Two-Week Blockade Forces Colombia to Open Dialogue on Indigenous Rights

The Colombian Government and leaders of a mobilization met to negotiate ending the two-week long 100,000 Indigenous strike and blockade.
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Two weeks after 100,000 activists staged a massive nationwide strike and blockade, the Colombian government and leaders of the Minga — the mobilization — met to suspend the demonstrations and begin dialogues on changes in the land and human rights of Indigenous, Afro-Colombians and small farmers.

On June 12, leaders of the two largest Indigenous entities – the Indigenous National Organization of Colombia (ONIC) and the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) – and other groups met with the Ministers of Interior and Agriculture to sign a pact to end the Minga.

Colombia's Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo and Agriculture Minister Aurelio Iragorri signed the agreement as well as representatives of allied groups such as CRIC and the Agrarian Summit in the town of Santander de Quilichao in the Cauca province.

It was noted that the groups would be discussing the issues surrounding mining and the sale of resources in Indigenous lands and further investments in Indigenous health, education and culture as had been stipulated but never enacted in the accords with the government in 2013.

Minister Cristo said “the work that can be done with the Indigenous and Afro-Colombian populations and the rural community will allow us to guarantee a stable and durable peace, finally ending inequality. But there is much to do still.”

The 15-day Minga involved the blockading of at least eight highways – including the largest, the Panamerican Highway – as well as demonstrations, speeches and cultural events in 100 sites across the country.

The conditions that lead up to the Minga were publicized by ONIC, CRIC and representatives of the Agrarian Summit, including Robert Daza, a spokesman for the Summit.

“[The government] did not fulfill even 30 percent of the accords of 2013,” Daza asserted.

He said that through these newly signed measures the Minga supporters would oppose “the government policies connected to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and that are articulated in Colombia’s National Plan of Development.”

Daza added that the FTA “puts strategic resources up for sale along with public businesses, energy sources, water and the unequal distribution of land.”

He also pointed out that there had been an increase in paramilitary attacks against the Minga groups and that 70 Indigenous, Afro-Colombians and rural farmers had been killed by the paramilitaries in 2016.

Further meetings between the Minga organizers and government officials will start on June 17.