More than 500 Indigenous Children Claim in Choco state and take over the governors office in Quibdo

(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN volunteer translator)
Monday, April 23, 2007
The Communications Office of ONIC (The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia) resends:
A Communiqué to Public Opinion—
An Alert from El Chocó!
ONIC: Luis Evelts Andrade Casama, President, 315-857-2995 (cell phone)
Rafael Epiayu (312-351-4937) (ONIC Education Office)/ 312-639-4123 (Communications)
OREWA-Chocó: César Querágama 311-747-9483, President
OREWA Education Office: Baltazar Mecha 311-784-7738
OREWA Communications: Davidson Mecha 316-790-1484

Because Our Mother Earth Has Been Profaned. Maltreated. Sacked, And Our Lives Threatened, We Boys, Girls And Women Have Come Down From The Mountains, We Have Come From Our Forests And Rivers To Demand Our Rights
Today the indigenous Peoples inform public opinion of El Chocó, Colombia and the whole world that we are and we remain prepared for the struggle. Boys, girls, women and men, we have made the decision to demonstrate against the abandonment and humiliation to which we have been submitted by the municipal, departmental and national authorities, not only recently, but for a long time.
We are tired of the systematic violation of our rights, especially our rights to health care, to food, to education, to the protection of our lives. We want the cultural integrity of our peoples to be guaranteed.
In recent years the indigenous communities of the department of El Chocó have seen our life projects as Embera, Katío, Chamí, Wounaan and Tule peoples threatened as a result of the policies of the State, which do not take our cultural and territorial reality into account, and on the other hand by the armed conflict and its direct consequences in our territories,
But this happens not only in El Chocó, but also in the other regions of the country, where indigenous people have also died from lack of health care and malnutrition, where many of their men and women leaders have also been murdered, and where their territories have been threatened by the invasions of the legal and illegal armed groups and by the multinational companies with their strategies of extraction and exploitation of our resources, all of this added to the bad management and diversion of public resources that exist to guarantee our basic fundamental rights. As the Attorney General of the nation said, to steal health care money is the same as committing murder. So with our struggle we demand that these words be translated into deeds, since it has been a long time that they have been murdering and massacring us not only in the question of health care, but also in the other fundamental rights, and it has not seemed to matter to any official body.
It is these threats and attacks against our peoples that today require us to mobilize and to remain peacefully here in front of the departmental government of El Chocó, and action that has the solidarity of the indigenous people of Riosucio, El Chocó and the Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC.
WE DEMAND THE IMMEDIATE PRESENCE, in order to negotiate our petition and demands, of people with decision-making power who can represent the following state institutions:
The Presidency of the Republic
The Vice-Presidency of the Republic
The Ministry of the Interior
The Ministry of Social Protection
The National Ministry of Education
The Ministry of Mines and Energy
The Ministry of Agriculture
The National Planning Department
The Director of Social Services for El Chocó
The Government of El Chocó
Social Action of El Chocó
INCODER (The Colombian Institute of Rural Development)
We urgently call upon the following institutions to serve as guarantors of our negotiations:
The Diocese of Quibdó
From the United Nations: UNHCR, UNHCR Colombia Office, UNICEF
The Public Defender of Ethnic Minorities
The Regional Public Rights Defender
The Regional Public Attorney
The Organization “Paz y Tercer Mundo” (“Peace and the Third World”)
We stress that our presence here is peaceful, and we therefore demand respect for the constitutional rights of free movement and protest. The majority of the population here are boys, girls and women, and we ask that we be granted the necessary humanitarian conditions.
Of the people of El Chocó we ask your solidarity, that you unite with our peaceful protest, because we are all suffering the same evils.
Quibdó, El Chocó, April 23, 2007
Cc: Negotiating institutions of the state and, guarantor institutions and the media.
Petitions: Justifications and Petitions!!!!
Because Our Mother Earth Has Been Profaned. Maltreated. Sacked, And Our Lives Threatened, We Boys, Girls And Women Have Come Down From The Mountains, We Have Come From Our Forests And Rivers To Demand Our Rights
For several years the indigenous peoples of El Chocó, through multiple LEGAL routes and actions, carrying out due processes, have been demanding of the Colombian state a response to our demands, given the permanent and systematic violations of our economic, social, cultural and environmental rights.
Being the owners of the territory where we have lived forever, and because of the continuous violations of our rights as peoples, we are obliged to mobilize and protest, demanding from the state dignified conditions in order to continue to inhabit this territory that has a significance for us that is different from what it has for the businessmen, the landlords, and the state itself. A significance that has been constructed in a strict relation of community-human being-nature, which is why our territory is not simply the environment that surrounds the human being, but rather that the human being makes up part of nature, and this creates a special way of organizing ourselves, of creating rules for controlling, holding and exploiting the territory. Therefore, any assault on the human being is an assault against the territory, and is an assault against our dignity.
An indigenous people lives in dignity when they can inhabit its territory, make use of it, and take advantage of its resources, when they have possibilities to enjoy their fundamental rights, such as health care, education, food, lodging and territory, and when they can live well in accordance with their own world view and cultural practices, but these rights of ours are being damaged. We, as indigenous peoples, have our life plans, our own conception of development, and it is in our territory that we are able to develop our thinking. That is why through our struggles we have won partial recognition on the part of the state, like title to certain reserves in the Department of El Chocó, but there is still a great deal of what has always been ours to be recognized.
What’s happening here in El Chocó is that we indigenous peoples inhabit a very rich territory and in the last several years domestic and foreign investors, in negotiations with the national and departmental governments, have been trying to use and exploit our territory with their own idea of development, and in order to accomplish this in addition to their capital they use armies of mercenaries, a cheap labor force and machinery with the latest technology. This is how they are destroying the life of the planet.
In the same way the national government has created laws like the Forestry Law, the Mining Code, the law of the Rural Development Statute and the projected Water Law. These laws reform the law of transfers within the political platform of “democratic security” and “judicial security” with regulations fixed for the companies, favoring the interests of  big investors with their multinationals, violating the territorial rights of the indigenous peoples and international agreements such as #169 of the ILO.  Many of the permissions which have been given to these companies are given without the required previous consultation with the indigenous communities. Leaders are manipulated with trinkets in order to get the authorization of the communities—all of that within the framework of the Free Trade Treaty.
We have insisted that we are not opposed to the development of the country, only that these models that they have been imposing on us by blood and fire for 55 years are being proposed by a society that is exclusionary and discriminatory, that is appropriate only for those who have the means and resources to overexploit their resources. What we have proposed and now propose is a society that is equitable and in equilibrium with nature, that is why they accuse us of being opposed to the progress or the development of the country. Nonetheless, we continue forward in our task of recovering and building our own development with equity and recognition of the diversity of this country.
We become ever more aware that with the argument that there will be more investment in the country, the government makes a commitment to the multinationals to privatize water, the forests, petroleum, the mountain tops, the biodiversity, the mines, the ancestral wisdom and life itself. In other words, we can affirm that they are making a gift of us to the multinationals. Since we have resisted these new forms of colonization, they have therefore within this dynamic used legal and illegal groups placed in the service of these companies that invade our territories, turn them into battlefields, forcing our people to displace themselves in order to occupy the territories, establishing their mining emporiums, their oil palm and coca plantations, and thus extracting all the cells of our mother earth.
Now the Colombian state is very concerned about the deaths of our indigenous children; we are too, but we have to clarify to the country the real causes of what is happening here: problems that have been denounced now for many years, and we do not understand how the organs of control only now are initiating processes of investigation. Health care and the ways that the agreements for providing this service are established, from Law 100 itself, favor private interests, corruption and diversion of the moneys; in these corrupt practices, we indigenous peoples have been the most affected. In the field of education, four years ago we denounced the diversion of more than 13 billion pesos, with which this service should have been provided to indigenous children, without its having been investigated or the people responsible for this crime having been punished until now. The national government is an accomplice in this abuse of the indigenous peoples, because it has ignored all our denunciations and demands.
Our children do not need only a market to satisfy their hunger; we need to be able to guarantee them a dignified and healthy life always. That is to say, or children do not only die because of malnutrition, but also because of the lack of health attention and because in recent years our productive, cultural and sacred practices have been altered by the gravity of the armed conflict. The Colombian government has always known this; we have many memos of commitment and signed agreements without having any responses up until now.
In addition to the territorial recognition other things are needed, among them political will from the government at the national departmental and municipal levels. We are tired of talking and waiting, of having the politicians and some functionaries blaming each other, some saying that the resources from the national level have not arrived, others—those from the national level—that they are robbed within the department. Truth or lie, the control organizations of the state will be able to determine through their investigations’ what is clear to us is that our rights have always been violated and our lives and continuity as peoples are threatened.
We therefore DEMAND that the national and departmental governments and municipal administrations respect and carry out Agreement 160 of the ILO, through Law 21 of 1991, the Colombian Political Constitution and other special rules that protect our rights and thereby move forward the necessary processes to guarantee the following demands:
Territory Component:
1. The construction and development of a National Council of Social Economic Planning (CONPES) for indigenous peoples.
2. Titling of more than ten indigenous reserves.
3. Expanding of more than twenty indigenous reserves.
4. Cleaning of more than fifty-five indigenous reserves.
5. That none of the laws (the forest law, mining code, water law, rural statute) be applied in the indigenous territories and that a demand be given to the Congress for an exhaustive revision of said laws.
6. That our right to previous consultation, established in the ILO Agreement 169, ratified by the national government in Law 21 of 1991, be respected.
7. That both the legal and illegal armed groups respect the exercise of autonomy by the indigenous peoples
8. That the national, departmental and local governments respect the management, the rules and the organization of the territories that our authorities have carried out and will carry out.
9. We demand of the national government that they not promote or sign proposed laws that attack our fundamental rights; in the case of the Rural Development Statute, we demand that the government withdraw this initiative from the congress and that they employ all the necessary mechanisms in order not to continue with this legislative process.
Health Component:
1. Support for the health program that is developed by our organizations. Agreement with our life plans and strengthening of the organizational structures that our peoples have built in order to attend to the area of health care.
2. Construction and donation of eight (8) health centers strategically located in the zones of Catrú, Alto Andágueda, Medio San Juan, Quibdó-Carmen de Atrato Highway, Juradó, Bojayá, Riosucio and Bajo Baudó, assigning positions for medical personnel and nursing that would permit the indigenous peoples located in these territories to have direct access to said services.
3. Naming at least four persons per zone such as: health promoters, health aides, community health promoters, microscopists.
4. Naming of indigenous personnel in the centers and second level hospitals in order to facilitate the provision of service to indigenous persons, for reasons of language and culture.
5. Implement programs of food security for each of the indigenous zones in El Chocó. Based on the recovery of the wild fauna, recovery of the traditional diets and recipes of the surroundings, cultivation of food to be gathered and raising of smaller species which will permit said communities, and especially the population of children, the women and the elderly, the nutritional support in vitamins, minerals and carbohydrates that would generate defenses to limit and avoid the suffering of multiple diseases which frequently presenting our population as a product of poor nutrition.
6. Create a special administrative structure directly between the OREWA Association and the national government, for the autonomous management and control of resources destined for the indigenous peoples of El Chocó, and not have municipal or departmental intermediaries, since this has allowed the communities to be increasingly vulnerable.
7. Funding and personnel necessary for the medical attention center located en Cabí, Quibdó, and the medical attention center in Medellín.
8. Affiliation of the entire indigenous population in a health system that provides integral health services.
Education Component:
1. Guarantee the provision of education services to the totality of our population, which at this time reports the matriculation of 14,447 boys and girls, respecting our fundamental right to education, with the immediate involvement of the following personnel by the SGP (General System of Andean Preferences):
– 657 teachers
– 5 rectors for the following indigenous educational institutions: Catrú, Alto Andágueda, Medio San Juan, El Dieciocho, Juradó
– 27 teaching leaders Administrative personnel for the educational centers and institutions:

  1. Secretary
  2. Psychologist/counselor
  3. Nurse
  4. General services
  5. Watchman

2. Revoke the decrees that took the teachers out of the national system in 2006, so that, being reintegrated, they will not lose their work seniority and the guarantees with which they have been working without tenure support.
3. Carrying out Mandate 02 of 2003 of the indigenous peoples and certified by the departmental secretary of education, who organizes the personnel lists for our communities
4. That the provision of educational services be given in fulfillment of Decree 208 of March 2007, ratifying constitutional rights, Law 115 of 1994, Decree 804 of 1995 and other special rules.
5. Investigation of departmental administrations between 2003 and 2006 for the poor management and diversion of resources destined for attention to the indigenous population and the lack of compliance with Law 715 of 2001, as well as investigation of the municipal governments that failed to carry out the decision of the Constitutional Court expressed in Ministerial Directive 002 of January 18, 2005, which obliges them to contract the teachers who were working before February 9, 1994.
6. Official recognition of the indigenous educational institutions and centers through a special administrative act.
7. A mandate from the national government that orders the municipalities to give quality resources to our population, with a specific assignment to the indigenous communities, for the construction of 80 schools, the reparation and expansion of 248 schools, the donation of teaching materials and furniture for them and for community training, literacy, curriculum design.
8. The immediate assignment of 1,370,880,00 pesos [approx 63,000 USD] in economic resources for training of indigenous teachers.
9. The expansion of capacity for the school cafeterias in the 248 indigenous schools of El Chocó, following our customs and practices.
10. Guaranteeing the immediate fulfillment by the National Ministry of Education and the Departmental Secretary of Education of the commitments signed with our peoples in the documents of 2003.
Human Rights Component:
1. Immediate and permanent integral attention to the displaced and returned indigenous communities in line with agreements already reached, taking into account the differential plan of attention to the indigenous peoples, by agreements and permanent cooperative action with local, zonal, regional and national indigenous organizations.
2. Facilitate investigations and punishment of officers of the public forces (army and police) who have violated the lives and dignity, the physical and moral integrity of different indigenous persons.
3. Take the measures necessary to guarantee that the public forces do not continue the process of violation of the rights of our peoples and respect both the human rights and the jurisdiction and internal laws of our peoples.
4. Guarantee that the public forces (army and police) respect our right to free movement and stop confiscating the food and medicines that we need for the life and health of our communities.
5. We demand that the national government sign the bill of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United Nations and the OAS, y for this we hope that they would assign the judicial and political resources necessary for this goal.
Quibdó, Chocó, April 23, 2007
National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC
Regional Organization
ONIC Communications
OREWA [Regional Embera and Wannan Organization]
Association of Embera, Woannan, Katío, Chamí and Tule Indigenous Cabildos [Councils] of the Department of El Chocó
Unity, territory, culture and Autonomy
Resolution No. 0030 of June 2, 2005, issued by the Directorate fo Ethnic Groups of the Ministry of the Interior and of Justice
NIT [Organizational Registry]: 900060282-D.V-1
25 Years of Struggle

Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI  53701-1505
phone:  (608) 257-8753
fax:  (608) 255-6621

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