(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Source :
Jesús Alberto Castilla Salazar
Senator of the Republic
Bogotá, May 25, 2016

Ref. Radicado No. : HSJACS-00633. 16

Dr. William Villamizar Laguado
Governor, North Santander
In various communications media there have been reports of a coming social mobilization called together by organizations that are members of the Agrarian, Campesino, Ethnic and Popular Summit. The Agrarian Summit was born of the efforts of different campesino, indigenous and Afro-Colombian organizations that are working to build a country where people live decently; a country where land rights are organized according to the needs of the communities and for the protection of the environment; a country where arable land is not concentrated in the hands of a few owners; a country where mining and energy policies are not understood as a “locomotive” that bulldozes the towns, but rather as an opportunity to secure the national sovereignty; a country where it is understood that land is the source of life, of food and culture, and is not a source of accumulations for a few business owners; a country where peace will be built while taking into account the priorities of the social movements.

The national government has obtained certain commitments from the Agrarian, Campesino, Ethnic and Popular Summit. The commitments are reflected in different decrees and official documents. Those commitments are the result of campesino, indigenous and Afro-Colombian mobilizations, mobilizations that are the product of a rural crisis that has been generated by the mistaken policies pushed by the governments of recent decades.

It’s worth reminding you, Governor, that those mistaken policies have resulted in the continual abandonment of the Catatumbo region. As was recorded by the Office of the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights, in our region the rate of Unmet Basic Necessities is 4.4 times higher in the rural area compared to in Bogotá, while the infrastructure in disrepair exceeds 66%. The Colombian government’s abandonment of Catatumbo has been accompanied by serious crimes against humanity. We can still remember terrible massacres against campesinos in Catatumbo, events in which there are still responsible parties who have never been charged, events that continue in impunity. And we have to add to that an offensive by politicians and the media against Catatumbo. This offensive stigmatizes a region that is full of honest and hardworking people.

Because of that, I heard with deep concern the statements you, the highest authority in the Province, have made against the mobilization being put together by the campesino and indigenous organizations. I am very, very worried by the tone of your statements, especially when you assert that “The strike will bring killing, devastation, violence and siege to some of the municipalities,” because that stigmatizes the legitimate right of the people to mobilize, a right protected by our country’s Constitution.

I am also concerned that you announced the prohibition of marching, or fines for the businesses that furnish transportation to campesinos that want to get to the municipalities of Ocaña, Tibú or Cucutá. I remind you, Governor, that the freedom to travel is a fundamental right that is included in our Constitution, and that you can’t prohibit campesinos from traveling around the region, just as you cannot prohibit them from peaceful demonstrations to demand better living conditions. And I am telling you that such expressions of protest cannot be restricted, because they are part of democracy, and because a local official does not have the authority to order governmental actions that would represent an obvious violation of the civil rights and freedoms of the citizens.

I conclude this communication with an invitation and a request. I invite you to establish a respectful dialog with the different social sectors that, in spite of being stigmatized, of being poor, and being victimized, are also part of the Department. They want to construct a region with peace and social justice. I ask that you, as head of the provincial government, offer full guarantees to the peaceful mobilizations announced by the Agrarian Summit, that you guarantee the physical security of the marchers, and that you not overreach in performing your constitutional duty.

Polo Democratico Alternativo

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