Colombia’s rural, ethnic communities call for agricultural reform, human rights

Posted on Feb 10 2014 - 10:44pm by Rico
Cumbre Nacional Agraria

“To strengthen the proposal of the people and advance in unity, we will head to the Agrarian Summit: rural, ethnic and laborer” : such is the motto of this month’s upcoming national summit, which hopes to bring together Colombia’s indignant rural and minority communities seeking resolutions in the face of growing social unrest and government neglect.

Following a pre-summit last December in which participants evaluated the situation of workers in the aftermath of massive nationwide strikes last fall, groups from the across the country representing organized labor, the agrarian poor, and Colombia’s ethnic minorities will come together in Bogota starting this February 22 to construct a unified program of social and political action, according to the Prensa Rural agrarian news agency.

Prensa Rural reported that the summit will be attended by representatives of Colombia’s indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, farmers, fishermen, small-scale miners and those from other rural sectors.

In August and September of last year, a similar movement was the focal point of a series of nationwide work stoppages and protests that gripped several of the country’s most important labor sectors, froze regional economies and provoked violent clashes between protesters and Colombian security forces.

The summit press release decries “the persecution to which [these communities] are subjected,” giving specific attention to the violent targeting of left-wing politicians  and activists, and denounces the so-called National Agrarian Pact presented last September by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ government following the strikes.

MOREColombia’s farmers hold National Summit, reject Santos’ National Pact

“We oppose the current model that continues to impoverish and rob us: the new Agrarian Pact proposed by the government is nothing more than the deepening of deprivation and exploitation, a project which hopes to deceive millions of rural families in order for them to seal dishonest alliances with business men that exploit our work and take over our land,” reads the press release.

MORE: Government releases schedule for regional agricultural negotiations

The statement also urges that ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the country’s oldest rebel group, the FARC, continue in their course and eventually bear fruit, hoping also that the same might happen with other rebel groups the ELN and the EPL.

“[This is] a fundamental step in the complex construction of Peace with Social Justice among the Colombian people,” the text reads.

According to the statement, the root of the problems facing Colombians rural and minority communities lies in the “public policies that Colombian governments have been implementing for years.”

With the express goal of  establishing concrete guidelines and mechanisms for dialogue and negotiations, the summit  looks to focus on the following issues and requests:

  • To respect the right of communities to define the use of their land and which crops to cultivate
  • To strengthen the participation processes as well as interethnic and intercultural dialogue
  • To guarantee the right to food sovereignty and autonomy
  • To guarantee the right to prior consultation with free, prior and informed consent of afro, indigenous and rural communities.

“The lack of political will by the Colombian government to proceed with the fulfillment of sealed agreements is clear to see,” the text states. “For this reason we continue to make our Agrarian Summit representative of our communities […] with the aim being to stand up for a […] just, inclusive and equal country.”

Among the denunciations made in the press release were mentions of the wave of assassinations targeting members of  the left-wing Patriotic March (Marcha Patriotica — MP) political party, the dismissal from office and political banishment of Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro because of “ideological bias” and the “violation of citizens’ political rights” that occurred during previous protests at the hands of the Colombian riot police (ESMAD) and the Colombian Army.

MORE: 30th killing of left-wing political party member since 2013 

MORE: Colombia’s Inspector General risks jail for ignoring judge defending Bogota mayor

The summit is scheduled to be held in Bogota, the Colombian capital, from February 22 to to February 24.

Sources

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