Afro-Colombian organizations asked for revisions to recently passed legislation on compensating war victims Wednesday, claiming that the government did not properly consult communities and did not take into account their specific needs.
The groups claimed the government’s consultation before proposing the so-called Victims’ Law was inadequate and did not properly seek the communities’ views or consent before pressing ahead.
According to Gimena Sanchez from the Washington Office on Latin America, which works closely with Afro-Colombian groups, said “they feel like they’re being ignored.”
She added, “I think the Colombian government says it is consulting with people but it is really not consulting with the right people. The way it is consulting is basically presenting its projects and saying ‘ok, we consulted’.”
The organizations claim the law only views victims individually and not collectively, does not take into account the effect of the conflict on traditional ways of living and reclaimed lands would not be able to act as autonomous communities.
They also claim the law does not extend over a sufficient time period as it does not cover the 80s when mass displacements of Afro-Colombian communities began.
Jose Santos, from Etni-Colombia told Colombia Reports, “there has to be land restitution but also the communities need to do a cultural, economic and political reappropriation of the territory.”
Following the press conference, Afro-Colombian leaders staged a protest against the passing of the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S, which they said would exacerbate the situation.
Santos said, “If massacres, disappearances and assassinations continue and they don’t create a Victims Law that compensates the people, then with the implementation of the Free Trade Agreement they have presented, this is going to increase in the communities.”
According to Santos, the communities are seeking to negotiate a revised version of the law with the government.
“What we are saying to the government is we can to sit down and discuss a true victims law, which genuinely favors the victims.”