[Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator]
April 24, 2015
To the women who look after their land just like they look after their sons and daughters:
To the guardians of the Decent Life, Simple and Sympathetic:
We are really mad; we are sick and tired of being diddled by this government that doesn’t keep its word, by this national government that disrespects us and treats us like second class citizens, this government that treats us like beggars, this national government that makes the peace process into an oration. It forgets that there can be no peace if it is incapable of protecting life, if it does not put the life of all creatures above the interests of the transnationals.
There is peace when every single one of the deaths a year ago in San Antonio has profound importance, as well as those that followed in Santa Rita, in Rosal, and in Magui Payan, but the lives of the people who live in the community are worth nothing. Maybe our lives are a very high risk and their value can be quoted on the stock market. If there are fewer people alive around here, there will be higher earnings for the very few here and the very few in other countries. While we live in the midst of the national government’s misfeasance, those of us who came to it proposing specific actions, we now realize, the government did not want to do those actions and we now understand that to them we only have value if we are dead.
Everybody in the world knows that last November we black women, ancestral miners in the north of Cauca Province, came out to mobilize in order to share the path that will lead to taking care of our lives and our ancestral territories. We marched to tell people that unconstitutional and illegal mining is leaving us without our families, pulling us out by the roots, robbing us of any possibility to keep on living where our umbilical cord has been buried.
They also know that we marched to Bogotá on foot and built ourselves a permanent assembly in the Casa de la Giralda (Interior Ministry) and that we were asking why economic interests are more important than our rights, and why the protection of investment and of private initiative has more value than our lives.
The noncompliance is systematic and the agreements are plain. Don’t they remember?
First: That all illegal and unconstitutional mining in Cauca be halted. The backhoes have not left Cauca; rather, they have now gone to more valleys like the Palo River valley in Guachené. They told us that we have to go to court if we want the titles issued without prior informed consultation to be suspended.
Second: That they carry out the years old agreements that they have not carried out, the Popayán agreement—Incoder (Colombian Institute for Rural Development) 2013; the agreements of Santander de Quilichao entered into on May 7, 2014; and the agreements with the black women who mobilized for their lives and for their ancestral lands, including the implementation of the Constitutional Court’s Order No. 005 from 2009.
Between January 21 and January 23, in an assembly in Santander de Quilichao, we formulated a proposal for the Order’s implementation, but according to the government there were no funds to implement it. There are no funds to protect our lives, and there is no political will, but to implement the war on our territories, funds are available.
The same thing happened with the Comprehensive Care Plan. We worked hard in meetings and prepared proposals, but no one has read the proposals and the government has not responded. That Care Plan includes a proposal for a study from the point of view of the socio-cultural and socio-economic damage done by gold mining, but they sent us a message saying that we have to get used to the idea of living with the worry of not knowing how to mitigate and repair the mercury and cyanide poisoning of the water, that water that we are drinking today, that we bathe in, and that we use to prepare food and wash clothes, and with the worry of having so much mercury and cyanide coursing through our veins.
As for the Comprehensive Protection Plan, the result was the same. There were no funds in the budget and they had the nerve to say that we had made up the threats we were receiving.
It is not just four months of broken promises. It is years and years of overdue obligations that they don’t want to undertake and we ask ourselves: Why is there so much resistance to what we have proposed? Why is the disposition and the will that they brag so much about not demonstrated in the real world of our territories and our lives? The reality is that right now we have to be on the alert and a little bit fearful for our sons and our daughters, our mothers and our fathers, and our sisters and brothers.
Since the mentioned agreements were signed, we have held six meetings, neglecting our families and our responsibilities because we took Interior Minister Fernando Cristo, the Vice Ministers of Mines and the Ministries of Environment and Defense and the Vice Minister of Interior for Participation and Human Rights Inés Vasquez at their word when they said that they would not comply with the rights guaranteed to us as black people, but that they would go to the United States to speak in the framework of the Decade of those of African descent and campaign against racism in Colombia. We ask ourselves, isn’t it racism when government institutions pay no attention to the systematic violation of our rights as black communities?
These meetings are called together and postponed from one day to another, meetings in which the government representatives arrive without any preparation, without knowing the context of our mobilization or the agreements the government has made. They don’t make a comprehensive response to our proposals and that means to us that they have no interest or any willingness to do anything. We are the ones who have to get the government authorities together, including the Inspector General so that there will be some promise of performance.
The national government portrays their delays as advances, while at the same time our situation gets worse. We say that real advances would be our being able to experience the changes that would allow us to get back to living in our territories. And that is why we are rising up, sick and tired of so much diddling around, and we will only go back to talking when the Minister of Interior, the Vice Ministers of Environment, Mines, and Defense, and the Prosecutor’s Office, which had promised to advance the investigations into the situations where our rights had been violated, including threats and forced displacement, give us an answer to the effect that the specific changes that guarantee us our rights and for which we organized will be made.
And we know that the government has provided the same disrespectful treatment to a lot of people across the length and breadth of the territory.
This country is making plans for the future without including black women, without including indigenous communities, or campesinos, and the plans will not include the poorer communities. But, they do use us as an excuse to do business, at the cost of keeping us in misery.
Because of that, we have to remind you of what it is that we want. And to do that, we have to get together and mobilize, all of the labor organizations, student, environmental, and women’s organizations, indigenous communities, black communities, campesino communities, teachers, and everybody who loves and looks out for our lives. We have to create the possibility of a real Peace and that will only be possible if we make the transformations that allow for a decent life for everybody. That will happen also when they stop permitting deaths caused by out-of-control mining, which seems to be untouchable in this country.
OUR TERRITORY IS OUR LIFE, AND OUR LIFE IS NOT FOR SALE. IT IS LOVED, AND IT IS DEFENDED.
Mobilization of Afro-Colombian women taking care of our lives and of our territories.