Proclamation of the Congress of the People installation session

(Translated by Emily Schmitz, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN’s Volunteer Editor.)
Friday October 15, 2010
We have heard the proclamation of the Congress of the People from the Coalition of Social Organizations and Movements of Colombia, read at the end of a massive march, starting at the National University of Colombia and ending in the Bolivar Plaza, in the center of Bogotá.
We consider this document, along with the open letter, which the Coalition brought to this important encounter, a valuable tool in supporting the foundation of the organizing process.  This is a process through which many adversaries fight daily to create a better world for the children of their country; dignified and supportive of a socially just peace resulting from unity and the popular fight.
Brothers. Sisters.
Our word, which walks and weaves reason with dreams, now rises to unite everyone together; not only those living in Colombia but the brotherhood of all people as well.  On October 8-12, 2010, we called a meeting of all men and women, from all provinces and all ages to unite together to taken upon our hands a historic responsibility for our lives and to motivate our people to combine what is theirs with what is ours.
We are working men and women.
We work in the fields cutting sugar cane and working the land, we are farmers, we are day laborers and harvesters, we are people of the land, we are indigenous peoples, we are liberating descendents of Africa, we are dignified and free women, fishers of the rivers and ocean, we drive taxis and trucks, we are students, teachers, we are popular educators, we are the experience of the capital city, the State and the war, we are poor, marginalized, excluded, artists and artisans, we are peoples displaced due to bullets, threats, chain saws, big corporations, projects, we are the others, who, from sexual diversity, have created democracy, we are habitants of the street, the barrios, from the jails of the biggest cities, we are the detained, we are human rights defenders, we are public communicators, created from our god and, most importantly, created with justice, we are victims, we are boys and girls, a smile and imagination without limits, we are the youth who resist the oppression of a police system, we are the country and the towns, we are the Congress of the People.
This congress was summoned with one fundamental proposal: that it is the country that is subject to its legislation, that towns mandate that the people order the territory, the economy and their own form of governing.
It is that simple.  We are building forces for the people of Colombia, our sovereign character or, as they say, our primary constituents.  Despite the euphoria of the rich and powerful, we are convinced that the political and economic systems in Colombia are exhausted; barely remaining alive due to corruption and crime.  We do not have great hopes for the congress and government.  What we have confirmed in this installation session is that, in many places, people do not have any more hope and they legislate themselves, organize the land and follow their own rules.  Municipal assemblies, regional coexistence pacts, autonomous indigenous and African-Colombian territories, peace communities, participatory budgeting expenses, sovereign food networks, popular consensus building tables, territory assemblies in barrios, and movements to consolidate farmer reserves.  Through the exercise of their own legislature, everyone has encountered more democracy, wellbeing and justice; much more than the republic can offer and has not guarantied in their 200 years of life.  The Congress of the People has begun to join together the dynamics of popular autonomy.  It has called together all sectors of the social alternative to join together and think of a new country, initiate a national deliberation and create a Mandate of the Peoples, or Country Mandate, an Alternative Agenda or a Popular Constitution.  The discussion that we have begun will tell which name we will choose.  Within this spirit, more than 17,000 delegates from more than 220 organizations with popular social processes have been accepted to become the first session of the Congress of the Peoples.  The Congress, however, will make the quorum decision when another hundred of nationally dispersed basic processes assume an active manner and take this space to deliberate and decide the task of legislation and the creation of a new country or, better yet, when the entire country joins together to discuss and decide how they want to live and work.
The Congress of the People is not a meeting.  Its first encounter was only an Installation Session.  What we did these four days was principally to define our Popular Legislative Agenda.  Each one of the organizations and social sectors that participated here shared an experience having passed a general or punctual Mandate, or having elaborated a sectoral Program or proposal, of having adopted laws to exercise our autonomy or of having presented a political statement.  We have the experience of autonomy in common.  We have adopted think lines from a Popular Legislative Agenda and the Legislative Work Route from all sectors, actors, subjects and popular organizations in the country for the next period.
We have decided to create a new Colombia.  In reality, each one of us, in our own way, is constructing it every day.  This time, however, we will build it from our own point of view, in our own manner, speaking daily between all popular organizations.  Our vocation of popular unity is irreducible.  The Congress has decided that we will begin a process of deliberation and action together in all corners of the country, addressing fundamental themes.  Some of issues include:
To think and adopt a new political system based on autonomous government and the democracy of local communities and peoples.  A sovereign and independent State constructed by and for the people.
To re-order the territory of the country so that communities can mandate over their own strategic resources and to find a new way to relate with Mother Earth.  The Congress mandates that we liberate Mother Earth and that we return the right to decide these forms of governing regarding natural resources to the people.
To construct an economy supporting well-being.  In the fight against the neo-liberal economic model that exports and robs and destroys, the recuperation of natural resources and strategies that now find these resources in the hands of trans-nationals, is imperative.
To create our own route to fundamental, popular organization in order to find an alternative political solution to conflict.  It will be a route of mobilizing that will permit us to open paths to justice and peace.  While we awaiting the arrival of this moment, we reject the war of capital, we demand redistribution of our assumed destiny of war and the inversion of the multiple necessities that keep the excluded and denied forever in oppression.
We support the improvement of the most important values of the people who carry the weight of this country, giving themselves to an ethic full of respect and life potential, and reject death.  We promote a culture that breaks with patriarchal oppression, a culture of gender equality, of respect and the protection of the sexual and reproductive rights of women for a life free of violence.  We promote values and ethics opposing these powerful decisions that give lucrative privileges to the common good, speculation of real production, individual achievement of collective realization, the mixing of markets for redistribution, the homogenization of diversity.  We support a culture of solidarity, of accompaniment, of clean production and of harmony with nature; a culture that knows and understands that we must urge a system of national independent communication so that our reflections and decisions arrive to the entire country, giving it body and daily movement.
Our goal is to unite the torrent of the peoples of America who choose liberty, free determination and who exercise sovereignty. 
It is obvious that our proposal to create a new country and make the rights of the people become a reality puts us in clear opposition with the government of Juan Manuel Santos, claimed heir of “democratic security” but rather, who has maintained his intention to continue to give the country over to financial capital and trans-national corporations.  We understand the differences between the new government and the mafias who governed eight years ago could produce conflict; it will be a dangerous period.  Trying to distance themselves from these mafias, we accept the continued looting and invasion of our territories.  Meanwhile the prosecution of the people’s struggles, the cutting of social rights, and the destruction of territories throughout the country will continue.  Colombia will be transformed into an immense free-trade zone where commercial law is valued more than public interest or dignity.
The new government claims to be “nationally united.”  It is clear that the sectors of the old oligarchy have attempted to unite to further the attempt to reestablish part the disaster Uribe left; the disaster of internal polarization and international isolation: on the way co-opting popular leaders to detain social mobilization.  Nothing has been mentioned of the completion of State obligations regarding social, economic or cultural rights nor in regards to the number of signatures siding with the popular movement, the farmers, indigenous and afro-Colombians, the syndicated and city-dwellers which goes incomplete year after year.
We admit that the daily climate of intolerance imposed by Uribe Vélez has faded in the new government.  Meanwhile we see the same economic agenda against regions.  It is an agenda against national sovereignty and against class laborers; snatching up royalties and legislative territorial law without consulting indigenous or afro-Colombians, treating free trade as daily read, accelerating the privatization of public services, persecuting the economy of farmers and small miners.  Trans-national mining projects, energies and infrastructure continue to invade our territories, sustaining our culture and food sovereignty.
The Congress of the People has determined that it is urgent to concentrate our forces in giving life to intense social, political, cultural and spiritual actions.  We summon mobilization around the greatest challenges of the moment, specifically drawing attention to the following:
For the defense of the territories, the natural resources, the environment and a dignified life against dispossession.
For the right to land the reparation of the victims.
For a political solution to conflict, against the militarization of life and of territories.
For democratic order of urban space against the submission of citizens to the logic of private accumulation.
In regards to this and other themes, the Congress of the Peoples begins to deliberate.  The installation session organized the work that we will accomplish for the entire country, through all organizations and communities, to give this ordnance form in the coming years.  The country is for those on the bottom and, with the assistance of everyone, we weave it daily.  With constant persistence and desire for a different Colombia than we see today, it will bring us closer to the deliberations begun here today from all corners.  It will order us to listen and resume the desires of those who seldom have a voice and who are forever denied, forcing the creation of law and power which today is shamefully only a dream.
Meanwhile, we will hold session in linear sectors and themes.  We summon the regional Congress of the Peoples to initiate discussions and joint action.  We will overcome the dispersion that, today, characterizes the resistance fight, with our hands always ready to tie efforts and jointly link the task with other, alternative social experiences.
Understanding the process to make this become reality, the Congress of the Peoples works as a roundtable integrated by all organizations and processes that were present in the first installation session ending today.  The event left an open space for all the dynamics to resolve to organize and a future plan to meet, in no more than 30 days in Bogota, with the purpose to orderly structure and make prompt decisions in the first session.
At the same time, stimulated by existing diversity, so that the desire to take action is spread throughout the country, we continue to apply our work principles:
Our message and decision will emerge from everyone, from bottom up, around the fire, from the dialogue and search for a transparent and just word.  Some of the verbs full of content that should orient the force of all congress are: diagnosis, reflection, union, creation and transformation.
While we wait for this moment to arrive and, for now, the most important issue is that we leave this first session of the Congress with the conviction that we are legislating, that we are constructing our own political system from fundamental communication and organization.  It is important that we do this because it is our job and because the rich and powerful will not do it.  We are the people, the communities, the popular organizations, those who will draw the country from this terrible place which historic and new leaders from the establishment have brought it.
We propose that the country put urgent stress on overcoming the conflict back on the national agenda.  We endorse the people, communities and organizations that, from day to day, do acts of peace and reject criminalization.  We demand that armed actors compile with International Humanitarian Law.
We will show through our actions that we are for popular democracy, sovereignty, the fight against capital, in favor of a life of dignity, peace and justice.  We will demonstrate that the people of Colombia compose this country, that unity is possible and it is us who will weave it.  We will legislate the country from below and it will be the people who govern.  It will be the people who command the territories, the economy and how it will be governed.  We will live our word.

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