Monday, January 5, 2009

Aida Quilcué Interview

Three weeks after the brutal assassination of Edwin Legarda, the husband of Aida Quilcué, the chief counsel of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, CRIC, there is still considerable concern about her safety and well-being in the face of ongoing threats against the indigenous movement. Despite being provided government protection as a result of intense international pressure in the wake of the December 16th attack, Quilcué has refused to accept it, citing her own doubts about the government’s intentions, and its role in targeting the indigenous leadership, which include the government’s accusations of CRIC links to FARC rebels. She is now under the 24-hour protection of the Indigenous Guard of the Nasa people.

After six weeks of mobilizations in October and November under the banner of the Indigenous and Popular Minga, the indigenous leadership is considering sitting down with representatives of the government on January 23rd in what the government is calling an ongoing dialogue with the communities – una mesa de concertación. There is still no word from the leadership as to whether or not to participate in this process, with some leaders concerned that it will be used by the Uribe Administration for public relations purposes only, with very little substance vis a vis the movement’s five main points on its agenda. Quilcué recently spoke to El Tiempo, Colombia’s newspaper of record, about the state of the investigation into her husband’s death, who was killed by a unit of the Army in Totoró, Cauca on December 16th, 2008, the 17th anniversary of the Nilo massacre.

Here is a translation of the interview, followed by the Spanish version:

EL TIEMPO
: What is the state of the investigation into the assassination of your husband, Edwin Legarda?

Aída Quilcué: It seems that the soldiers who killed him were on the trail of a leader of FARC. As the Chief counsel of the CRIC, I was being targeted as such. What the government wanted to prove (with this action) was that CRIC and the Indigenous movement in general are part of the FARC. There is one witness who has already testified to the Chief Prosecutor’s office about what actually occurred here. She has been directly targeted by men in unmarked cars, without plates, who apparently have also asked about me.

EL TIEMPO: What are the people who are tracking her trying to silence?

AQ: We indigenous people continue being in opposition to the government, to its development policies, many of which have resulted in direct violations of human rights. We have become a big risk for the government.
EL TIEMPO: The persecution that you are denouncing is coming from the government?

AQ: It is the government, because the public force that assassinated my husband is part of the government.

EL TIEMPO: Do you hold the President or his Minister of the Interior responsible for these actions?

AQ: In the Community Council held by the President on March 13, 2007, President Uribe said directly that the indigenous movement was part of the FARC, and that there needed to be some rewards offered (for capturing those involved). Who else can we hold responsible other than those who have accused us?

EL TIEMPO:
Given these developments that you are describing, are you willing to sit down in the negotiation table with the government on January 23rd?

AQ: When we marched (in the Popular Minga of October-November), we did so to clear the good name of the indigenous movement. What did we get in return? The death of my husband. There are no guarantees. I’m not saying that I will not sit down with the government to dialogue, but I need to seriously evaluate it first.

EL TIEMPO: How are you handling issues of your personal security?

AQ: The government, as a result of international pressure, assigned to me some security measures of protection, although I don’t feel so confident with this either. Last week, in the town of La Plata, in the department of Huila, I was surrounded by five police motorcycles as part of a police patrol, and they treated me as if I were a criminal.

EL TIEMPO: Do you have bodyguards?

AQ: I don’t have bodyguards of the DAS (Dept. of Administrative Security) nor of the SIJIN (Internal Police). I would never accept this kind of security. I am with the Indigenous Guard.

EL TIEMPO: Have you thought about leaving the country?

AQ: I wouldn’t consider this, my life is here.

EL TIEMPO: It’s pretty serious that you, as the leader of a social movement have to remain in hiding and in fear for your life…

AQ: It fills me with sadness. I lost my husband, and now, every time I go out, I think of my daughter. I don’t want to leave her alone. I know that the spirits, that God, and that the people close to me will protect me. This is the only confidence I have.

EL TIEMPO: All the attacks are directed at you. Is Aída Quilcué indispensable for the Popular and Indigenous Minga?

AQ: Maybe so, but I am totally certain that if something were to happen to me, rather than being indispensable, many, many other leaders will emerge, and there are many already. It’s not enough to kill Aida, it’s not enough that they killed Edwin, it’s not enough to kill many other leaders, because our communities will continue firm in resistance and in the struggle for life.

EL TIEMPO:
There are some who say you would head a list of candidates for the Senate in 2010. Where does this stand?

AQ: I have been extremely respectful of the collective procedures and processes that we have in the community. This will be defined by the indigenous authorities in its proper time.

ÁLVARO LESMES ESPECIAL PARA EL TIEMPO

SPANISH VERSION: Escondida, temerosa por su vida y con protección de la Guardia Indígena permanece Aída Quilcué

http://www.eltiempo.com/colombia/politica/escondida-temerosa-por-su-vida-y-con-proteccion-de-la-guardia-indigena-permanece-aida-quilcue_4742574-1

Aída Quilcué, consejera mayor del Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca (Cric), y su hija, durante el sepelio de su esposo, Edwin Legarda, asesinado por militares en una carretera del nororiente del Cauca.

Tres semanas después de la muerte de su esposo, Edwin Legarda, la dirigente del pueblo nasa habló con EL TIEMPO desde un lugar que ni siquiera miembros de su círculo cercano conocen.

EL TIEMPO: ¿En qué va la investigación sobre el asesinato de su esposo, Edwin Legarda?

Aída Quilcué: Según parece, quienes lo mataron perseguían a una cabecilla de las Farc. Yo, como Consejera Mayor del Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca (Cric) estaba señalada como tal. Lo que quería comprobar el Gobierno era que el Cric y el movimiento indígena eran de las Farc. Queda una testigo, que ya habló con la Fiscalía sobre lo que pasó realmente. Ella ha sido objeto de acoso por hombres que también han preguntado por mí, en un carro sin placas.

¿Qué quieren callar quienes la persiguen?

Los indígenas terminamos siendo una oposición frente a las políticas del Gobierno, frente al proceso de desarrollo, que en muchos casos ha significado violaciones a los derechos humanos. Nos convertimos en un riesgo para el Gobierno.

¿La persecución que usted denuncia viene de parte del Gobierno?

Es el Gobierno, porque la Fuerza Pública que asesina a mi esposo es del Gobierno.

¿Usted responsabiliza directamente al Presidente o a su Ministro del Interior?

En el Consejo Comunitario del 13 de marzo del 2007, el Presidente dijo directamente que los indígenas eran de las Farc y que había que ofrecer recompensas. ¿A qué otros responsables puedo buscar además de quienes nos han señalado?

Con estos antecedentes que usted relata, ¿se sentará en la mesa de concertación el 23 de enero?

Cuando marchamos, lo hicimos para limpiar el buen nombre del movimiento indígena. ¿Qué encontramos? La muerte de mi esposo. No hay garantías. No quiero decir que no me vaya a sentar, pero lo voy a evaluar seriamente.

¿Cómo está manejando su seguridad personal?

El Gobierno, por presión internacional, me asignó medidas cautelares, aunque yo no veo seguro tampoco eso. La semana pasada, en La Plata, Huila, me abordaron cinco motos con dos patrullas de la Policía y me trataron como si fuera una delincuente.

¿Tiene escoltas?

No tengo escoltas del DAS ni de la Sijin, nunca los aceptaré. Estoy con la guardia indígena.

¿Ha pensado en salir del país?

No pienso hacerlo, mi vida está aquí.

Es grave que usted como líder de un movimiento social tenga que estar escondida y temiendo por su vida...

Me da mucha tristeza. Perdí a mi esposo y cada vez que me movilizo pienso en mi hija. No quiero dejarla sola. Sé que los espíritus, Dios y quienes están cerca de mí me van a proteger. Esa es la única confianza que tengo.

Todos los ataques son para usted, ¿Aída Quilcué es indispensable para la Minga?

Puede ser así, pero estoy plenamente segura que si alguna vez me pasara algo, a pesar de ser indispensable, surgirán muchos más y hay muchos. No basta con que maten a Aída, no basta con que hayan matado a Edwin, no basta con que maten a muchos dirigentes, porque nuestras comunidades seguirán firmes en la resistencia y en la lucha por la vida.

Hay quienes dicen que usted encabezaría una lista al Senado en 2010, ¿en qué va eso?

He sido respetuosa de los procedimientos colectivos que tenemos. Eso lo definirán las autoridades indígenas en su debido momento.

ÁLVARO LESMES
ESPECIAL PARA EL TIEMPO

No comments: