by Chris Knestrick
In 2008, the world witnessed the mobilization of tens of thousands of indigenous people demanding a new Colombia based on human rights and dignity. The Minga, or “a gathering of people,” led by the indigenous communities of Colombia, mobilized 30,000 participants to march for six weeks from the city of Cali to Bogota, the Colombian capital. They marched, in spite of police and military oppression, to present their five point agenda to the Colombia government and the world. Today, they continue to gain support, mobilize, and resist.
The five points in the Minga’s agenda are
1. A rejection of the Free Trade Agreements and the so-called ‘free trade’ economic model.
2. A rejection of terror as an instrument of the global system to dispossess peoples of their territories, rights, and freedoms. This point also includes a rejection of delivering indigenous territories and resources to corporate interests via all the armed actors, who reinforce each others’ presence and threaten the ability of the people to stay in their communities, as well as the survival of democratic opposition and unions.
3. A rejection of laws and constitutional reforms that promote a political agenda designed to evict people from their lands, deny basic and essential rights and freedoms and deliver the country to the interests of transnational capital and accumulation.
4. Support for the Colombian state’s honouring its previous agreements with and obligations to—regardless of who heads the government—all Colombians, including indigenous, Afro-Colombian and other communities and sectors.
5. Support for weaving together a common agenda of the peoples. “All causes are our own.”
Since its initial mobilization, the Minga has gathered support from all sectors of society. In October of 2009, participants again presented their proposal for a new Colombia. Thousands of people mobilized in three cities—Cali, Bogota, and Cartagena—this time with the support of other organizations that are involved in the same struggle for land, dignity, and justice.
One of the groups that joined the Minga is Fedeagromisbol, a coalition of the peasant farming and mining communities in Southern Bolivar. For the last five years, they have met with the government to demand their rights to land and dignity. The agreements with Fedeagromisbol concern large-scale mining operations and monocropping that threaten the lives and local economy of the communities along with a demands for state-provided services, such as education and healthcare, the government gives to other communities. The government has repeatedly failed to meet these agreements. Instead, the government has attempted to repress and silence the coalition through assassinations and illegal arrests of leaders.
On 18 August 2009, yet again, the Colombia government refused to talk to Fedeagromisbol. After waiting for 2 days for the government to show up, Fedeagromisbol declared a permanent assembly and decided to mobilize with the Minga. As a result, last October, the people of Southern Bolivar left their communities and traveled to Cartagena with thousands of others to demand that the Colombian Government listen to the five-point agenda of the Minga and the voice of the people.
Today, the Minga, including Fedeagromisbol continue to bring their concerns to the Colombian government and the world. The Minga’s five-point agenda covers the demands of many social organizations. This month, the organizations in the region of the Magdalena Medio, under the leadership of the indigenous communities, will meet to continue the struggle to build a new Colombia. Thus far, the Colombian governments and the world have not listened to the tens of thousands that seek a just and peaceful Colombia. However, the people of Colombia will continue to struggle and march for life. In that persistence is hope.