Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Colombian Indigenous Rights Activist to Update New Yorkers on Situation Facing Indigenous Movement in Colombia

The Indigenous Minga – One Year Later: Colombia’s Popular Movement and the Imperial Presidency of Alvaro Uribe

Colombian Indigenous Rights Activist to Update New Yorkers on Situation Facing Indigenous Movement in Colombia

Several Events in the Metropolitan Area Planned


Rafael Coicué is a native Nasa from the indigenous reserve of Corinto, in Colombia’s southwest province of Cauca. A veteran social justice activist and community organizer, he is a member of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, Colombia, ACIN, one of the leading regional social justice organizations in the country.

Rafael is a survivor of the infamous Nilo Massacre of December 1991, where 20 Nasa people, including his brother, were killed by hooded gunman working with the Colombian National Police and local landowners. The attackers were attempting to displace the indigenous community from the Nilo Estate. The massacre, carried out with the complicity of the Colombian state, was condemned internationally, although the victims have yet to be fully compensated for the deed.

Last year, from October 11 to November 24, 2008, Colombia’s popular movement, spearheaded by the country’s indigenous organizations, carried out an unprecedented six-week mobilization and march to protest President Alvaro Uribe Vélez’s economic development and military/security policies, as well as the ongoing violations of the rights of indigenous people. The minga popular, as it was called, brought together upwards of 40,000 people throughout the mobilization.

It began in the southwestern department of Cauca, where Colombia’s indigenous movement first emerged in the early 1970s, but it was a national mobilization that included representatives of the many diverse indigenous communities from every region of the country. They marched for days, northward, first to the city of Cali, Colombia’s third largest, culminating weeks later with a massive rally in front of the national palace in downtown Bogotá.

The minga popular, as it was called, galvanized Colombian public opinion and received considerable international solidarity. One year later, the indigenous movement, alongside a broad cross section of Colombia’s popular movement, continues to struggle for its rights, especially in light of President Uribe’s open attempt to change the Constitution and run for an unprecedented third term in office.

Human rights activists and popular sectors are concerned that Uribe’s end-run around the Constitution will further erode protections for the poorest and most marginalized sectors of the population.

These are some of the issues Rafael Coicué will address during his four-day visit to New York, within the context of the MINGA’s five-point agenda.

Is it still relevant today?
What are some of the challenges facing the movement today?
How has the upcoming electoral season impacted the unity of the indigenous leadership, and has it derailed the process in any way?


Coicué will be speaking at several community events in the New York area between October 25 and 28th, and will examine the historic scope of the minga. He will give an update on the minga’s relevance today as the human rights situation continues to worsen in Colombia.

As part of his presentations, he will play highlights of the documentary video of the minga produced by ACIN’s communication team, “A Country of People’s Without Owners.”

Speaking Events for Rafael Coicué’s Visit to NY:

Sunday, October 25th
• 5:00 to 7:30pm – Cafecito Bogotá
• Informal talk with patrons of this Colombian-style bistro in the heart of Brooklyn
o 1015 Manhattan Avenue
o Greenpoint, Brooklyn, N.Y.

Monday, October 26th
• 7:00 to 9:00pm – Movement for Peace in Colombia
o The Renaissance Charter School
o 35-59 81 Street
o Jackson Heights, NY. 11372
o Visit the website at http://mfpic.org/?p=1204

Tuesday, October 27th
• 7:30-9:30pm - Stonybrook University Campus of SUNY
o Graduate program in Latin American Studies
o Student Activities Center ("SAC"), Ballroom B (located on the first floor of the building)
o Stonybrook University Campus, Long Island

Wednesday, October 28th
• 10:00-11:30am Hofstra University Panel – Part of “Day of Dialogue”
o Panel will focus on the U.S. Drug War both North and South;
o To be moderated by Mario A. Murillo, associate professor, Hofstra University
o For more details, email Mario at marioradio@gmail.com

• 7:00-9:30pm The Brecht Forum
o The Indigenous and Popular Minga - One Year Later
o Will include screening of film “A Country of People’s Without Owners”
o 451 West Street (between Bank & Bethune Streets)
o New York City, NY