On October 1, 2008, the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), which represents Colombia’s 800,000 Indigenous People, declared October to be a month of social protest “against the genocide of Indigenous Peoples and the criminalization of social movements” in Colombia.
Below you can find ONIC’s full call to action, translated to English. You can read the original Spanish version here. Thanks to Teresa Martinez and friend for the translation.
October 2008, month of indigenous and popular resistance against the criminalization of social mobilization, the genocide of social movements and of Indigenous Peoples.
For defence of territories and life.
For democracy, justice and human dignity.
There are more than enough reasons to explain why we are calling for mobilization of us all – men, women, young people, social sectors throughout Colombia, in the month of October. We have spent 516 years reclaiming our ancestral rights, our territory and our autonomy. Today, as yesterday, we continue to demand realization and respect for our rights, our lives and dignity for all Colombians.
For the non-indigenous world the month of October represents the celebration of a discovery and meeting of two worlds. But, on the contrary, for us Indigenous Peoples it has meant what we have personally experienced ever since: extermination, colonization and submission.
But it is not only we Indigenous Peoples who are suffering the consequences of national and international policies at the service of big capital – policies which are expressed in the erosion of fundamental rights such as education, health and housing, and which also do damage to trade union rights and gradually undermine the 1991 Political Constitution of Colombia, bringing reduction of democratic freedoms; loss of territory for indigenous people, peasants and people of African descent; increased concentration of wealth in the hands of the few; and widespread hunger in the neighbourhoods, communes, villages and communities of our country.
Today we see a process of destruction of social movements through policies of co-option, stigmatization and criminalization, and indeed the physical extermination of their leaders. Systematic murders, disappearances, perjuries and persecution of those opposed are the commonest expressions of the policy of “democratic security”.
Today we Indigenous Peoples arise in order to continue defending life. At this time it becomes necessary that this rising should be the meeting-point of a great national agenda of social and popular sectors. The Colombian People is resisting in different ways: the homeless beside indigenous people, women, those of African descent, peasants and trade unions unite to struggle against hunger; in the neighbourhoods they organize to defend the right to housing against the greedy financial system; workers down tools to demand wages and conditions worthy of their work; young people and students fight for the right to education and for a future in this country; we Indigenous Peoples continue to liberate Mother Earth and to defend our territories. For all these purposes our social organizations have the duty and challenge of raising a united call to unify our struggles, to defeat all the measures imposed by this régime at the cost of our lives and welfare.
Our duty is to unify the struggles, to strengthen political opposition against a régime based on paramilitary strategy. We indigenous people have for decades denounced this State strategy of using private armies to exterminate social movements. Today we see how Congress and other organs of this State allow free passage to the gentlemen “commanders of paramilitary groups” and their political representatives, who on the basis of supposed demobilizations have gradually gained legitimacy, aided and abetted by powerful media of communication. We see, too, how today the régime is stained with the blood of thousands of leaders of social movements who have fallen at the hands of those criminals who act according to the interests of landowners, international capital, the political classes and the big businesses of our country. Today we cannot keep silent against the heavy hand of impunity, so we must unite to demand that the truth be revealed to the country and to the international community.
In this context we Indigenous Peoples call for October to be a month of days of social protest. We make the following demands:
To all social movements and struggling sectors to construct a list of demands or common agenda for the defence of rights and for dismantling of the present government’s regressive, anti-popular policies.
We make a special call for unity in all the sectors’ diversity, so as not to let ourselves be distracted and divided by strategies of the government and landowners of imposing or giving rise to squabbles between ourselves (peasants, indigenous people, African descendants), and so as to close ranks for repeal of the Statute of Rural Development.
To unite themselves with our struggles.
To rise up against the Free Trade treaties.
To defend the sovereignty of natural resources.
We urge the organizations of control and defenders of human rights to intervene as guarantors in this process of mobilization.
May our silence become a single shout!
National Authority of Indigenous Government ONIC
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