Congress of Lands, Territories, and Sovereignty Concludes in Cali

News from Colombia | on: Saturday, 8 October 2011

Between 30th September and 4th October the city of Cali in Southern Colombia played host to the Congress of Lands, Territories and Sovereignty. This Congress of a series of Colombian social organisations was called to debate solutions to the “fundamental problem” of land and its uses in Colombia. The delegates were peasants, workers, indigenous and afro-colombians, as well representatives of the many victims of violent conflict and the urban population of Colombia. After 5 decades of displacement and increasingly rapacious economic depredation of the country at the hands of corrupt politicians, narco-traffickers and paramilitaries, the Congress called for the “defence of Mother Earth and the defence of life itself.”

In its analysis of the situation in Colombia the Congress, which was attended by 15,000 delegates from across the country, accused Colombian governments of giving land to paramilitaries and multinational corporations, threatening to turn the country into one “great open cast transnational mine”, and threatening the complete destruction of the environment and the ways of life of the inhabitants.

The Congress adopted a series of resolutions which aim at the root of Colombia’s problems. It perceives these as necessary since the government and the political elite refuse to reform, and the country continues to be held to ransom by mafias and para-politicians [politicians who are either members or linked to paramilitary groups]. The paramilitaries, as the armed wing of the ‘latifundio’ large landowners, in alliance with the industrial and financial oligarchy continue pushing forward their socio-economic model, which will result in the “privatisation of the country, taking away peoples’ right to order and govern their space and their lives.”

For this reason, the Congress argues, it will not be possible to find an answer to the problems of the majority within the institutions of the State. The members of the Congress need to act themselves in order to guarantee their rights, beginning to build the type of country they want to see. To this end they adopted the following resolutions:

  1. To work to consolidate and build coordination among popular organisations in order to defend the land and the sovereignty over it of the people who live on it and care for it.
  2. To look after Mother Earth, prohibiting big mining and excessive exploitation of oil. The Congress will take the actions necessary to impede these activities.
  3. Build a political and negotiated solution to the Colombian conflict. There can be no human rights improvements while the war continues; therefore all must work towards a national dialogue. The Congress called for the holding of a National Congress for Peace in 2012.
  4. Agrarian Reform, no concentration of land in the hands of large agri-business or paramilitary groups.
  5. The construction of organisations to protect water resources. Through self-government water will be managed in opposition to large mining projects and the privatisation of water resources.
  6. Constructing an interlinked popular economy which will strive to achieve food sovereignty and agricultural diversity, using organic methods in harmony with the land.
  7. Recognise land and water as public goods in urban areas, opposing the forced displacement of shantytowns and legalising existing settlements.
  8. Seek to bring to justice the intellectual and material authors of human rights abuses.
  9. The building of spaces for children to participate in decision-making.

The Congress rejected allegations made in the media that the Congress was ‘permeated by terrorism’, stating that in reality the Congress was the “indignant response of the people in the face of the destruction of the environment, the invasion of indigenous territories by extractive industries, the theft of natural resources and the continuation of an unequal agrarian structure.”

This is the second large Congress held in Colombia recently. In August the National Meeting of Peasant, Indigenous and Afrodescendent Communities for Land and for Peace was held in Barrancabermeja. This meeting had among its conclusions the following points which chime with those of the Congress in Cali:

“4. We reject the governmental policies of the last decade which have been implemented in the country in order to promote an economic model which brings about the intense exploitation of our land and natural resources, favours transnational companies and economic groups, intensifies the conflict over land and territory, stimulates new processes of expropriation, dispossession, and forced displacement, radically deteriorates social processes, and risks our sovereignty and food security. This economic model destroys the peasant economy, the territories of indigenous and afrocolombian communities, and escalates the social and armed conflict which weighs our country down.

5. We are concerned about the government’s ‘General Law of Lands and Rural Development’, the ‘Law of Victims and Return of Lands’, and the ‘National Plan of Development’, because they don’t guarantee the rights of Colombians, and they favour the current mining and energy model which does not benefit Colombian people or the environment.

6. We reaffirm our support for the ‘Law of Integral Land Reform’ presented by peasant organisations, and drafted by the ‘Platform of Agrarian Unity’ which was presented at this event, because we believe it largely encapsulates the aspirations of the rural population of Colombia, and we call on society at large to support it.

7. To have democracy in our country and to create better conditions for the guarantee of our rights and in order to make them effective, we need a new model which allows the use of natural resources and wealth to overcome deep-rooted social and economic inequality for the well being of the population.

8. We are concerned that despite the formal recognition by the current government of a conflict in Colombia, and its statement that ‘the key to peace is not lost’, it is evident that a military solution is at the top of the governmental agenda, owing to the mistaken concept of a ‘peace of winners and losers’. The history of the Colombian conflict shows us that military solutions do not lead to peace. Therefore, we cannot continue to be trapped by an outlook that seeks to escalate the war and increase foreign military intervention. We don’t want to continue living under the permanent threat of bombs and bullets. A political solution is essential.

9. We are aware that the prospect of a political solution has many privileged enemies, especially those who benefit from the current state of affairs which sustains their position. Stopping the war is also against the interests of those who have made a lucrative business out of it. We Colombians have the right to take ownership of the task of creating conditions not based on the violence which has been inherent to the conflicts in our society in order to achieve peace and social justice through dialogue.”

It is clear that the rural populations are acutely aware of the dynamics of the situation that affects them, and that they demand to be included in any discussion of Colombia’s future. They are clearly united with Colombian trade unions, the victims’ and human rights movement and the political opposition in demanding peace with social justice, as well as their inclusion in any peace process.



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