Participants of the Minga continue to wait for a meeting with Colombian President Iván Duque

The organizations of the Social Minga are demanding protection for social leaders, right to defend their land, right to democracy and the construction of peace in the country

October 20, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Nearly 8,000 Indigenous and black people, peasants, students and women from the southwestern Colombia arrived in Bogotá on October 18 to meet President Iván Duque. Photo: Javier Jiménez/Colombia Informa

Nearly 8,000 Indigenous and Afro-descendant people, peasants, students and women from the southwestern region of Colombia, who arrived in Bogotá on October 18 to meet President Iván Duque, are still waiting for a response.

At the beginning of this month, on October 6, the Indigenous, Afro-descendant, peasant, social and students’ organizations from southwestern Colombia held a press conference in the city of Popayán, in Cauca department, and called for the beginning of the “Social and Community Minga for the defense of life, territory, democracy and peace” from October 10. Minga is an Indigenous Quechua word and refers to collective action for the benefit of the community. As a part of the Minga, the organizations announced a peaceful mobilization from Popayán to the city of Cali, in Valle de Cauca department, and demanded a meeting with President Iván Duque to address the grave situations faced by these communities. They invited President Duque to meet them at the San Francisco Plaza, in Cali, on October 12.

“Life is priceless, life is not negotiable, the dignity of the people is not negotiable, the territory is not negotiable. For this reason, today regardless of whether we are in the midst of a pandemic, the organizations, the Indigenous people, the peasants, the Afro people and the student organizations say that ‘we have to mobilize’ because we cannot let them continue to kill us,” said Ferney Quintero, Senior Advisor of the Yanakuna Indigenous people.

In the letter addressed to the head of the state, the organizations denounced the increase of violence in the territories, the increase in massacres, the systematic assassinations of land defenders and community leaders, forced displacement, the criminalization and persecution of social leaders and the police repression of peaceful social protests. In the letter they demand protection and security for social leaders, respect for the Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities, recognition of their rights to their lands, end to overexploitation of natural resources and siege by drug traffickers and paramilitaries, as well as the compliance with the peace agreements signed between the former government and the Revolutionary Armed forces of Colombia (FARC) in Havana, Cuba, in 2016.

On October 12, the national government sent a delegation headed by the Interior Minister Alicia Arango to meet the representatives of the Minga. However, the representatives left the dialogue process because the president was not present in the meeting. In response to the indifference and refusal of the president to establish a dialogue with the communities, on October 14, the organizations that make up the Minga decided to march to the capital city Bogotá to meet him.

After traveling for three days, more than 7,000 Mingueros and Mingueras (participants of the Minga) arrived in Bogotá on October 18 to demand immediate response to the spiraling human rights crisis in the country. However, as of today, President Duque has not confirmed when and where and if he will be meeting the representatives of the Minga.

“There is no need to send an invitation letter to President Iván Duque to dialogue with him in Bogotá. We will wait for him. He had time to decide the place and time to meet with us. He has wasted a lot of time. The Minga has never closed its doors for dialogue,” said Hermes Pete, member of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), one of the organizers of the Minga.

 

Last year, President Duque committed to dialogue with the members of the Minga in the Caldono municipality, but even though he arrived there, he refused to attend the meeting with the leaders. This year, in order to pressurize the president and the national government to listen to its people and their demands, the organizations have called for a massive national mobilization for this Wednesday, October 21.

According to the data collected by the Institute of Development and Peace Studies (INDEPAZ), 236 environmentalists, human rights defenders, Indigenous, peasant and social leaders, and 51 ex-combatants of the FARC, who are in the reincorporation process, were killed till October 20 of this year. Additionally, the organization reported that 267 people were killed in 67 massacres registered in the country between January 1 and October 14, 2020. The departments of Antioquia, Cauca and Nariño are the most affected regions by the violence.

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