Talks between Colombia’s government and leaders of the mass protests being conducted by indigenous groups has led to an agreement that allowed the release of all the roads that have been blocked by protesters across the country.
After this initial agreement, formal talks began on Monday with the Minister of Interior, Aurelio Iragorri, entering into discussion with indigenous leaders grouped in the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC).
The indigenous groups are advancing a five point platform of demands: the right to prior consultation before granting approval to a project in their territory, the suspension of mining titles in these areas, the defense of human rights in the context of armed conflict, a reevaluation of economic and agricultural policy, and political, legal and administrative autonomy for their communities. The protests began last Tuesday with some 40,000 people mobilizing in at least six of Colombia’s states to demand better living conditions and greater participation in political decision-making.
The discussions are taking place in Maria, Piendamo, in the state of Cauca and follow a mass mobilization by ONIC joined by other indigenous organizing groups, student activists and other populist social movements. According to ONIC director of communications Richar Leguizamo, around 120,000 indigenous protesters took to the streets last week.
The talks follow in part from the fact that president Santos went back on his word to arrange a dialogue session that he had promised to indigenous leaders last week. According to Leguizamo, they responded with declaring the start of indefinite protests.
There have been claims that people have been injured and detained by police during the demonstrations. The Regional Indigenous Council of Huila (CRIHU), for instance, claimed in a statement that at least 1,000 people were detained “without justification” by the police as they prepared to endorse the rally called by the ONIC.
Though discontinuing the blockades, the protesters will remain in their encampments throughout the dialogue.