Black Women’s Movement Suspends Negotiations with Colombian Government

April 24th, 2015

To the women who defend their territories like they defend their daughters and sons

To those who defend a Dignified, Simple, Unified Life.

We are angry, we feel tired, groped by this Government that does not honor its word. By this National Government that disrespects us and treats us like second-class people, like beggars. We are angry at a National Government that parades the discourse of Peace, and forgets that there is no Peace if it is incapable of defending Life, if it fails to put Life above transnational interests. True Peace would mean that last year’s deaths at the San Antonio mine, and the following ones in Santa Rita, Rosal and Magui Payan, truly matter. But the lives of those of us who live in community don’t matter. It would seem that our lives are a too high a risk, and are highly appraised in stock market; the less we live, the higher the profits for a few here and there. In light of the failures of the National Government to honor its agreements, we, the black women who approached the government with concrete, actionable proposals, have come to realize that the National Government does not want to accomplish our proposals. We know, therefore, that we are only valuable if we are dead.

People from all over the world know that in November of last year Black Women – ancestral miners from Northern Cauca – embarked on a mobilization to share the path leads to the defense of Life and the Ancestral Territories. We mobilized to tell the world that unconstitutional mining and illegal mining is taking our families away, that it is tearing out our roots, stealing the possibilities of continuing to live where our elders planted our placentas.

People from all over the world know that we walked to Bogota, and that we occupied the Ministry of Interior’s Casa de la Giralda. Millions throughout the world know that we were asking why economic interests are above our rights and why there is greater investment and protection of private interests than our lives.

The Government’s failures are systemic, the agreements are simple. Do you remember? First: That the Government cease all illegal and unconstitutional mining in the State of Cauca. To this day, the illegal excavators have not left Cauca. On the contrary, now they have moved on to other river basins, such as the Palo River in Guachené. They have told us that we would have to go to Court if we want to suspend the mining titles awarded without Free, Informed, Prior Consultation. Second: That the government honor past agreements it had failed to resolve such as the Popayan-Incoder Accords of 2013; the Santander de Quilichao Accords of May 7th, 2014; and the agreements of the Black Women’s Mobilization in Defense of Life and the Ancestral Territories. Key among these accords was the Government’s implementation of the Constitutional Court’s Auto 005 of 2009. Between January 21st and January 23rd, our communities assembled in Santander de Quilichao and created a plan of implementation. However, according to the National Government, there is no State budget for that plan; there are no resources to defend Life, and there is no political will. There is however, a budget and the political will to implement its war against our territories.

The situation with the Integrative Attention Plan is the same. We created proposals by coming together through a lot of hardship. We created proposals that have not been read, and much responded to by the National Government. The Plan includes proposals for the legal study of the sociocultural and socioeconomic damages caused by gold mining. Instead, they send us a clear message that we have to get used to the idea of living with concern of not knowing how to deal with nor how to repair the poisoning of our rivers with cyanide and mercury. The waters we are currently drinking, the waters in which we bathe, cook our meals and wash our clothes. The waters full of mercury and cyanide pumping through our veins.

In regards to the Integral Protection Plan, the response has been the same as before: there is no budget. They have gone so far as to say that we are making up the death threats we have received.

It’s more than 4 months of Government failure to implement the accords; its years and years of delay that the government fails to push forward. We ask ourselves, Why so much resistance to our proposals? Why doesn’t the desire and will that the government talks so much about manifest itself in our territories and in our lives? Our reality is that now we live constantly on edge and in fear for hour daughters and our sons, for our mothers, our fathers, our sisters and our brothers.

We have had 6 meetings with Government officials since signed the last accords. We’ve left our families and other responsibilities behind because we believe in the words that committed of Minister of Interior Fernando Cristo, and the other vice-ministers in the Ministry of Mining, Ministry of the Environment, Defense, and Vice Minister of Interior for Human Rights Carmen Ines Vasquez. Vice-Minister Carmen Ines Vasquez fails to assume her responsibility to uphold our rights as Black Peoples, but is happy to go to the United States to talk in about Colombia’s supposed campaign against racism in the context of the UN’s Decade of Afro-descendants. We ask ourselves “Isn’t the refusal of State institutions to protect us from the systemic violation of our rights as Black Communities racism?

These meetings are usually called and typically delayed from one day to the next. The Government attends without being prepared, without the proper context of the mobilization and its agreement, without integral responses to our proposals. To us, this demonstrates a clear lack of interest, and political will. As such, we have called on the various guarantors to oversee this ongoing process.

The National Government presents its endless foot-dragging as progress, while the situation for our communities gets worse. We declare that progress would be to live the changes that would allow us to regain the life of our territories. That is why we get up, fed up of so many lies. We will only return to the negotiating table when the Minister of Interior, de Vice Ministers of the Environment, Mining, Defense, and Justice – the latter of whom agreed to advance the investigations regarding the violation of our rights, including death threats and forced displacements – give us real answers to the concrete changes in regards to their duties to guarantee our rights, the reason our mobilization.

We are well aware that the government’s disrespectful treatment of our negotiations is also its response to many people throughout the national territory.

It seems that the Country’s plan is a future without Black Communities, without Indigenous Communities, without Peasant Communities, without Grassroots Communities. It seems that the Country’s plan is to use us as a pretext in their business deals, so long as we remain in misery.

That is why it is up to us to create the present that we desire. For that reason we should organize ourselves and mobilize together. Every organization: unions, students, environmental, women, indigenous communities, black communities, peasant communities, teachers, and every person that loves and defends Life. We must construct the possibility of Real Peace. That is only possible by generating the transformations that allow a dignified Life for everyone. Real Peace is possible if we do not allow death to be the price of the rampant, seemingly untouchable mining interests.


Black Women’s Movement in Defense of Life and the Ancestral Territories:

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