from Weekly News Update on the Americas
INDIGENOUS HOLD NATIONWIDE “MINGA,” TWO DIE
On Oct. 10, tens of thousands of Colombian indigenous people began marching to various regional capitals in a coordinated Minga (community mobilization) to demand indigenous rights, protest the government’s economic and social policies–especially a planned “free trade treaty” (TLC) with the US, Peru and Ecuador–and protest President Alvaro Uribe Velez’s attempts to lift a ban on presidential reelection. The Minga–initiated by the Embera people but with the active participation and support of indigenous groups throughout Colombia–was organized to culminate on Oct. 12 in coordination with a national general strike called by labor unions, campesinos, students, leftist activists and others. Oct. 12 was chosen because it marks the arrival in the Americas of a group of European “explorers” headed by Christopher Columbus; for indigenous people, the day commemorates their centuries of resistance against the European invasion.
The government responded to the Minga on Oct. 9 by banning the peaceful marches, justifying the move by claiming that the indigenous mobilization was infiltrated by leftist rebels. On Oct. 10, police used tear gas and clubs against a group of indigenous marchers who were on their way from Santa Rosa de Cabal to Manizales, capital of Caldas department. Despite the attack, some 10,000 marchers reached Manizales on Oct. 11.
Also on Oct. 10, agents of the notoriously brutal Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) of the National Police attacked some 6,000 Embera Chami marchers in Remolino, in the central department of Risaralda. The marchers were on their way from Belen de Umbria to Pereira, the departmental capital. Marcos Soto, a member of the Chami community of Caramba, died, and at least 10 other marchers were wounded. (Adital, Brazil, Oct. 11, 13; Organizacion Indigena de Antioquia-OAI, Oct. 10; La Patria, Oct. 13 via Colombia Indymedia)
On Oct. 11, hired killers shot to death Guambiano leader Francisco Cuchillo, governor of the Canon Rio Guavas indigenous reserve in Ginebra municipality, Valle del Cauca department, as he was preparing to lead his community’s participation in the Minga. (La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 13 from AFP, DPA; Fundacion Hemera, Actualidad Etnica, Oct. 15 via Colombia Indymedia; Consejo Regional Indigena de Risaralda-CRIR/Consejo Regional Indigena de Caldas-CRIDEC, Oct. 12 via Colombia Indymedia)
In addition to the indigenous Mingas in Pereira and Manizales in the central coffee-growing zone, more than 7,000 Zenu indigenous people from the San Andres de Sotavento reserve and other areas of the northeastern departments of Sucre and Cordoba gathered in Sampues for a 10-kilometer march into Sincelejo, capital of Sucre. (La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 13 from AFP, DPA; Cabildos Mayores Zenu de Sucre y Cordoba, Oct. 12 via Colombia Indymedia; El Universal, Cartagena, Oct. 13)
CAUCA: NATIVES SEIZE ESTATES
As part of the nationwide mobilizations, indigenous people in the southern department of Cauca began a coordinated series of land occupations. On Oct. 11 some 2,500 Guambiano indigenous people began occupying the Ambalo estate owned by the Estela family in Silvia municipality in an effort to recover their ancestral lands. On Oct. 14 police attacked the community, injuring at least three people: one was hit in the eyes with tear gas and might lose his sight; one suffered a fractured knee, and one woman’s ribs were fractured. (Colombia’s Caracol news agency reported that the community members fought back with sticks, rocks and agricultural tools, and that four community members and a police agent were hurt in the clash.) The Estela family raises fighting bulls on the estate; Guambiano communities are also occupying two other estates, La Gloria and Puerta de Hierro, owned by the same family. (Fundacion Hemera, Oct. 15; Caracol Noticias, Oct. 15; RCN, Oct. 15; El Pais, Cali, posted Oct. 14 on Colombia Indymedia)
On Oct. 12, members of the Kizgo community began occupying Los Remedios estate, also in Silvia municipality. The estate is owned by the Colombian government, which confiscated it from drug trafficker Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela and co-owner Ana Dolores Avila de Mondragon. The Kizgo community has been trying for more than 15 years to negotiate with the national government for the return of their lands; in 1996 the government promised to buy 400 hectares of land for the community. (Fundacion Hemera, Oct. 15; Autoridades Indigenas de Kizgo, Oct. 14 via Colombia Indymedia)
On Oct. 12, residents of the Paez (Nasa) indigenous communities of Pueblo Nuevo, Caldono, La Aguada, Las Mercedes, Pioya and La Laguna Siberia began an occupation of the El Japio farm in Caloto municipality to press the government to grant them land. Government forces tried to evict them on Oct. 12, but the Indigenous Authorities of Caldono report that the occupation was continuing as of Oct. 13. (Autoridades Indigenas de Caldono-Cauca, Oct. 13 via Colombia Indymedia; EP, Oct. 14)
Elsewhere in Cauca on Oct. 12, indigenous people and campesinos began occupations on the Miraflores estate in Corinto, two estates in the village of Gabriel Lopez in Totoro municipality and lands on a site known as Las Guacas, east of the departmental capital, Popayan. Cauca police commander Col. Luis de Jesus Cely Rincon said army troops from the Codazzi Engineers Battalion of Palmira evicted 200 indigenous people from lands in the community of Media Naranja. Two indigenous people were wounded–at least one of them by a bullet–and had to be hospitalized in Santander de Quilichao; two soldiers were reportedly bruised. (EP, Oct. 14)
WORKERS, CAMPESINOS STRIKE
At least 500,000 Colombians took part in protest marches around the country on Oct. 12 as part of a 24-hour national civic strike protesting the government’s economic and social policies, the planned trade pact and President Uribe’s reelection plans. Some 100,000 people shut down the capital, Bogota, and marches took place in all 32 of the country’s departmental capitals. (LJ, Oct. 13 from AFP, DPA; Vanguardia Liberal, Bucaramanga, Oct. 13; El Informador, Santa Marta, Oct. 13 via Colombia Indymedia; El Heraldo, Barranquilla, Oct. 13)
“Uribe, paramilitary, the people are pissed off,” chanted marchers in Bogota. While opinion surveys have shown the right-wing president maintaining a 70% approval rating since he took office in August 2002, the massive turnout for the protests showed that “support for Uribe is in the media, not in the people,” according to Adolfo Paez, a representative of energy sector workers. “The polls don’t show real life.” (El Diario-La Prensa, NY, Oct. 13 from AFP)
Some 20,000 campesinos, indigenous people, students and workers marched in Neiva, capital of the southern department of Huila; it was the largest march the city had seen in more than 20 years. (Report from Ricardo Ramirez M. posted on Colombia Indymedia, Oct. 13) On Oct. 11 in Guacimo, on the road from Santa Maria to Neiva, the Colombian army tried to stop a caravan of some 1,500 campesinos from reaching Neiva for the protest; they detained three community activists, one of them a minor. In Tolima department, just north of Huila, the army detained 30 campesinos who were organizing for the Oct. 12 strike. (Federacion Nacional Sindical Unitaria Agropecuaria-FENSUAGRO, Oct. 12 via Colombia Indymedia)
Smaller towns and cities saw protests as well. In the southwestern department of Narino, some 3,000 campesinos from rural areas of Barbacoas, Roberto Payan and Magui Payan municipalities marched in the town center of Barbacoas on Oct. 12 to demand drinking water services and alternatives to illegal drug crops. (Caracol Radio. Oct. 13) Another 4,000 campesinos and indigenous people began marching from Mallama to Ricaurte municipality in Narino on Oct. 12.
Some 5,000 African-descended people took part in a march on Oct. 12 in the Pacific coast port city of Buenaventura, Valle del Cauca department, organized by the Process of Black Communities (PCN). Hundreds of people marched from Santa Rosa del Sur municipality to San Lucas in the northern department of Bolivar in support of the national strike and to oppose gold mining by the multinational Kedhada company. (Coordinador Nacional Agrario de Colombia-CNA, Oct. 12 via Colombia Indymedia)
On Oct. 12 in Corinto municipality, in the southern department of Cauca, riot police and army troops used tear gas and firearms against campesinos who were protesting on the road that leads from Miranda municipality. In the village of Gabriel Lopez in Totoro municipality, campesinos blocked the road leading from Popayan, the capital of Cauca, into neighboring Huila department. (Proceso Coordinacion Organizaciones Populares del Suroccidente Colombiano, Oct. 12 via Colombia Indymedia)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct 16
CORDILLERA ORIENTAL: U.S. DRUG PLANE SHOT DOWN
On Sept. 30 leftist rebels shot down a single-engine T-65 Turbo Thrush plane as it was spraying herbicides over northeastern Colombia’s El Catatumbo region. The US embassy in Bogota said the plane’s Colombian pilot died while being taken to a hospital. The embassy is investigating the crash. Gregory Lagana, a spokesperson for the US company Dyncorp–which carries out aerial spraying operations in Colombia under contract with the US State Department–declined to say who the pilot worked for, but said the plane was owned by the State Department.
The plane was shot down between the municipalities of Tibu and El Tarra in Norte de Santander department, near the Venezuelan border, where rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) are active. In a program funded by the US government, Colombia’s Antinarcotics Police sprays the toxic herbicide glyphosate over large swathes of countryside, ostensibly to destroy coca and poppy plants.
A report earlier this year by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy said that despite a record-setting aerial eradication offensive, 114,000 hectares of coca remained in Colombia at the end of 2004–slightly more than the 113,850 hectares that were left over in 2003 after spraying. (Diarios de Urgencia/Resumen Latinoamericano, Sept. 30, with info from Colprensa; Daily Journal, Venezuela, Oct. 2 from AP)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct 9
HIGH COURT OK’S RE-ELECTION
On Oct. 18, Colombia’s nine-member Constitutional Court ruled that a constitutional amendment to allow presidential reelection–approved by Congress in December–did not violate legislative or constitutional norms. Opponents of the reelection amendment had sought to have it overturned, arguing that supporters of President Alvaro Uribe Velez had omitted debates, and that dozens of lawmakers had voted for reelection after their relatives were given coveted jobs in embassies and government agencies. The court must still decide the legality of the Electoral Guarantees Law, which sets out terms to restrict the unfair advantage a sitting president has as a candidate. (New York Times, Oct. 20 from Reuters)
Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct 23
Weekly News Update on the Americas
See also WW4 REPORT #114
See also our last blog post on para terror in Colombia:
Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Nov. 1, 2005
Reprinting permissible with attribution