“The outcome of the conversations with the government is negative………”

Source ASCAMCAT (Asociacion de Campesinos del Catatumbo)http://www.prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?article13273
(Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN Volunteer Translator)

“The outcome of the conversations with the government is negative; it can be defined as a complete, planned, and malicious failure to fulfill responsibilities.”
Written by ASCAMCAT
Wednesday, February 5, 2014

As this new year began, the Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo [Catatumbo Peasants’ Association] came to the Mesa de Interlocución y Acuerdo del Catatumbo (MIA-Catatumbo) [Dialgue and Agreement Session of Catatumbo] with the conviction that this was a useful stage to lay out the claims of the peasantry of the region around winning better living conditions for everyone. This was not only because this space itself was was the fruit of our mobilization, but also because in this session we expected to arrive at agreements, timetables and budgets that would contribute to the resolution of the demands of the mobilized peasantry of Catatumbo.
The outcome of the conversations with the government is negative; it can be defined as a complete, planned and malicious failure to fulfill responsibilities. Therefore, it is impossible to deny a series of concerns that originate in more that 8 months of delays, evasions and lack of fulfillment in the agreements signed by the national government; as we will see in detail, President Santos’s vacillations in the face of the necessity to provide guarantees that would protect the session, his persisting in the bellicose formula of the National Policy of Territorial Consolidation and Reconciliation (PNCRT). The faithlessness and lack of fulfillment of the agreements that have been signed, and of course the incessant persecution and stigmatizing by the paramilitaries, active military and even by members of the government’s delegation in the MIA-Catatumbo, have forced us to make this call, founded on the basis of the following:

1.Death and impunity continue to be a tool of the Colombian political system against those of us who demand openness and change: the world saw the images of the murder of four peasants who, during the mobilization that gave rise to the establishment of the MIA-Catatumbo, protested, demanding the creation of a Peasant Reserve Zone (ZRC). These four peasant martyrs fell because of bullets from weapons like those that the police and army fired that day at the demonstrators. In images captured in the area one can see police aiming their rifles at the unarmed multitude. Police were recorded b y the international media as they boasted of having killed peasants who were demonstrating. With all these materials proofs, it would have been expected not only that condemnation of those who fired would have been generated; with all the material that has been given to the authorities we may demand that the superior officers of the police and soldiers who killed Edinson Franco, Diomar Angarita, Leonel Jácome and Hermides Palacios be condemned.
However, after more than half a year since the deaths of our brothers, not a single trial has been intitiated against their murderers; in the same way, officers like Marcolino Tamayo or Rodolfo Palomino continue in their command positions or have been promoted to higher-ranking duties.
Now, after the work stoppage was lifted, the death of our coworker Jorge Eliecer Calderón Chiquillo, a noted participant in the mobilization, whom the National Army shot and killed in a false combat has been added to these four In addition, Duvis Antonio Gálvis, who functioned as a community leader in the municipality of Sardinata, associated with the MIA-Catatumbo, and who was known for his opposition to the entry of the PNCRT into our area, was murdered in circumstances which have still not been investigated, right near an area patrolled by the National Army.
In all, we can say that impunity in the death of peasants, and the connection of these crimes with the irregular intervention of police and soldiers, has been a constant in these political opposition process; We therefore that from the outset these circumstances undermined the minimal basis of guarantees that can be demanded in any democracy, that is, respect for the life of the person who disagrees.

2. The imprisonments persist, and the number of peasants who are prisoners because of judicial fraud is growing with the passage of the days. Our coworkers who currently are political prisoners are not a few; they are imprisoned through judicial fraud, punished for thinking differently. However, some cases stand out: Freddy Chona, a leader in his community, recognized for his active participation in the recent people’s mobilization, and who has been referred to in a lying was as a supposed confidant of a rebel commander; William Mora, a journalist, an active member of the community processes in the region, was jailed for his political vehemence and is also accused of belonging to a rebel group; Elivaneth Uribe, a young member of the field support teams of ASCAMCAT, arrested during the work stoppage, falsely presented as guerrilla fighter, another coworker punished for dissenting. In fact, there are areas in our region where this practice has become a systematic violation of the rights of young people and adults. For example, we can point out the increasing number of people arrested in the rural community of La Primavera, in the municipality of Tibú, thanks to judicial frauds, as a way of making repression into a constant intimidating of the peasants.
In addition, our coworkers Ramón del Carmen Ortega, Edgar León Sanguino, Osneider Balmaceda, Jeison Antonio López Coronel, José del Carmen Maldonado Serrano and Henry Franco Jaimes continue suffering all kinds of arbitrary judicial actions and abuses connected to the national prison crisis.
These unjustified imprisonments are added to the judicial frauds that are suffered by peasant leaders and academic critics like Huber Ballesteros and Francisco Tolosa.

3. Attacks and harassment against the spokespersons of ASCAMCAT. This is another proof of the necessity of dismantling paramilitarism as a prerequisite of peace and democracy. The illegal search of the house of the peasant leader Olga Quintero and a shot that hit the vehicle in which she was traveling, exactly on the where she was, are proofs that the large estate, the economy of enclaves, and some sectors of the armed forces continue recurring to the assassination of leading figures as a political tool.
In the same way, the constant following and generalized harassment of the entire negotiating team indicate that paramilitarism maintains an operational capacity which requires that the government increase the weak preventive measures adopted up until now. However, to this date the majority of our coworkers lack preventive measures that correspond to the risks of the situation in which military authorities and paramilitary groups have publicly offered rewards for them.

4. In this sense it is necessary, in order to provide guarantees in the areas of human, civil and political rights, that there be progress in the search for avenues that would permit the work of entities like the Attorney General of the Nation and the National Protection Unity to be concentrated on resolving in a rapid way the problems we have described.

5.The threat of renewing indiscriminate fumigations or the violent eradication of coca leaf in the region is a direct sabotage of the work session. Given that the social, environmental and humanitarian crisis that would be generated by a violent escalation of this kind by the state, it is practically certain that it would be another detonator for the discontent, the exclusion, the frustration and the fury that has accumulated for years in the hearts of the peasantry. In this sense it is imperative to ratify the agreement on suspension of eradication and suspension of fumigation by the national government.

6. The national government maintains an agenda parallel to that of the MIA-Catatumbo in the region. This undermines the credibility of the agreements and their enforcement. This shows the lack of political will to respect the agenda and agreements that are reached in the MIA-Catatumbo. This is proven with initiatives like the updating of maps for mining exploration, projects of collective reparations in La Gabarra and productive projects offered in rural communities like San Pablo and La Cecilia. As they advance in a parallel way and without consultation in areas under debate in the MIA-Catatumbo, the reach and the relevance of what is agreed upon by the parties in the discussion are diminished.

7. Without specific budget goals for 2014, there are no guarantees of financing the agreements of the MIA-Catatumbo: Among the common points of the government in the delaying maneuvers used in the preceding months is the lack of resources. Now, if the related budget previsions have not been made, the national government will be dooming their participation in the MIA-Catatumbo to failure and paralysis.
This is why it is necessary that the Ministries of the Treasury and Agriculture, as well as the DPS [the Department of Social Prosperity—a government agency—SC] clarify for us the budget goals that they have foreseen for this year. The national government has still not said what percentage of the 2×1000 [a tax on financial transactions—SC] for the agricultural sector they are thinking of devoting to investment in the region.
Denouncing the lack of fulfilling the agreements.

1. As part of the multiple delays or failure to fulfill the agreements we have arrived at, we are concerned that as of this date, we have not even been informed about the development of letting people know about the project, in accordance with the creation of the ZRC-C with members of the executive Council of INCODER [Colombian Institute for Rural Development, a government agency—SC]. And mucho less have spaces been opened for the peasantry to participate in that process. Similarly, in the agreement of the creation of the ZRC-C, by this date the national government should have made known the legal concept of the project Como, and this has not happened.

2. In the same sense, and as part of the most recent failures of the national government to fulfill their agreements, they did not attend the analysis and evaluation of the progress in the Confidence Agreements during the session of the Follow-up Committee for the Confidence Agreements, foreseen for the 29th and 30th of January, 2014. This is a situation which delays the timetables that were foreseen, and above all, which delays the satisfaction of basic necessities of the peasantry of the region..

3. Similarly, we find that the agreement on reparations for families that are victims of the violent eradication still has not been carried out, and to this date we have not been able to get past the phase of initial monitoring. This paralysis is due to the fact that the national government persists in linking the process to the Administrative Unit of Territorial Consolidation (UACT). For our part, although we know that the the UACT and in particular the “Consolidation Plan” (PNCRT) do not formally belong to the Ministry of Defense, still we understand that both the UACT and the designs of the PNCRT are an extension of the war planning of the national government, formulated by the National Security Council.
Likewise, the violence and the generalized decomposition of the military forces in the region of Catatumbo, as well as the actions of the military commands, who oscillate between legality and illegality, make unacceptable to us the basis upon which, according to their own documents, the policy of territorial consolidation is oriented, which is securing the area militarily. The broken-down dynamic of the conflict in this region, paramilitarism and recent violations of International Humanitarian Law mean that the presence of the armed forces and the UACT does not generate the confidence necessary to guarantee the life, security and dignity of the peasant victims. We peasants do not want the interference of the UACT in our territory through whatever mechanism, we do not want our executioners to be in charge of our reparations.
We can say in addition that to us it is clear that the UACT is an entity that belongs to the DPS [The department of Social Prosperity, a government agency—SC] and not to the Ministry of Defense, yet as we have said the fundamental truth of the PNCRT, even when it is not formally formulated from within the Ministry of Defense, is a military pacification process and military securing of our territory. It is therefore our constitutional duty to reject war and support peace, reject the PNCRT and demand that institutional spaces be opened to carry out the agreements on post-eradication reparation, based on the understanding within which they were signed.
In this sense, we peasant communities have written some letters where, to maintain our dignity, we prefer to give up our interest in applying the agreement if the government persists in deforming what we agreed upon in favor or military intervention. We that the government does not decide to respond to our decision by tossing aside the agreement that we have accomplished, and rather that it be carried out directly by the DPS or by another entity that has the responsibility of rural development.

4. Similarly, the stubbornness of the national government and its obstinate attempts to impose the participation of the UACT in the development of the agreements has led to the development that the agreements about “IPDR”-type (Rural Development Project Implementation—SC] projects are also in doubt. To date, the government, in a very disloyal, has made the application of the agreements about the IPDR dependent on signing an agreement between the peasants and the UACT so that, following the modification of Article 10 of Agreement 308 of 2013, we peasants would obligate ourselves to work with the UACT in the “total eradication” of the coca plantings
This, as we have said, represents not only the UACT’s sticking itself into rural development issues, put is also a lack of respect for the agenda agreed upon in the MIA-Catatumbo. Even when we are in the process of discussing a “Program of Substitutes for Income Derived from the Illicit Use of Coca,” the government, without any consultation, tries to “tie” the confidence agreements to an “eradication” agreement, with this measure taking it out of the scheduled discussion.
In this sense, the peasant communities have confidence that the national government will modify what is meddlesome in their position, will think it over and will understand that imposition and cajoling are not an effective path for solving the conflicts that bring us to the table.

In this sense, as a conclusion and because of the lack of guarantees and non-fulfillment we have shown, we want to put out this call:

To all the peasant communities and the Catatumbo community in general: that we stay alert to continue in the defense of our territory and of life, through mobilization, solidarity and dignity.

To the families who are victims of the violent eradication of coca leaf: that we keep ourselves as a model of dignity and interest in the construction of peace and that we continue rejecting the militarization of the policy of rural development.

To the Barí people: that we persist in our agreements around the defense of our territory, and that together we build a Catatumbo that is socially inclusive and intercultural, speaking symbolically and politically.
To the national and international community: that they be witnesses to the lack of guarantees of the exercise of civil rights in this country; that they oppose Colombia’s being a country where the expression of differences is prohibited, and that they actively support us by demanding of the Santos government that the exercise of political difference be effectively guaranteed in peasant mobilizations.

To the National Government: That they desist from the militaristic shuffling and not force the role of the UACT on us. It only has responsibility for carrying out the PNCRT, and here we are not carrying out this policy. Similarly, we call on the government to carry out the signed agreements and to guarantee in this year of 2014 resources for the agreements that are going to be signed.
Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo [Peasant Association of Catatumbo].
San José de Cúcuta, February 5, 2014.

(This translation may be reprinted as long as its content remains unaltered and the source, author and translator are cited).

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