Agrarian Strike Disrupts Business as Usual in Colombia & Wins

Español Aquí (Photo: CRLN board and staff express "Solidarity with the Agrarian Strike and the right to Protest")

Over the past two weeks, organized Afro, Indigenous and campesino communities in Colombia staged a general Agrarian strike demanding that Juan Manuel Santos’ administration stop withholding resources committed to rural communities in 2013. This demand for economic support comes at a time when the violence of civil war is most heavily concentrated in rural areas, resulting in crossfire and massive displacement throughout mostly campesino, Indigenous, and African-descendant territories. Late last night, CRLN got word that the Colombian state has agreed to several items after a few days of intense negotiations with base communities, among them:

  1. Guarantees to protection and security for communities engaging in peaceful protest,
  2. Recognition of the rights of campesinos as their own social category and also campesinos’ right to their own land,
  3. The necessity to demobilize paramilitary actors and protect social movement leaders,
  4. The validity of the Indigenous Guard as a legitimate and autonomous authority within Indigenous territory,
  5. The concerted construction of a mechanism whereby social movement sectors can take part in the Peace Process,
  6. A revision of the way the Colombian state gives mining concessions and the beginning of a National Dialogue on Energetic Mining,
  7. A meeting on June 22nd in Bogotá between the Popular, Ethnic, Campesino and Agrarian Summit and President Juan Manuel Santos where there will be follow up to the latter agreements.

 

Communities united in massive, national protests because the Colombian state had been rescinding promised resources destined for rural communities while simultaneously excluding them from the Peace Negotiations in Havana. As the people most directly affected by crossfire, displacement, and violence, that they would be excluded from the conversation or the construction of solutions is unconscionable.  

 

Over the past year, Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities have organized themselves, unifying their demands for an ‘Ethnic Commission’ at the negotiating table. The Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA) and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) represent thousands of people across Colombia who want a say in what Peace looks like and how the negotiations will be implemented.

 

Instead, the Colombian state continued to marginalize these communities in favor of privatized development and concessions of their territories to extractive industries, agricultural giants and other forces that contribute to the violence of forced displacement and environmental contamination.

 

Over the past two week, Afro-Colombians, campesinos and Indigenous communities have blocked the Panamerican highway, withstood attacks by Colombia’s “Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squad” (ESMAD), created a water blockade with over 120 small boats to successfully shut down Colombia’s largest port, and continued to organize around their demands for peace, autonomy, and a place at the negotiating table.

 

As they mobilized, the Colombian military and ESMAD cracked down, killing at least four Indigenous protesters, beating and injuring scores more, while indiscriminately tear-gassing large groups of people and surrounding communities. Francia Marquez, spokeswoman of the mobilization, insists that, despite the violence, the communities will not be moved. “Because the territory, to us, has been our father, has been our mother, and it will continue to be for our children.

 

CRLN, as part of the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network (ACSN), signed onto a statement of outrage that was shared with the U.S. Embassy in Colombia, State Department officials, and members of Congress. We’ve also been in regular contact with partner organizations including Black Communities Process (PCN), Association of Community Councils of Northern Cauca (ACONC), The People’s Congress, and many others. We’ve been contacting elected officials, the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá during the height of state repression against protesters.

 

CRLN and our partner organizations will continue accompanying the process of implementation of the latter agreements, for which organized communities in Colombia have fought, shed blood, strategized and worked tirelessly to obtain.