Translated by Buddy Bell, CSN Volunteer
Published July 20, 2016
For the ethnic peoples of Colombia, “peace is more than the Havana accords, and it must come alongside the re-establishment of equilibrium and harmony, such as were upended by the armed conflict, just like it caused damage to the integrity of individuals, collectives, and nature”, affirmed the president of the Indigenous and Social Movement (MAIS), Rodolfo Adán Vega Luquez, during the interview found here: http://www.convergenciaporlapaz.net.
Within this perspective, explained the political leader, this harmony ought to be realized among the collective, the individual, and their relationship with the land. Consequently, he added, “peace has to be a scene where different visions flow together with respect to the theme of development, promoting a communal process of addressing the problems that affect us.”
Restitution of Territorial Rights
Emphasizing that Colombia is an ethnically diverse and multicultural nation expressed over a population of 102 indigenous groups, the president of MAIS signaled that while “we value the efforts of the government and of the FARC to come to the negotiation table, we have expressed our concerns in poignant and concise themes such as the protection of the environment and the exploitation of the mining and energy sectors, regardless of this idea of President Santos that you can’t discuss the underlying economic model.”
“For us there are some rights we must see among the indigenous and afro-Colombian peoples, the same ones that have been recognized by the Constitutional Court and international organizations under the assumption that it is not suitable to impose the majority vision of development or progress on societies with different historical cultures. This is to say, this era of imposition, of inquisition, this time when we take the Bible and in return give away our land, I think it’s over. The indigenous and Afro-Colombian peoples are no longer the core of liberal democracies, nor objects in a museum. We are subjects with rights, actors of peace. These different visions must be respected and taken into account in the implementation of any accord. The construction of stable and true peace cannot be done while excluding such visions. Therefore, we’ve demanded that they listen to us in Havana. After all, 30% of the Colombian population are indigenous and Afro-Colombian, and if we add up our more than 37 million hectares, more than 30% of the national territory is collective property of the ethnic peoples. It’s a reality we have to take into account,” maintains a Kankuamo lawyer from the indigenous territory of Atanquez, in la Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
Even if belated, the representation of ethnic communities, commented Vega Luzquez, “has made it so we would be present at the negotiation table in Havana, in order to agree on some safeguards and guarantees we’ve needed to see concerning the rights of our communities.”
Among indigenous spokespersons, the concerns and perspectives about the peace accords vary. In the first place, doubts persist in the communities about key issues such as the restitution of land rights in areas that historically have been affected by the conflict, de-mining programs, and the prospective situation for indigenous FARC ex-combatants.
The large part of stolen land belongs to community councils constituted on the country’s Pacific coast, and some indigenous groups have been massively affected by the thefts, such as the Emberas and the Nukaks. Indigenous people have also suffered badly because of the presence of mines and unexploded munitions over the landscape of their territories.
In accord to create an integral system of transitional justice, there remained a paragraph saying there would be an indigenous focus in truth, justice, and reparation. That is why the leader of MAIS reiterates that one of the most frequent requests of the indigenous and of afro-Colomibans since the beginning of the peace process is to be included in the dialogues by way of the ethnic subcommission. This petition has been heard in Havana, so much so that the government delegation and the Ethnic Peace Commission agreed on a waybill to guarantee its participation in implementing the accords and citizen ratification of the same.
Supporting a Yes Vote in the Plebiscite
Upon announcing the MAIS decision to back the Yes to Peace campaign, after court approval of the plebiscite, Vega Luquez reflected that the new period about to open in post-accord Colombia is crucial in the struggles of original people and of alternative sectors. It is a time to finally realize social transformation so often held back in Colombia.
He pointed out that with ratification of the peace accord coming out of the negotiations in Havana, the country will experience a new cycle in which social mobilizations will need to profoundly expand as a mechanism to push and pressure to achieve those reforms which reclaim the good side of Colombian society, the side that delivers what the Quechua and Aymara people call the “Buen Vivir.”