Communiqué from the Colombian jungles of Chocó
We are Afro-Colombian peasant communities from the Cacarica river, in Chocó, Colombia. We were displaced four years ago by the Colombian Army and paramilitary groups in a land and air operation. Over the last ten years, the bombs and machine guns of the "displacers" have chased over three million peasants like ourselves off our lands.
Solidarity Statement from Comisión Intercongregacional de Justicia y Paz in Colombia
Dear North American brothers and sisters,
From the Colombian jungles of Chocó, we're sending you the communiqué we wrote to add our voice to the concert of voices that are calling to shut down the FTAA. If you may, please post it on your web site or forward it to anti-FTAA groups who may be able to. Enjoy trying to shut down the America's Summit in Quebec. Wish we could be there with you.
Comisión "Justicia y Paz".
April 18, 2001.
To all our brothers and sisters of the Americas fighting to shut down the FTAA
We are Afro-Colombian peasant communities from the Cacarica river, in Chocó, Colombia. We were displaced four years ago by the Colombian Army and paramilitary groups in a land and air operation. Over the last ten years, the bombs and machine guns of the "displacers" have chased over three million peasants like ourselves off our lands. This wave of death and destruction, which took the life of 82 members of the Cacarica communities, coincides with the prying open of our borders in order to force neo-liberal globalization upon us. In our country, peasants are forced off our rich lands so that others may control the most productive and strategic areas. When we were displaced, we were told that the military operation was meant to attack the guerrilla. During the four years that we lived as displaced peoples, away from Cacarica, not a single confrontation between the displacers and the guerrilla took place on our lands. It's plain to see that we were therefore displaced so that we could no longer control our rich territory. Our Chocó has one of the richest biodiversities in the continent and is strategically located. That's why it's been chosen for the development of mega projects, one of which is what businessmen and politicians call the "Best Crossroads of America".
The "Best Crossroads of America" is designed to pave the way for unlimited free trade, mainly by linking the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. It is based in the Urabá region, to which our Cacarica belongs. In all of Urabá, they displaced more than 40,000 people. In the middle of 1996, then President Ernesto Samper announced his plans to go ahead with the construction of the Atrato Canal. Shortly after this announcement, the displacers set up check points in order to impose an embargo upon our peasant communities who needed to go to the closest city, Turbo, to buy food and medicine. They stripped us of our food at 500 meters from the police station and fifty kilometers from the Army base of the 17th brigade. They also set up these check points at the entrance to the Cacarica river. Authorities did nothing to put and end to the embargo. Shortly thereafter, in February 1997, 12,000 people were forced to flee our lands. We believe that it isn't a simple coincidence that in these projects not only are we not consulted, but we're driven off our lands and ignored. We're what they call "useless population" and they wipe the lands clear of ourselves with bombs and machine guns. We can expect more of the same from a free trade deal signed by our President, Andres Pastrana.
We were displaced by the interests who plan on building big development projects in the Pacific region. They will not tolerate that communities who defend all forms of life and who demand the right to live in dignity stand in the way.
They chassed us off our lands, but a year has passed since we began to return in midst of the war, after the trying times in the internal refugee camps of Turbo, Bocas del Atrato and Cupica Bay. We returned in order to retrieve our territory and our ancestral heritage, and to regain our autonomy. We put forth a proposal for Peace with social justice, which is our Life Project, based on the following five principles: Truth, Freedom, Justice, Solidarity and Fraternity. We've declared our collective lands a "Territorio de Vida", a Life Territory, in a region where the state sought, in vain, to sow death in order to impose its economic model.
Colombian President Andrés Pastrana Arango cannot possibly claim to represent Colombians at the FTAA negotiations, for he's never consulted us. We continue to be ignored and live under the constant threat of a new displacement because our government has taken NO action against the displacers. The state doesn't respect international human rights treaties. The causes of our displacement remain the same, no justice has been done, impunity is rampant and they still want our land. We've demanded that the government inform us of all the big development projects planned for our region and we're told that that's confidential information.
The growth of free trade leads to the uprooting of peasants, the destruction of our social fabric and culture. Free trade means that the war against peasants in Colombia is bound to worsen in order to exploit our lands. The FTAA will give multinational corporations unlimited access to our country, which doesn't bode well for the population. Free trade will not give us more jobs. On the contrary, it'll bring about the destruction of all that we've built, and make us loose our autonomy. Free trade destroys the environment in exchange for money. Latin America is falling under the rule of those who own everything and decide everything because they're filthy rich.
Free trade hurts us because it shatters our traditional livelihood. It also violates our right to participate in the decisions that affect our daily lives. Let's say that it goes as far as wiping out peasant farmers. Multinationals profit from free trade, in no way does the population.
Politics are drawn without taking into account the needs of small peasant farmers. We're left without the possibility of winning agrarian reform or making social change. Free trade is going to do away with the peasant farmer. Our government can't even freely design its own agrarian policies for they're imposed from the North. Multinationals, on the other hand, will produce more and more after they've gobbled up our resources. They, and not the government, manage the economy. The poor will no longer have the right to survive, they won't have access to health care since the hospitals will be privatized. The same holds true for education. In Colombia, free trade will bring about the total destruction of the peasant population.
Plan Colombia, along with the FTAA is part of the foreign intervention package deal. It'll worsen the war because it's designed to wage war. Plan Colombia is meant to destroy social movements. It's the government's strategy aimed at strengthening its hold on terror and destruction. The idea that you can tackle narco-trafficking by wagging war is an excuse to meddle in Colombia. The conflict will degenerate into full scale war against social movements, which in turn will take away the possibility to defend human rights. People won't even be able to demand that these rights be respected.
We'd have the following to say to the Presidents who attend the Summit of the Americas, although it wouldn't do much good since they wouldn't listen, but most of all because they are no longer in charge, the multinationals are. We'd tell them that they're acting without the population's support. The Americas belong to us, not to them. Their politics are hurting the population. They don't give a second thought about our lives but are only interested in making more money. That's all that counts, the bottom line.
To all our brothers and sisters who traveled from all over the Americas to demonstrate against the Summit, we'd like to say that even if we cannot be there, we fully support you. Your actions and movements are strengthening us, the same way that we believe our resistance is strengthening you. We'd like to thank you for waging your fight for life and solidarity, against neo-liberalism and death. We hope that together, we'll be able to shut down the FTAA.
Cacarica Self-determination, Life and Dignity Communities,
Chocó, Colombia, Latin America.
April 18, 2001.
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