Indigenous peoples; the struggle for life and dignity in the framework of conflict in Colombia

LATIN AMERICA AND THE ATLANTIC SPACE - Dec 11, 2009

The systematic attack by armed actors on the indigenous peoples in the internal conflict afflicting Colombia is conspiring against their very existence. With the aim of raising awareness about this society, the Colectivo Maloka (sponsored by the ACCD and with support from CIDOB) organised the seminar “Indigenous peoples; the struggle for life and dignity in the framework of conflict in Colombia", an event that was attended by prominent indigenous leaders who have experienced this reality at first hand.


The systematic attack by armed actors on the indigenous peoples in the internal conflict afflicting Colombia is conspiring against their very existence. With the aim of raising awareness about this society, the Colectivo Maloka (sponsored by the ACCD and with support from CIDOB) organised the seminar “Indigenous peoples; the struggle for life and dignity in the framework of conflict in Colombia", an event that was attended by prominent indigenous leaders who have experienced this reality at first hand. Following the presentation by Jordi Vaquer, Director of CIDOB, Clara Romero, Director of the Colectivo Maloka and David Minoves, Director of ACCD , the first day featured the presentation of 'The general situation of the indigenous movement' by Juvenal Arrieta from the Organización Nacional Indígena (National Indigenous Organisation, or ONIC), Diomedes Arias, of the Kankuamo people (OIK), and Manuel Muñoz, from the Universidad Javeriana in Cali. The panel members gave an historical account of the violence against indigenous peoples by armed actors and transnational interests, and criticised the legal, political, economic and epistemological invisibility to which these peoples have been subjected.

The second day featured 'The struggle of indigenous peoples in the legal field' and 'The indigenous woman as a symbol of resistance and dignity'. On the first panel, Marco Aparicio, from the University of Girona, and Juvenal Arrieta (ONIC), stressed the point that under governments in Latin America, these peoples have not enjoyed full social and cultural rights. In the case of the 1991 Colombian Constitution, the process of modification and reinterpretation has gone against the interests of the indigenous peoples. The second panel, made up of Luz Mery Venegas and Marlitt Puscus, from the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), spoke of the indigenous woman’s invisibility, as well as her political and cultural importance within these peoples.

On the third day, the first session featured Hector Mondragón, from Convergencia campesina (Peasant Convergence), Antonio Pigrau, from the Permanent Tribunal of Pueblos, Belisario Domicó, of the Embera Katío people, and Elides Pechené from CRIC, who jointly examined the consequences of megaprojects on indigenous lands, and who spoke of the need for the rights of indigenous peoples to be included into each state’s internal legal system. The second panel, on 'Indigenous peoples and armed conflict', comprised of José Otero from CRIC, Diomedes Arias and Nora Domicó from CMRS, and Olivio Bisbicus from UNIPA, spoke of the significance of indigenous development projects in the political, socio-cultural and environmental fields; the indigenous stance against the signing of free trade agreements and the exploitation of natural resources; and the situation of certain communities in the north and south of the country. The event concluded with a warning that an inclusive peace proposal must be devised for Colombia that guarantees respect by armed actors for indigenous peoples. The speakers exhorted the members of the audience to inform the Catalan and Spanish people about the situation in Colombia, before adding that Spanish companies should act responsibly in Colombia.

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