Cauca indigenous organization ACIN wrote an open letter to U.S.
President-elect Barack Obama, asking him to support their demands for
better health care and education, protection against paramilitary
The indigenous started a march Monday from Cali to Bogotá to demand the Colombian government gives in to their demands after weeks of protests and marches.
Dear Mr. President-Elect,
please accept our sincerest congratulations. We congratulate you for
having won because of the noblest aspirations of your people. We
believe your election expresses the deep desire for change felt by the
majority of the American people: change in the economy and society,
change in international relations, and from there, we hope, a change in
the relation between the United States of America and the indigenous
peoples of the world.
During your historic campaign, you
publicly noted some of what Colombians currently face: you acknowledged
the murders of trade unionists by the regime and stated your
reservations about a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia, which our
people have decided against through a democratic referendum, about
which we have written before. We thank you for this, and now want you
to know about the specific situation facing Colombia’s indigenous
In the past six years we have lost 1,200 people to
assassinations by armed groups, both legal and illegal: right-wing
paramilitaries, guerrillas, police, and members of the Armed Forces.
These murders have created insecurity, and this insecurity has been
used to strip us of our rights with what we call the ‘Laws of
Dispossession’, legislation and other institutional norms that legalize
the loss of our lands, our fundamental freedoms, and our rights. These
‘Laws of Dispossession’ dispose of Colombia’s mines, hydrocarbons, water
resources, intellectual property, and national parks – all of these are
brought under the ultimate rule of the Free Trade Agreement with the
US. The FTA will mean that if Colombia tries to change the laws to
allow its people to share in its resources, or take any independent
action, then we will be obliged to compensate investors. We will have
to submit our laws to international arbitration outside our own legal
But in our view, the ultimate law is respect for
life. In our view, the FTA puts commercial logic above the respect for
life itself, not to mention international humanitarian law, and
agreements such as the ILO’s Covenant 169, and the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Worldwide. These
covenants, as well as the respect for life, have to date been ignored
by the government of our country, as well as by your government.
both of our governments, yours with Plan Colombia, and ours with the
so-called ‘Democratic Security’ policy, have done great harm to
indigenous peoples and to Mother Earth, while multinational
corporations have profited from the petroleum and gas contracts, mining
concessions, privatizations, and low wages.
We hope that you
will contribute to change all this. We hope that you will listen to our
words. We have lost many lives defending these words. Words that we
have walked and words we have backed up with our civil resistance.
These are the words that we have shared throughout Colombia since
October 10th, through the Minga of Resistance, a national mobilization
we convened as indigenous peoples, in association with other peoples
We believe that the spirit of change in your
people cannot be contained. We believe it is a powerful force and we
hope it will join with the force of our words and with the need for
change that has been crying out throughout Latin America. We invite you
to come to listen to these words here in Colombia, and we are ready to
articulate them there, if you invite us. Here or there, it is the same
planet and our mission is the same: to protect it, to save us all.
we call on you to join with us in fulfilling our responsibilities to
Mother Earth and to history. The first one, our collective Mother, has
given all of us life. The second one, History, has reflected our
growing pains and our errors. History has not matured into systems that
reconcile it with the rhythms, pulses and mandates of Nature. We
believe the very reason human beings and our societies exist is to
create the harmony between History and Mother Earth.
of Mother Earth, we speak to you as to a brother or sister. As
indigenous, we speak to you as peoples, obliged from creation to seek
harmony between History and Mother Earth. To reconcile ourselves with
nature is not an option, but an imperative. By transforming life into
merchandise, by making sacred the accumulation of wealth, by enshrining
greed, we believe our societies have entered a crisis, including the
economic crisis currently faced by your country. The destruction of our
peoples in Colombia is a consequence of that Historic error that has
placed greed before life.
President-elect Barack Obama, we do not write to ask or demand anything
for ourselves, because we know that the death of our peoples and the
destruction of our cultures for greed, signifies the beginning of the
end for Mother Earth itself.
Before we disappear with our collective
Mother, we have decided to speak and to walk our words. In the name of
life, of change, let us listen to one another and make the effort to
find a way to create harmony between our peoples and life. Let us
create the conditions for new History. One where the sacred ends of
promotion and protection of Life and Beauty can never again be
transformed into means for private accumulation of power at the service
We await you.
With great respect,
Association of Indigenous Couincils of Northern Cauca ACIN (Cxab Wala Kiwe-Territory of the Great People) Cauca, Mother Earth, November 10th, 2008 Santander de Quilichao