( Translated by Kevin Funk, a CSN volunteer translator)
Sent by the Jose Alvear Restrepo Lawyer’s Collective
(Colombia) (Autor: CCajar)
sabelino Valencia is not losing hope that the Colombian government will finally collectively give titles to him and the 18,000 people of African descent in the region for the lands that belong to them, 330 years after their ancestors began to farm and sow their fields, to fish and work the Naya river, to extract the area’s gold and survive the slavery era.
Unfortunately, since 1999 these 49 communities, which form the Community Council, have repeatedly applied to different tribunals attached to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, for the collective titling of the 190,000 hectares that make up their territory, without having received a positive response up to the present.
For this reason Conchita and 3,000 people of African descent from the Orinoco basin decided to present a motion for legal protection against said Ministry for its inaction, reluctance, noncompliance, and delay in the process of legally recognizing their lands, for the Ministry to guarantee them the right to due process, to their lands, to their lives, existence, and survival as a tribal people.
The government’s interest in not recognizing their lands is clear. The region is rich in biodiversity, gold, oil, a metal known as ‘orito,’ and foods such as papachina, chontaduro, and pepa de Dios. Agricultural and fishing treasures, amongst others, of which multinational corporations and foreigners are seeking control.
Whatever may happen, the Afro-descendant peoples are willing to keep fighting for the land that has belonged to them for over 330 years, because as Chavelo says, "We can’t be free without our land."