After several days’ travel from southwest Colombia, around 8,000 representatives of indigenous, peasant farmer, African-Colombian and student organisations have arrived in Bogota to demand a meeting with President Iván Duque over the chronic insecurity impacting their communities, as well as their concerns for the peace process, land rights and environmental destruction.
The movement known as the ‘Minga’ (an indigenous word for collective labour) began last week in Cauca, the region statistically most impacted by Colombia’s escalating human rights crisis. From there, it headed to Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city, where government officials met with Minga leaders. The movement is also calling for the implementation of previous agreements which it says the government has not fulfilled.
However, after Duque did not travel to Cali, thousands of people set off for Bogota. Currently, they are congregating in the capital’s central square, the Plaza Bolívar, during the day and sheltering in community and sports halls at night. Those participating in the Minga hope that by taking their cause to the seat of government, Duque will be obliged to engage with them.
The Minga refers to the mobilisation of predominantly rural-based communities in southwest Colombia, with previous instances in 2014, 2016 and 2019. Minga methods of protest often include work stoppages, occupations and the blocking of major roads, although this time it has opted for travelling to Bogota. While the movement is peaceful, it has faced stigmatisation from right-wing political and media sectors, which baselessly claim that it is coordinated by armed groups intending to generate disorder and violence.
According to Minga leaders, they have been requesting a meeting with Duque since last year. Víctor Moreno Mina of the North Cauca Community Council Association said ‘I don’t know if President Duque will continue with this arrogance, which delegitimises his government, which doesn’t care about rural, urban or community situations and only cares about the country’s large corporations and businesses.’ Even if Duque does not meet with the Minga, the movement had raised public consciousness of problems facing the country, said Moreno.
The mayor of Bogota, Claudia López, has called on the government to engage in dialogue with protesters. ‘I reiterate the call for the national government and the President of the Republic to listen to the Minga and its legitimate demands,’ she said.
It is not yet known how long the thousands of mingueros will remain in Bogota. They will be hoping to see concrete action from the government to address the many problems impacting conditions in rural parts of the country.