Afro-Colombians Demand Territorial Respect & an Ethnic Commission at the Peace Negotiations
(Español aquí) UPDATE: Several days after Afro-Colombian communities occupied the PanAmerican highway in Northern Cauca, and after sustaining teargas and rubber bullets from Colombian security forces, local and federal officials opened negotiations with communities. Organized Afro-Colombians are adamant that their territories be recognized and respected now and during the implementation of the Peace Accords. While they negotiate, their leaders continue to be threatened by paramilitary actors who CRLN and many others insist must be demobilized if the Peace Process is really intended to bring peace.
From 4/27/16: Last week, CRLN was in Washington DC talking to Illinois members of Congress asking them to support an Ethnic Commission at Colombia's Peace Negotiations in Havana, Cuba. Now, 2,000 Afro-Colombians are blocking the Panamerican highway in Cauca demanding that their territories be respected according to Colombia's Law 70 & that their communities along with Indigenous peoples get a place at the table to put an end to a war that's affected them most of all: Protesters are asking for dialogues with the Colombian state to allow for an Ethnic Commission representing Afro-Colombians & Indigenous Peoples. Instead, they're being attacked with teargas & rubber bullets.
What can I do?
- Call your member of Congress to ask that they: "contact the State department and urge an immediate end to aggressions against peaceful Afro-Colombian protesters in Cuaca. Instead, the Colombian state should dialogue with these communities because dialogue, not violence brings peace. Ultimately, please express support for Afro and Indigenous voices in the Colombian Peace Process through an Ethnic Commission."
- Tweet to President Santos: ".@JuanManSantos, @carmeninesVicen We are deeply concerned re: report that afrocolombian children are affected by esmad actions in Cauca"
- Donate to support the organized Afro-Colombian communities' efforts to demand territorial respect and a place at the negotiating table.
How can I get updates about the situation? Follow CRLN's Facebook page and see thewebsite of the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network, of which CRLN is a member.
Why is this situation so important? Indigenous and Afro-descendant communities have been disproportionately affected by five decades of civil war, displaced from their legally recognized ancestral territories, and encroached upon by extractive industries and other private interests. If those most directly affected by violence have no say in how to end the violence, we are not optimistic about the outcome of the Peace Negotiations.
What's been the Colombian state's response? Thus far, it's been teargas (which has sent at least three children to the hospital), smoke bombs, and rubber bullets. The people demand dialogue, not violent attacks.