Deputy Secretary of IADL, Fabio Marcelli, participated to the mobilization on demand of the promoting organizations in order to guarantee the respect by the Colombian government of the essential principles of freedom of speech and expression of thought. Speaking to thousands of indigenous and other Colombians manifesting on Friday the 21th of November in the Plaza Bolivar, Marcelli announced the commitment of democratic lawyers to monitor the repressive activities undertaken by the Colombian Government and stressed the great value of the struggles of indigenous peoples and other social sectors such as peasants, blacks and workers.

To warm applause from bystanders, the Minga of Social and Community Resistance arrived in central Bogotá on Thursday. That night some 14,000 marchers camped out in the grounds of the National University. Despite drenching rain the university authorities refused the marchers permission to use the buildings’ facilities, and they excluded the press. This demeaning treatment typifies state institutional exclusion of indigenous people, official Colombia’s disregard for the oppressed.

But the oppressed are on the move, and they carry themselves with dignity. As the marchers set off on the morning of Friday 21 November they were joined by women’s organisations, trade unionists, students, afro-colombians and the opposition political party Polo Democratico. Teachers union FECODE, the cane cutters and Bogotá’s mayor Samuel Moreno were amongst the platform speakers. By the time the Minga reached Plaza Bolivar it had swelled to over 40,000 people.

Despite this turn out, the event was barely mentioned in the mainstream media. There are excellent picture on websites http://colombia.indymedia.org/ ; http://www.nasaacin.org/fotos.htm ;www.onic.org.co

There were parallel Mingas in Arauca, Guajira and Nariño. In Arauca 70 indigenous people were detained by the police to stop them from joining a protest on the International Bridge with Venezuela. In Guajira hundreds of women from the Wayúu people, accompanied by Kankuamo, Nasas from Cauca, Wiwas and others started a caravan that will end on 25 November in a forum against the discrimination of women. The caravan is passing through communities to raise awareness of national and regional realities,

“such as the indiscriminate exploitation by turncoat unscrupulous corporations, the plunder and contamination of coal extraction, the systematic assassinations of our people, the sale of everything [even] our air”.

The Minga has had a real impact, as Feliciano Valencia, an indigenous leader from Cauca says, “We have come to wake up Colombia!” (Semana 22 November).

The Minga mobilization went international last Friday, breaking through the frontiers of indifference. Colombia’s national indigenous organisation ONIC reports solidarity pickets of embassies in Ecuador, Germany, Spain, Bolivia, UK, Belgium, France and, Ireland. This international dimension is vital. The Colombian government is nervous of more bad press at the time it is desperate to get incoming US president Barack Obama to confirm the Free Trade Agreement, blocked for two years by the Democrat majority in Congress.

The next day, Saturday 22 November, while Uribe was away at a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Lima, Peru, nine of his ministers were involved in meetings with representatives of ONIC and the Cauca regional organisation CRIC. The ministers issued a statement saying it will take a month to enquire into the role of the ESMAD riot police in attacking the marchers; and giving excuses for not having signed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The fact that Uribe used his Lima trip to seal a Free Trade Agreement with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper just confirms the gulf that remains between his government and the vision of the popular movement.

The Minga has decided to keep on mobilising and, in recognition of the diversity of its support and the broad concern for the country’s future, has called for a Grand Popular Congress to be held on 12 October 2009.

* * *

The Nevado del Huila volcano started erupting late on Thursday night. The volcano is in the Tierra Adentro region settled by indigenous peoples, campesinos and African descendants. So far 10 people have been killed.

The Minga’s five principal demands are

1. Rejection of the Free Trade Agreements that are being negotiated with Canada, the United Statea and European countries, because they threaten our territory and sovereignty, handing over the resources and natural wealth to corporate interests of tye multinationals and attack labour rights and the rights of peoples. We want treaties between the peoples and for life, not treaties against the peoples and Mother Earth.

2. We denounce, resist and demand the repeal of those constitutional reforms and laws of plunder that put at risk the survival of the peoples, such as the Rural Development Statute (Law 1152 of 2007) that directly violates ILO Convention 169, that ignores the fundamental rights of the indigenous and campesino communities and legalizes the robbery of land through violence. The laws of plunder should be replaced by laws that defend sovereignty and rights for the well being of the peoples. It is urgent that the Mining Code and the Water Plan be repealed.

3. No more terror and war, we reject the government’s policy of ‘Democratic Security’ and Plan Colombia, because it represents a strategy to invade our collective territories by repression, militarisation of social life and criminalisation of social protest. We demand truth, justice and integral reparations for the crimes committed against us.

4. We denounce the infiltration of paramilitarism in the Congress and in different [elements] of executive power.

5. We demand the fulfilment of the different accords and conventions that have been achieved through the peoples’ struggles over years, and which have been ignored and violated continuously and recurrently. We demand that the result of these struggles as represented in the accords and agreements be respected. In the case of the indigenous peoples the application of ILO Convention 169 and Law 21 of 1991, the full recognition o the 2007 United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. We demand the full implementation of the agreement made after the Nilo massacre and Decree 982 of 1999.