( Translated by David Brown, a CSN volunteer translator)
Resent from: COSMOS Association
(Fundación Ecológica COSMOS a Colombian Ecological Foundation)
Open Letter to the communities and participants in the Permanent Tribunal of the Peoples (TPP) session in Colombia.
Sierra Nevada, Santa Marta (SNSM) July 17, 18 and 19, 2008
For us, the indigenous people of the Sierra Nevada of Gonawindua (SNSM), this is our sacred house, and as such man should pay special attention to its preservation because this territory is a privilege for all humanity not only for the Koguis, Arhuacos, Kankuamos and Wiwas.
Man has still not been able to understand that our mother, THE EARTH, is the sum of all logical things and since the thinking that the earth must be taken care of, guarded, preserved and rendered tribute to, a mission that is carried out by our MAMOS (indigenous elders) as traditional authorities, but our elder brother* has allowed themselves to be carried away by a manner of thinking that preaches the destruction of the planet, this with sole objective being that of achieving economic benefits.
Our MAMOS elders continue reflecting regarding the confusion that exists on the land and about what road to follow to conserve it when the suns heats up more, the moon is sadder, the wind brings differing messages, the rain is no longer a constant, the environment is being contaminated and the animals that previously lived in a state of equilibrium with nature are harming to man. The cat devours in the same manner as society is devouring itself.
What is happening with the water is a message. If our elder brothers were not in this sacred mountain area, the would not even be a river there today, but we have been making offerings to the water, speaking with her, with the clouds, with the rivers, the starts and with all that is symbolic of life; but man, instead of interpreting our water as a symbol of vitality, is interpreting it as a symbol of war, of death.
Today, our Sierra Nevada finds itself less covered by glaciers, sacked of her valuable wood, invaded at the base of the mountain with African palms for the agro based fuels for export, confronting attacks by badly named “development” plans that look to end our cultures, deprive us of our autonomy and make us more and more dependent on hand outs and on projects of foreign governments and NGOs.
In the western region of the Sierra Nevada and as part of the despoiling of our land, for the last 80 years banana production in the hands of multinational corporations with their history of death.
The massacre of the banana workers in 1928 carried out by the Colombian Army headed by General Cortez, defending the interests of United Fruit and, since the decade of the 90s with the flowering of the paramilitary groups it has been Chiquita Brands that has financed the activities developed in the interior of our territory by supposed counter insurgents. We also remember with pain the death of three great leaders headed by Luis Napoleon Torres, assassinated by the National Army as a reprisal for a kidnapping carried out by another group of poisonous wasps but wearing armbands of “the Army of the People”.
We have been victims but also witnesses to the activities unleashed by the drug trade since the 1970s with the so called “Marimbera Bonanza” and later with the coca leaf trade leaving its lesions of depredation in our forests and the alteration of all the signs of life produced by the fumigations ordered by the anti narcotics office of the US embassy.
In the interior of our ancestral territory demarcated by the black line and recognized by the National government through resolution #837 of August 28, 1995, economic and social development plans have been being carried out in recent years that define “Strategic lines to promote an integrated and sustainable environment for the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta” This development plan has it basis in the study of the Pro-Sierra Foundation (Fundación Pro-Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta), directed by Juan Mayr, ex minister for the Environment, that was carried out in our territory with financing from the World Bank.
The specialists in political economy indicate that the principle productive activities depend directly or indirectly on the environmental services of this eco region, especially on the hydraulic resources of which only 8% is for human consumption, the rest being used for productive activities in Agriculture, Cattle and Mining, which allows us to better understand the megaprojects. For instance such as the El Cercado dam on the Rancheria River with its irrigation districts in the port, Multi use Brisa S.A in Dibulla that includes a metal working plant, a cement plant, an industrial free trade zone and the Besotes dam in El Cesar.
Together with the development of this megaprojects, Ingeominas (Colombian Government Geology and Mining Institute) charged the B & G company with developing and completing the geological map of the Sierra Nevada along with the carrying out of fine sedimentology studies in the river basins that descend from the Sierra Nevada, which, taken together with the accord between the governments of the town of Bello and the Agua de Manizales firm, is leaving us in the hands of the marketers of water and their processes of privatization.
The exploitation of the mineral resources is also found with special metals such as titanium, ornamental rocks, and construction materials; also on the part of the multinationals the advancement of the study of the continental shelf of the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta considering this promising for the discovery and development of hydrocarbons.
The tourist industry is one of those benefiting, the concession of the firm Aviatur of Sr. Bessudo of the National Tayrona Park and in Cesar that has the eye of Nabusimake Capital in the territory of Arhuaco; the tourist packet is made more attractive by the the Social Action organization of the Presidency of the republic. Our millennium long spiritual barriers have been converted into a series of barrier towns, near the various municipalities that look to recreate the traditional aspect of the indigenous peoples that would protect 35 river beds and 350 micro river beds.
We continue being displaced in our own territory, this time in the resettlement to the lower parts of our mountains, “in order to leave comfortably” in accord with civilized parameters while the sacred sites in the higher elevations of or dense mountains High Mountain military bases are established.
The prior permits us to conclude that the principal resource that the government, the financial entities and the multinationals look to take over is the hydraulic resource considered today by the world as blue gold.
If we want to count on this vital resource we propose to, our younger brothers, a policy that we have always had, of RECIPROCITY (you help me, I help you), in this case for the care and preservation of the resources from our ancestral ¨best practices¨.
We need to look for and achieve an accord in the thinking about this that permits us to understand the mountains of the Sierra as a sacred house of humanity and in this way carry forward spiritual thinking together with the progress of man to preserve nature.
We want to express our categorical rejection of all the plans of economic development inside our sacred territory, because we have always existed to take care of the thinking regarding our mother nature and our message is the search for a true love that identifies us with all the assets that were left us and we call out to humanity to plant the great truth that has been developed and planted in so many marvelous forms and in this way to develop a school of permanent dialogue, interacting with nature and in this manner to protect and take care of the world.
Associated with: TPP, Indigenous rights, conservation, Sierra Nevada, Tradiciones, Culture Comummnications.
Network for Humanity and Solidarity – Colombia
A NOTE BY CSN
*”elder brother is how the indigenous from the Sierra Nevada call non indigenous outsiders