Month: April 2016

Colombian Authorities Unleash Tear Gas, Media Black-Out Against Black Communities in Second Day of Peaceful Protests in Northern Cauca

Yesterday, thousands of elders, children, women and men comprising hundreds of families from the 41 Afro-Colombian community councils in Northern Cauca, initiated a peaceful protest along the main Pan-American Highway in Northern Cauca to demand that the Colombian Government respect the constitutional rights of black communities to autonomous governance of their lands. After withstanding beatings, tear gas, and smoke grenades, the Governor of the State of Cauca assured the communities that officials from the National Government would arrive for negotiations by noon on Tuesday, April 26th.

Instead, Colombian authorities sent low-level administrators that lacked the authority to reach binding agreements, and deployed the National Army into schools in blatant violation of International Humanitarian Law. After the communities insisted on negotiating with capable officials of the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Mining, and Ministry of the Environment, the militarized police of the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squad (ESMAD) launched tear gas canisters into residential homes, injuring dozens of elders and children, including a newborn child currently battling for her life at a local hospital. At least an additional fourteen protesters have been detained. Demonstrators also note that cell-phone services have been blocked, heightening their vulnerability to continued violations of their constitutional and human rights.

Nonetheless, hundreds of families continue to demand that the Colombian Government recognize their collective land rights as mandated by Law 70 of 1993. Organize are firm in their commitment to peaceful protest until an agreement is reached with the appropriate government representatives. Until then, the blockade of the Pan-American Highway will remain, and the community calls upon national and international solidarity to ensure the safety and respect of the rights of the families out in protest. As the largest purveyor of military resources to the Colombian government, the U.S. Government has the responsibility to urge Colombia to investigate the ESMAD’s disproportionate use of force, violence and aggressive tactics towards civilians who are protesting peacefully for their rights.

To support the communities’ efforts, please tweet:

“@JuanManSantos, @carmeninesVicen We are deeply concerned re: report that afrocolombian children are affected by esmad actions in Cauca”.

To help provide food, water, medical supplies and other vital necessities of their ongoing struggle for black land liberation by donating here, and staying informed via www.afrocolombian.org.

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Militarized Police Attack Peaceful Black Communities Mobilizing in Defense of their Ancestral Lands

Over 2,000 elders, children, women and men from 41 Afro-Colombian community councils marched peacefully along four kilometers of the main Pan-American Highway in Northern Cauca to demand that the Colombian Government respect the constitutional rights of black communities to autonomous governance of their lands. The government’s response to this first day of protest was smoke grenades, teargas, and at least one rubber bullet wound as the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squad (ESMAD) attacked the peaceful protest.

“This is a political act of the sovereign black peoples of Northern Cauca” said one of the march organizers. “We are in full support of a negotiated end of the armed conflict. We demand the participation of the Afro-Colombian National Peace Council (CONPA) and the Inter-ethnic Commission in the peace process. We demand guarantee for the safety of the human right defenders and the mobilization gathered here today.”

For years the communities have been demanding that the Colombian Government follow through with its constitutional duty to recognize collective land titles to the Ancestral Afro-descendant Community Councils that make up the Association of Community Council of Northern Cauca (ACONC). Instead, the Ministry of Interior denies the existence of black communities, while both the National Development Plan, and the current peace negotiations ignore Black Communities’ collective territorial rights enshrined in Law 70 of 1993. Meanwhile, dozens of Afro-Colombian community leaders continue to be assassinated, displaced and threatened.

Although they have reached a tentative agreement with government officials on the general negotiation principles, the communities intend to block traffic along this main route until their demands are met. The communities call upon national and international solidarity to ensure their safety and support their efforts to provide food, water, medical supplies and other essential necessities as the mobilization is expected to last days. The U.S. Government must also urge Colombia to investigate the ESMAD’s disproportionate use of force, violence and aggressive tactics towards civilians who are protesting peacefully for their rights. If you would like to support the ongoing struggle for black land liberation please consider donating whatever amount you are able HERE.

ACONC: Black Communities of Northern Cauca Mobilize for Life and Territory

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Message to the public from the Association of Community Councils of Northern Cauca (ACONC).

Untitled1In light of the ongoing violations of our ethno-territorial rights, death threats, assassinations, and displacement of Afro-Colombian leaders of Northern Cauca, the 41 community councils of the region associated through ACONC and other ethno-territorial organizations call black peoples to the peaceful mobilization for the care of life and the ancestral Afro-Colombian territories. We hereby demand that the National Government fulfill the following:

  1. We demand the purchase of lands held by large landowners for the purpose of collective titling and recognition of the lands of the ancestral community councils of Northern Cauca.
  2. We demand the Free, Prior, and Informed Consultation and Consent of the communities that conform the community councils, with special reference to the following 4 projects that will impact our lands:
    1. Highway Construction – Villa Rica – Santander de Quilichao – Popayán.
    2. The Regional Afro-Caucan Water Aqueduct.
    3. Plan Pacifico (The Pacific Plan)
    4. The transition of Paez Law to Free Trade Zones.
  3. We demand the creation of a pathway to honor prior agreements with the National Government (Environmental Management Plan of the Salvajina Dam, San Rafael Farm Agreements of November 13, 2013 and May 7 of 2014, and the Black Women’s Mobilization of December 2014).
  4. We demand the creation of a clear pathway to collective reparations and the restitution of territorial rights as Decreed in UARIV and UTR – 4635 of 2011.
  5. We demand the backing of CONPA and the Ethnic Commision to ensure a differential focus to the process of the peace negotiations, and to establish a mechanism of participation in the implementation of the peace accords.
  6. We demand the titling of special mining reserves in the ancestral territories of the community councils of northern cauca.
  7. We demand that the programs of the colombian institute of Family Wellbeing – ICBF and State programs for Social Prosperity – DPS, be implemented with an ethno-differential focus and fall in line with our own ethno-development plans.
  8. We demand the improvement and construction of 20,000 free rural homes for black communities.
  9. We demand the guarantee of the human rights of the community leaders defending the ethn-territorial rights of Black Communities.

Therefore, the Black, Afro-Colombian Peoples of Northern Cauca, Mobilize for peace, for dignity, and the care of life and the ancestral Afro-Colombian territories of Northern Cauca.