(Translated by Beatriz Vejarano, a CSN Volunteer Translator)
President Juan Manuel Santos and the Agrarian, Campesino, Ethnic and Popular Summit Inaugurate the Single National Roundtable
Bogotá, October 3rd 2014
“Doing this, I am reiterating the national Government’s political will – that of the President and of all his ministers, of those who are present and those who are not.” Those were the words of President Santos at the inauguration of the single national roundtable with the Agrarian, Campesino, Ethnic, and Popular Summit, carried out this afternoon in the presence of some 800 delegates from social, agrarian, and grass-roots processes from all over the country.
This inauguration ceremony took place in the framework of the National Assembly of Delegates at the Center for Historical Memory, Peace, and Reconciliation in the city of Bogotá. Among those present were Mr. Todd Howland, head of the Office in Bogotá of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Senators Alberto Castilla and Iván Cepeda, and former Senator Piedad Córdoba who, in their capacity as guarantors and liaison persons, have accompanied this Summit process. Also present were personalities from academia, political analysts, and members of the media.
President Santos, addressing the great assembly of regional leaders, acknowledged the agrarian organizations´ will to enter into dialogue and their tireless work. At the same time, he pointed out that “the Agrarian Summit is a process of consolidation of the social organizations of the rural population, which, because of the regions they inhabit, have suffered the hardest impact of the conflict: war, recruitment, violation of their basic rights, and illicit crops.” He also praised their consolidation and capacity for a unified dialogue, mentioning the importance of the legal support that Decree 870 of May 2014 confers the Summit.
The spokespersons of the Agrarian Summit presented proposals, voiced their dissatisfaction and their concerns, and ratified the grievances contained in the eight points of their list of demands, which led to a long process and several days of strikes and mobilizations, as well as to national, sectoral, and regional meetings.
Luis Fernando Arias, spokesperson for the Summit and advisor to the Colombian national indigenous organization, ONIC, stated that the Agrarian Summit represents hope, democracy, and an alternative for a neglected Colombia, the Colombia that dreams of a country at peace and with social justice; that this summit proposes structural changes, and that the new destiny for the homeland will be charted there. Councilman Arias stated that the social processes present at the summit must be recognized as political subjects that discuss and propose structural changes regarding territoriality, political, economic, and social rights, and the economic model, among other aspects, and that today the historical moment has come to build peace.
The likewise Summit spokesman Andrés Gil, leader of the Patriotic March Movement, expressed concern regarding the recent filing of a draft law that seeks to legalize the concentration of vacant lands in the hands of entrepreneurs, a bill that seeks to award land concessions and provide legal security to large-scale agro-industrial projects. Regarding the peasant farmer reserve zones (zonas de reserva campesina), he complained that it is not fair that these structures should be suspended; they should not depend on the agreements reached at the negotiating table with the FARC in Havana. Additionally, Andrés Gil expressed that the agreements reached at the single roundtable of the Summit must be included in the development plan; and, regarding illicit crops, a topic included in the in the list of demands of the summit, he added that a gradual and concerted plan must be implemented with a long-term substitution project.
José Santos, spokesperson of the Summit and Afro-Colombian leader of PCN and ANAFRO, reminded President Juan Manuel that the commitments made at the first Afro-Colombian, black raizal and palenquero congress are taken up in the Agrarian Summit. He asked the national Government to set up a commission to draw up a long-term development plan for black communities. José Santos reported that high government officials are undermining the fundamental right to prior consultation, and that the territories are being harmed by the licenses and illegal mining, and the communities have had to confront those projects. He mentioned that Afro-Colombian and indigenous people have agreed with the Government, with accompaniment of the U.N., to draw up a protocol for a free and informed prior consultation, considering that compliance with these agreements is part of building peace, and that peace is attained through guaranteeing the rights of Afro-Colombians and the summit.
Marylen Serna, of the Peoples´ Congress and spokesperson of the Agrarian Summit, reminded the Government and the President that “those so-called campesinos do exist,” and stated that we of the summit “oppose this economic, social, political, and cultural model that only guarantees the concentration of wealth by a few families, while the majority of Colombians are lacking those rights and opportunities.” She also insisted that we at the Summit want peace too, but peace with social justice.
Additionally, she demanded that various territorial structures, such as agro-food production areas (zonas agroalimentarias), be recognized as scenarios for building up local economy, with food sovereignty, with campesino thought and culture, and that the existence of the small-farmer population be regulated in the Colombian Constitution. She also made a vehement call for the regions to surround the negotiation and to “get ready to mobilize and to demand compliance with the agreements and with the list of demands,” because the political will exists to negotiate, to engage in dialogue, but the political will and the commitment are there too to keep demanding the rights of our peoples. She expressed the interest of the Agrarian Summit and of its regional processes to keep looking for a way, and the way is to demand our rights through the strength of mobilization and organization.
Thus, with proposals and demands, in a sincere and cordial but firm dialogue, the spokespersons of the National Agrarian, Campesino, Ethnic and Popular Summit, accompanied by the delegations, ratified to President Santos the urgency of going forward with structural changes and public policies for the agricultural sector and for the country. .
We are attaching to this note the interventions of the spokespersons of the Agrarian Summit as well as those of the guarantors, Todd Howland, Representative in Colombia of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Piedad Córdoba, spokesperson for the Patriotic March Movement, as well as audiovisual support material and images.
CUMBRE AGRARIA: CAMPESINA, ÉTNICA Y POPULAR