En el pasado mes de enero 2012, una delegación de Colombia Support Network integrada por ciudadanos de los Estados Unidos y el Canadá, visitó el viejo pueblo minero  de Marmato en Colombia. Esta delegación fué invitada por el Comité Cívico por la Defensa de Marmato, una organización de mineros artesanales y de sus familias, que se organizó para proteger a Marmato, que está bajo la amenaza de ser  demolido por la compañía  multinacional canadiense Gran Colombia Gold (GCG) que se fusionó con Medoro Resources. Con el apoyo del gobierno de Colombia, GCG propone el desarrollo de una mina de oro a cielo abierto en el lugar donde se encuentra ubicado el poblado. El oro contenido  en la montaña de Marmato se dice es de mas de 9.8 millones de onzas ( además también de 59 millones de onzas de plata) y el gobierno colombiano quiere que estos minerals se saquen pronto. GCG propone una operación de minería a cielo abierto en 20 años.

Marmato presenta un espectáculo extraordinario. Cada día de la semana, cientos, sino miles, de mineros aparecen en la montaña llamada "El Burro", donde viven los mineros con sus familias. Ellos trabajan en minas pequeñas extrayendo el oro como lo hicieron sus ancestros. También mantienen al pueblo de Marmato, que ha visto  el oro extraído de lo profundo de sus flancos desde antes de que el pueblo fuera fundado en 1537. GCG recibió una licencia del gobierno colombiano para explorar allá el oro y propone arrasar el pueblo de Marmato, forzando así a sus habitantes a reubicarse en un pueblo en la base de la montaña. Así se acabaría el acceso de los mineros artesanales a las minas que los han sostenido  a ellos y a sus familias por tanto tiempo.

Este plan de la GCG violaría un reglamento de los años 1950 hecho por el gobierno colombiano por medio del cual se proveía el área por encima del valle como de reserva para los mineros artesanales mientras que el área de las tierras bajas estaría disponible para las actividades mineras a gran escala. Lo que propone la administración Santos es que los pequeños mineros obedezcan las mismas reglas que se usan para las grandes compañías, y obtener los títulos de sus minas. Es ilógico forzar a estos pequeños mineros a llenar los mismos requisitos de la minería a gran escala, especialmente porque tanto los impactos ambientales y sociales, como las ganancias y las protecciones ofrecidas por el estado, son muy distintas. Estas exigencias lo que demuestran esencialmente es una guerra contra los pequeños mineros. Muchos de estos mineros en Marmato, debido a los nuevos requisitos, han perdido su derecho legal a trabajar en las minas que han sido el sustento de ellos y de sus familias por generaciones.

Marmato tiene una gran importancia histórica para América Latina. Simón Bolívar hipotecó el oro de Marmato a Inglaterra a cambio de fondos que usó para equipar el ejercito con el que ganó la independencia de España. Así, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Panamá, Perú y Venezuela, en cierto sentido, deben su independencia al oro de Marmato. Ubicado en lo alto de la montaña, Marmato ofrece una vista espectacular del valle del río Cauca al fondo, contrastando con la cadena de montañas en el horizonte. 

Los mineros artesanales de Marmato organizados en el Comité Cívico junto con otros miembros de la comunidad, están decididos a resistir los planes de minería a cielo abierto. El párroco de Marmato, el padre José Reynel Restrepo, expresó su solidaridad con el Comité, diciendo que se resistiría a trasladar su iglesia aún a costo de su propia vida. El 1 de septiembre de 2011 fué asesinado conduciendo su motocicleta, cuando regresaba a Marmato de otro pueblo cercano. No está claro si el padre Restrepo fué asesinado  por su oposición a la mina a cielo abierto, pero el hecho de que la motocicleta no fué robada cuando lo asesinaron, podría ser un indicio fuerte de que el robo no fué la causa de su asesinato.

El gobierno colombiano desea tanto tener inversión extranjera para actividades mineras que lo que ha hecho es aprobar prácticamente una entrega  del país a multinacionales como GCG. El país cobra solamente 4% en regalías para extraer oro. De manera que no solo Marmato sería destruído, y sus habitantes obligados a abandonar sus hogares y su forma de ganarse la vida, sino que también las riquezas del país serían virtualmente regaladas a compañías extranjeras.

Si quiere saber mas sobre Mamato  y ver la última entrevista al padre José Reynel, puede hacerlo en la conexión siguiente : 

(Esta descripción se puede reproducir siempre y cuando el contenido permanezca sin alterar y se cite la fuente)


Please be generous - Support our work! Click "Make a donation" from our home page: http://www.colombiasupport.net

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

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


From January 15-18, 2012 a Colombia Support Network delegation of Canadian and U.S. citizens visited the town of Marmato in Caldas province in Colombia. The delegation responded to an invitation from the Comite Civico Pro-Defensa de Marmato (Civic Committee for the Defense of Marmato), an organization of small-scale (artisan) miners and their families formed to protect the town of Marmato from the threat of demolition by a Canadian multinational company, Gran Colombia Gold (GCG),which merged with Medoro Resources. With the support of the Colombian government, GCG proposes to develop an open-pit mine on the site of the town. The gold deposited in the Marmato mountain is said to be one of the largest deposits in the Western Hemisphere, with more than 9.8 million ounces of gold (and 59 million ounces of silver) and the Colombian government wants this ore mined quickly. GCG proposes a 20-year open-pit mine operation.

  Marmato presents an extraordinary spectacle. Each weekday hundreds, if not thousands, of miners appear on the mountain, called "El Burro," where most of the miners live with their families. They work in small mines, extracting gold as  their ancestors did. They also support the town of Marmato, which has seen gold mining on the slopes of the mountain since before the town was founded in 1537. GCG, which received a license from the Colombian government to explore for gold, proposes to raze the town of Marmato, forcing its inhabitants to relocate to a town at the base of the mountain. This would end the small-scale miners' access to the mines which have supported them and their families for so long.
The GCG plan runs contrary to a 1950's regulation by the Colombian government which provided that the area above the valley would be reserved for small-scale mining, while the lowlands would be open to large-scale mining activities. The Santos Administration proposes to require small-scale miners to abide by the same rules as large-scale mining companies, and to obtain titles to their mines. It is unreasonable to force these small-scale miners to fulfill the same requirements as large-scale miners, especially since their environmental and social impacts, revenues and protections from the state are very different. This requirement essentially amounts to a war on small-scale miners. Many small-scale miners in Marmato, because of these new requirements, have lost their legal right to work in the mines that have sustained them and their families for generations.

  Marmato has great historical significance for Latin America. Simon Bolivar mortgaged Marmato's gold to England in return for funds he used to equip the army with which he won independence from Spain. Thus Colombia, as well as Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru and Venezuela, owe their independence, in a sense, to Marmato's gold. The town is located high on the mountain, presenting a breathtaking view of the valley below where the Cauca River passes and of the mountain range beyond.

  The artisan miners and other community members' organization, the Comite Civico, are determined to resist the open-pit mining plan. The town's parish priest, Father Jose Reynel Restrepo, expressed his solidarity with the Comite, saying he would resist moving his church from the town, even if it were to cost him his life. On September 1, 2011 he was murdered as he returned to Marmato from another town on his motorcycle. Whether Father Restrepo's murder was related to his opposition to the open-pit mine is unclear, though the fact that the motorcycle he was riding when he was shot was not taken by whoever murdered him strongly suggests robbery was not the motive for his killing.


The Colombian government is so desirous of obtaining foreign investment for mining activities that it has approved a virtual give-away to multinationals such as GCG. The country will charge only 4% in royalties for gold mining. So not only will Marmato be destroyed, with its inhabitants forced to abandon their homes and their livelihood, but the country's riches will also be virtually gifted away to foreign companies.


If you want to learn more about Marmato you can see the following links :


See Father Restrepo's last interview before he was killed. With English subtitles

(This background may be reproduced as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source is cited.)
Please be generous - Support our work! Click "Make a donation" from our home page: http://www.colombiasupport.net

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

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

COICA took part in the Thematic Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, on January 24-29, 2012

On last January 24-29, Coordinator of the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), whose delegation included leaders of CIDOB (Confederation of Indigenous Peoples of Bolivia) (Bolivia), COAIB (Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon Basin) and APIB (Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil) (Brazil), CONFENIAE   (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon) (Ecuador) and OPIAC (Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon) (Colombia), took part in the Thematic Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. 


Many social organizations of the whole region took part in the Social Forum.  They discussed and developed their respective thematic areas, such as health, education, food security, gender, environment, water, communication, and the subject of indigenous peoples.  The whole process was directed toward providing solutions from the social movements and organizations for the promotion of new global policies and toward agreement on proposals for coordination and action in preparation for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, "Rio plus 20", where governments of the whole world will participate in Rio de Janeiro in June of this year.


In particular, the Forum launched the Summit of People for Environmental and Social Justice, opposed to the mercantilization of life and nature and in defense of the common good.  The Summit will take place in Rio de Janeiro within the framework of "Rio plus 20".  As Edwin Vásquez, Coordinator General of COICA, has said, "The United Nations Rio Summit in 1992 established the bases for sustainable development, but we have only seen huge constructions, mining and petroleum; twenty years later. In the "Rio plus 20" Conference, we have to make sure that we do not repeat that."


In the Thematic Social Forum, COICA coordinated its activities particularly with the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), made up of the different indigenous organizations in Brazil, including COIAB, a constituent member of COICA.  They covered subjects such as indigenous territories, climate change, mega-projects and the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA), etc.


For the COICA there were three definitive "moments":  The first was the inclusion of the Indigenous Movement for Abya Yala (Latin America) in the development of the thematic areas as part of the answer from civil society for the "Rio plus 20" Conference.  COICA was in charge of coordinating the answers from the indigenous peoples that will be presented in the negotiations with governments in "Rio plus 20".  The framework of the Thematic Social Forum placed major emphasis on the demand that the new Green Economy that the governments are trying to push in "Rio plus 20" must show recognition of and respect for territories such as those of indigenous people and recognize their rights in international agreements and in some national constitutions.


The second definitive "moment" was reaching agreement on a common agenda with the organizations making up the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) relating to policies, strategies, preparation of documents and coordination in the Summit of the People and the organization of the Free Land Camp of Indigenous Peoples.  That is where the work of planning for the "Rio plus 20" Conference will be done.


The third definitive "moment" was a meeting with three cooperating organizations:  World Wildlife Fund (WWF), CARE International, and Initiative for Conservation of the Andean Amazon.  That led to a cooperation agreement, both mid-range and long term, based on strategic proposals on three current subjects for COICA:  climate change, protected areas and indigenous territories, and communication.


Finally, it is worth emphasizing that the activities carried out by COICA and the other indigenous organizations present in the Social Forum in Porto Alegre make clear that there is hard work to be done.  That is:  carry out another series of meetings, finalize agreements and prepare documents for policy positions, and carry out other activities to strengthen the COICA proposals defending and promoting the collective rights of the Amazon peoples, so that they are made visible and integrated into the framework of the Thematic Social Forum.  The goal is to be more effective in the official negotiations at the "Rio plus 20" Summit.


Preparations include an early meeting with regional indigenous organizations such as COICA and, for the Amazon Basin, Coordinator of Indigenous Peoples (CAOI) on February 23 and 24.  The Representative of the United Nations permanent forum for Indigenous Peoples, Dr. Mirna Cunningham, will be present at a meeting to work out strategies for "Rio plus 20".  Later on, there will be two other meetings to prepare for the United Nations in New York.  One will be on March 26-27 and the later meeting will be part of the annual meeting of the continuous loss of our lands, on May 7-18, 2012. 

Author:  Diego Escobar y Rodrigo De la Cruz

Location: Porto Alegre, Brazil

Date Published: February 6, 2012

Source: Coordinadora de las Organizaciones Indígenas de la Cuenca Amazónica (COICA)


Translated By: Eunice Gibson, a CSN volunteer translator                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                



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