Proposal for a Life with Dignity

(Translated by Gerry Millrine, a volunteer CSN Translator; edited by Patricia Paskov)

October 13, 2010

THE PEOPLES’ CONGRESS – We were born protesting!

Proposal for a life of with dignity.

Brothers and Sisters,

Our voice, which walks with us and weaves dreams and motives, is now raised up to share with all men and women, all inhabitants of the land of Colombia, with all neighbouring states, all men and women regardless of origin or age, and we hereby give notice that in Bogota, between 8 – 12 October 2010, we shall take into our own hands the responsibility for own lives and motivate the people to take theirs likewise in their own hands.

We are the workers, both male and female,

We are the cane cutters and their partners,

We are the peasants of both sexes, those who harvest and those labour

We are those born of this land,

We are the indigenous peoples,

We are the descendants of Africans, now setting ourselves free,

We are women who have their dignity and freedom,

We are those who fish in the sea and rivers,

We are, taxi drivers, female teamsters, and those who use motorbikes for their job,(!)

We are students and the primary school teachers, the educators of the people,

We are the experience of resistance to capitalism, the State, war,

We are the poor people, the marginalised and excluded,

We are the artist and artisans,

We are those who have been displaced by bullets, threats, chainsaws, the great landowners, the big projects,

We are the Other, both men and women, who from their place of sexual diversity, live out democracy,

We are the street dwellers, those who live in the barrios, on the hills in great cities,

We are all of those men and women, who are detained in prison,

We are women, who defend our human rights,

We are those men and women, who communicate with the people,

We are those who believe in our gods and above all, we are believers in justice

We are those who are absent and who are victims,

We are boys and girls, laughter and boundless imagination,

We are the young, who resist the oppression and a police state,

We are the country and the people of that country

We are The Congress of the Peoples

Why have we established a Congress of the Peoples? (Communities)

This Congress was convoked with one fundamental aim: that the that laws should come from below, that the communities (peoples) should have control and power, that it is they who should have the mandate over the country, the economy and the style of government.

It is as simple as that. We are once more taking control, on behalf of the people and communities of Colombia, of our own sovereign character or putting it another way, being the basic building blocks of the same.

Because, despite the euphoria of the powerful, those in power, we are convinced that the economy of Colombia has been drained, is depleted and exhausted, moribund because of all the crime and corruption. We expect little or nothing from those in government or those who have been voted to Congress.

What we have been made aware of in this founding stage, is that in many areas of the country, people expected nothing and and have taken upon themselves to legislate, to organise their territory and create their own form of governance.

Everybody has discovered – whether they be the municipal assemblies which have been set up, agreements within barrios and regions, autonomous indigenous and Afro regions, areas of peace, the experience of budgets arrived at by consensus, networks of large food delivery, coordinating boards, territorial assemblies in the barrios, networks of food delivery, meetings coordinating sectors of the people, movements to consolidate peasant stocks – each and everyone has discovered in the exercising of their own laws- greater democracy, well being and justice and all that this can offer and which has not been guaranteed in more than 200 years of being a republic.

This Congress of the Communities (Peoples) has begun to coordinate and bring together all of this energy which comes from is in the autonomy of the people. And has called upon all sectors of alternative ways of life, with whom we join together, to visualise a new country, to initiate a national debate and to bring about a Rule of the Peoples, or a A Rule of the State, or an Alternative Agenda or a A Constitution of the People.

This debate, which we have begun, will indicate by which name it should be known. In this spirit, more 17, 000 male and female delegates from 200 organisations, each with their grassroots bodies from among the people, whom we welcome and make participants in the first session of the Congress of the Peoples; but this Congress, will have the decisive quorum when hundreds of other base level bodies, dispersed throughout our nation and country, are incorporated in a active way, and with all the freedom to deliberate, decide, with regard to this task of legislating, to renew this country of ours , or rather, when the whole country is gathered together to discuss and decide how it wishes to live and work.

The Congress of the Peoples is not simply a gathering. This first meeting was merely a Founding Session. What has been done in these first four days has been, for the most part, to define our Legislative Agenda of the People.

Each of the organisations and social sectors taking part, brings some form of experience of having approved a general or specific Mandate, of having elaborated- a Programme or Proposal from its own sector, of having taken on board various laws with regard to our our autonomous regions, and of having presented a Political Outline. We have pooled together, this experience of autonomy. And we have adopted the broad outlines of the Legislative Agenda of the People and also the Route to the Work of Legislation, from all sectors, activists subjects and organisations of the people of our country for the for the immediate future.

We have made the decision, to create a new Colombia. In reality, it is we, both men and women, each one in her or his own way, who will create this country of ours, each and every day. But now, we shall build our country with vision, in our own way, with daily communication among the various organisations, which are rooted in the People. Our call to a unity of the people is unyielding. Congress has decided to initiate a simultaneous combination of discussion and action across the whole country, taking on board those points, which we believe to be of fundamental importance. Here follow some of those topics:

To think of and adopt, a new political system, based on the autonomous and democratic governments, of local communities and of the various peoples. A sovereign an independent state created by all of us, both men and women together.

To organize the territory of our country, so that communities have control over their strategic resources and to establish that all of us have a new relationship with to Mother Earth . Congress decrees that Mother Earth should be set free and that there is to be restored to the populace, the right to make decisions, not only about their style and form of governance but also how they make use of the fruits of the earth.

To create an economy which allows for a decent standard of living. In the fight against the neoliberal model of economy, which expropriates, robs and destroys the land, it is imperative, to return to the people, the strategic and natural resources which currently are in the hands of multinationals.

To consolidate courses of actions originating in the comunidades de base (base communities) themselves, and to create the means of mobilising that energy which thereby allows us to open paths of justice and peace. In the meantime, while waiting for these opportunities, we reject the capitalist war and demand that the budget, destined for military use and warfare, be redistributed, so that it might be invested in the multiple needs, which relentlessly oppress those who are always remain excluded and ignored.

To empower those values nearest to their heart, of people who bear the burden of the real country, embodying an ethos, which respects and gives power to life and rejects death; a culture which breaks with patriarchal oppression, a culture of equality of class, a culture of respect and protection of sexual and reproductive rights of women, for a life free from all forms of violence. Values and an ethos, opposed to decisions made by the powerful which place profit above the common good, speculation as opposed to production, the success of the individual over the fulfilment and achievement of the collective, the accumulating of goods rather than their redistribution and an imposed homogenisation as opposed to respecting diversity. A culture of solidarity, of support, of production which does not pollute, a harmony with Nature, a culture which is aware of and understands that the majority of us, feel the urgency of a system of communication, both nationwide and independent, in character, in order for our reflections and decisions, reach the entire country, so that they are embodied and are put into practice in everyday life.

Our aim is to unite with that torrent of the Peoples of Latin America who have opted for freedom, liberty and for a free control over their future and exercise of their sovereignty.

It is clear that our aim to create a new country and to make real, the exercise of those rights which all have, places us in complete opposition to the government of Juan Manuel Santos, who claims to be the inheritor of, “democratic security” but, above all, maintains intact his intention to continue give over the country to capitalism and the the internationals.

We are aware of the difference between the current government and the mafias who ruled for though previous eight years could be the root of conflict between them. There will be a period of time of great danger. They will try to bring it about, that in exchange for distancing themselves from the gangsters, that we accept that they continue to plunder and invade our lands.

At the same time, they will make all struggles of the People illegal; they restrict or cut back on all democratic rights; to eliminate all concept of region and transform Columbia into one bland , zone, in which which commercial law will hold more sway than any sense of dignity and of the interest of the people at large.

The new government claims that it will be one of  “national unity.” It is evident that this means, bringing together all the sectors of the old oligarchies in order to attempt to re- establish, to a certain extent, the disaster bequeathed by “Uribismo,” with regard to polarisation within the country and a policy of external, international isolationism.

As means of achieving this, they hope to co-opt some of the leaders of the social, democratic movement in order to restrict the latter. This government says nothing about its obligations as State, with with regard to basic human rights, economic and cultural rights nor of the thousands of agreements, signed with the democratic movements, with the peasants, the indigenous peoples and descendants of Africans, the unions and those who have settled in the cities, which are not adhered to, year after year.

We recognize that the climate of intolerance on a daily basis, imposed by Uribe Vélez. We can see that in the continuity of the same economic strategy against the regions, against national sovereignty and the working classes: greedy with regard to privileges, putting in place regional legislation with no consultation with either the indigenous peoples nor those of African descent; signing free trade agreements on a daily basis; the speeding up of the privatisation of public services, persecution of peasant economic systems and also those of mine workers. The powerful projects of the internationals in mining, infrastructure continue to make inroads into those areas, which sustain both our culture and our ability to feed ourselves.

The Peoples’ Congress, has reached the decision that what is most urgent is concentrate all our efforts to embodying an intense effort; an effort which is social, political, cultural and spiritual.

We summon all to mobilize all our efforts in the great challenges of our age, among which the following are highlighted:

– The defense of our lands, natural resources, the environment and to fight against their destruction

– For the right to land and compensation for victims who have lost theirs

– For a political solution to conflict, against the militarization of life and lands

– For the democratic ordering of urban areas and against cities taking second place to the accumulation of private wealth.

The Congress will begin discussing these and other topics. In its initial session, by which it was established, Congress organised the work, which will be carried out throughout the country, in all communities and organisations, and across the whole country, and so thereby shape to it in the first years of this Mandate.

This country belongs to the downtrodden and, between us all, we shall create this country, bit by bit. With the determination of all of those who are excited at the thought of a renewed Colombia, different from the country as it now, we shall go forward with all of the decisions which have been taken, and initiate them in every part of our country, in order to listen and take on board that aspirations of those have not been listed to, those who have been marginalised, and we will make every effort, to create by means law and what is in our power, that which is currently no more than a vision.

In the meantime, we shall group by sector and topics. We call upon the Congress of the Peoples, to begin discussions and joint action. We shall overcome the lack of coordination, which currently characterises the various struggles and acts of resistance, we ourselves will always be prepared to bring together all efforts and to design in an agreed form, the project of business of the experience of other social alternatives.

In order to make real and aware of what process entails, The Peoples’ Congress, serves as a vehicle, composed of all of those organisations and grassroots bodies, which were present in the first session -the inaugural session – which comes to an end today, and which allows an open space who are resolved to come and participate.

All organisations are hereby called upon, to be in Bogotá within a space of thirty days, with the aim of giving a clear and organised structure to those decisions taken in the first session.

At the same time, Congress gives incentive to all of that diversity which was an aspect of it, so that this may spread out throughout the whole country.

We shall continue to apply those principles of how we should proceed: from below, between all of us, both women and men, gathered around the hearth, dialoguing and seeking both the exact and transparent vocabulary which will relay our message and decisions. To examine, reflect, unite, to do and to transform, are some of the words, full of meaning, which should give direction to the efforts of women and men, and all members of Congress.

While waiting for that moment to arise, the important point is that we leave this first session of Congress with the clear conviction that we are creating laws; that we are building our very own political system which come from grassroots communities and organisations. That is what we shall do, for that is our task because the rich and powerful will never do it. It is we, the various peoples and communities, the organisations of the people, who will lift up this country out of that terrible place, which both leaders of the past and those who currently make up the Establishment have brought it to.

We shall put to the country, which ending the conflict – as a matter of urgency and of priority – should be on the national agenda. We shall support all of those individuals and organisations, which on a day-to-day basis, carry out acts of peace, and we shall reject any idea of making criminals out of them.

Once more, we demand that those armed elements respect the adherence to International Humanitarian rights.

We shall show by deeds, that we are for democracy of the people, sovereignty, the struggle against capitalism, for a life of dignity, for peace and justice. That we, in fact, the peoples of Colombia make up this country; that unity is achievable and that we are creating it so, bit by bit.

May law come from below

May the Peoples govern

May the People have power over the lands, the economy and the form of government

May the word go forth.

We were born crying out: Law should come from below, the people should rule.

Let the Word go forth!

Some four years ago, in the relentless rain of Bogota, more than 20,000 individuals and more than 350 of grassroots bodies and organisations of this country, arranged to meet; to create and dialogue about each one of the proposals, – which from each barrio or district, each sector and every struggle, until then had been carried out on a individual basis – to join these together and to make these proposals for the country, by means of mandates and eight points which will govern our approach and which will initiate the journey of the word and life.

These four years are years in which our aim has been centred on putting flesh on the mandates which uncover the problem of concentration of land in Colombia, as much in the cities as in the countryside, in order to attempt realistic proposals with regard to the building up of a peace which has social justice, an authentic peace at its heart, with specific changes in society ,by means of dialogue ,with those, whom for so many years, have counted as nobodies – the excluded and the voiceless.

Mandates in the area of education, mining, the excessive exploitation of our natural resources, Human Rights, sexual diversity and the meeting of cultures, take forward the proposals, in the land of Colombia, by means of thematically –based congresses, by means of which, we have the hope, that those who wish to be acquainted with our aims, could bring to these, their knowledge and experience and we feel that this is what should be our staring point.

We shall continue to build, to mobilise and transform ourselves, since we, both men and women, are currently not wholly united.

Our objective is to advance, in unity, in these other processes, which travel with us at our side, in order to reaffirm, to reassert ourselves, in the solidarity of all the various groups of Colombia and Our America, with a vision of making of Colombia a place of justice and dignity, where each day, there can be celebrated, life’s struggle.


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