Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Minga Popular Rests, Debates and Continues

The Minga Popular Rests, Debates and Continues

November 1, 2008

By Fernando Dorado (for Spanish Version, go to ACIN)

In this latest report about the Indigenous and Popular Mobilization in Colombia, La Minga Popular, we’ll try to present a comprehensive overview about what has occurred up to now since it began on October 12th, and call attention to what could happen after the “Debate with Uribe” takes place in La Maria, Piendamo, Cauca, on Sunday, November 2, 2008.


The first phase of the Minga
stretches from when the indigenous communities began arriving in La Maria on October 12th, up until the time they began the march towards Cali several days later. The communities maintained control of the important Pan American Highway for 36 hours during this period, but the bullets, deaths and wounded eventually broke the indigenous resistance. President Alvaro Uribe’s command was to recuperate the Highway through blood and fire, according to the mandate of the large, national and international business sector.


The indigenous base insisted on this form of resistance – that is, the physical blockade of the highway as an act of civil disobedience – because they wanted to draw the urgent attention of the government. Nevertheless, after a period of reflection and strategic analysis, the communities recognized that any form of perceived violence would ultimately play into the hands of the government, since they would use this to isolate us from the rest of civil society by accusing us of being “agents of the armed subversion.” For this reason, it was decided that we would march towards a major city, with Cali being the most reasonable choice.


The second phase of the Minga begins with the long march towards Cali, and ends with the frustrated “debate” with the President in the CAM, the site chosen for the encounter, on Sunday, October 26th. When we originally decided to march, the idea was to call on the entire population in general to participate in the Minga, to hold events in every town and every city that we would pass through, as well as to link the march to the struggle of the striking sugar cane workers, now approaching two months of a dramatic work stoppage in southern Colombia. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the Minga had approved a “national structural agenda,” the operational directors of the march were fundamentally indigenist in its perspective, and for this reason, we arrived alone in the capital of Valle del Cauca, (Cali), despite being well received and treated warmly by everybody.


It’s important to point out that in the Minga, many different sectors were participating from the very beginning, including peasant farmer organizations from southern Cauca, especially CIMA. Furthermore, when we arrived in Cali, a number of other indigenous delegations from other departments joined us, including regional organizations from Valle, Risaralda, Caldas, Chocó, Nariño, Córdoba and Magdalena, coordinated by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC. Also, the cane workers, who at the time were in their 37th day of striking, were always a part of the Minga, considering that numerous activities were organized jointly with them prior to its start. The Assembly of the Cane Cutters that was held in the University of Valle, in Cali, on October 25th, as part of the Minga, was phenomenal and very significant.

The Third Phase of the Minga stretches from last Monday, October 27th until this coming Sunday, November 2nd, with the debate that is being programmed in La Maria, with Uribe. This third phase is characterized by the complex internal struggle that has manifested itself throughout the course of the Minga, including its preparation.

One component of this struggle does not want to relate so closely with other sectors of society, does not see beyond the department of Cauca, prioritizes negotiation over a few issues of concrete vindication for the indigenous communities, and have tried to convert the so-called dialogue with Uribe as an objective in and of itself.

The other tendency has carried out great efforts to reach out to other sectors of society, is responsible for developing the strategic plan (that includes the four key points of the Minga), and gives the Minga an openly and deliberate political character, without surrendering the important issues relating to the specific rights and demands of the indigenous communities (that is, the public policy towards indigenous communities). This tendency hopes to use the debate with Uribe as a way to communicate the four main points to the rest of the nation, and to strengthen the call to continue the march towards Bogota with the slogan “The Minga Continues.”

What has been agreed upon internally for the upcoming debate is the following:

  • The debate is being carried out in La Maria, autonomous indigenous territory, but must be done recognizing the need to demilitarize the area, which was invaded by public forces weeks back;
  • The Minga includes all social sectors and the many regional organizations, and as a result, this debate is one of national character that by its nature is political;
  • The conditions of the debate must be carried out under conditions of equality, with an independent moderator and with sufficient time to carry out serious discussion.

The future of the Minga depends on the nature of the debate that unfolds with Uribe. If the indigenous leadership lets the agenda be narrowly focused only on the revision of past accords, and presents the issue of the return of lands in Cauca as the top priority, above that of the proposed, broader strategic program, they would have lost a unique opportunity to advance a comprehensive political and social proposal that could be truly transforming. But if they present their position as a debate over “the model of neo-liberal globalization,” the Minga would have a stronger foundation, and would thus have a considerable need to continue. The call to action would thus have been made, and the only thing needed would be to work with other regional and national organizations to join forces, come up with a date, and agree on the methodology in which such a national mobilization could take place.

The great lesson of this process –and where it may go from here – is the following: If we deepen the political struggle (which up to now it’s how it has been), the indigenous vindications would be achieved without the need to develop so-called “working groups,” that is allow the government to deactivate the struggle through limited negotiations. In Uribe’s statements made last week in his “Audience with Tele-Pacifico,” the president recognized certain things that in the past would have taken days of negotiation. Today, these issues can be made more concrete without renouncing the objectives of La Minga. This is a great advance.

We have to understand that the government today is desperate to be able to show to the international community that it has rectified its problems with the indigenous communities. It has the pressure of the ongoing strike of the sugar cane workers, now approaching its second month. The serious revelations of widespread human rights violations carried out by members of the Armed Forces is another issue that the government is now forced to confront. We see the slow crumbling of the pieces that make up the government’s highly touted Democratic Security Strategy. Now is a great time for our political offensive.

Disgracefully, the social forces and popular organizations are in a very difficult position as a result of the neo-liberal policies of the government, violence directed at them, and the criminalization of social protest that has become so common under the current regime. The war of paramilitarism and of narco-trafficking have fulfilled their respective roles.

Notwithstanding all of this, we must advance and try to link all our forces, which are there, in the heart of the people.

Our word is Yes!