Calí, Colombia – On Monday, 3 November, the International Commission of Guarantors (La Comisión Internacional de Garantes) released a report exposing the Colombian government’s accusations of terrorism against the indigenous and social mobilization known as La Minga Popular as false . This report also highlights that though President Uribe originally indicated he would be willing to speak with the group on 26 October, his appearance on the scene was late in the day and done in a cursory and disrespectful manner at best, leaving no time for actual discussion.
After this meeting on Sunday, La Minga declared that they will continue this mobilization until Uribe engages in more in-depth conversations that include indigenous peoples in policy making and implementation in Colombia. The Commission report ends with a pointed recommendation to Uribe that he respond immediately to this call for furthered dialogue.
The visiting commission was made up of indigenous community leaders from Ecuador, Bolivia, Peru and Panama, including Marcial Arias, a member of Global Forest Coalition and a leader of the Kuna indigenous people in Panama. The commission members are all intimately familiar with the all too frequent marginalization of indigenous peoples in governmental and commercial processes. Arias, along with the commission stated: "The behavior of President Uribe [on Sunday] made visible his disrespect for not only his own word but for the leaders and indigenous peoples communities of La Minga." The Commission, in this report promises to continue monitoring the situation in Colombia and to make public its findings in the international community, calling on international organizations to urge the Colombian government to begin conversation in earnest with La Minga and to halt the violence against the movement.
In recent days, violence against indigenous peoples in Colombia, particularly in northern Cauca has exploded, with as many as 24 members of indigenous communities assassinated since September. Over 400,000 people displaced thus far during Uribe’s six-year term. Ironically, though the government of Colombia accused the march participants of violence, Uribe himself admitted on CNN on 22 October that a police official was captured on video firing into the crowd at La Maria. Meanwhile, the country’s army chief resigned on Tuesday over the scandal .
The La Minga gathering began in La Maria, Piendamo in Cauca on 12 October, known as Columbus Day in the United States and to most indigenous communities as El Día de la Raza. The mobilization marched towards Calí along the Pan-American Highway. Colombian officials claimed that this procession along the highway was an act of armed subversion, using force to break up the crowd . Many people managed to arrive in Calí despite these efforts. The group then staged a sit-in in the central square, where the Commission was monitoring activity, in hopes of beginning a conversation with the Uribe administration. The Commission report describes the actions of the crowd on 26 October as peaceful and well received by the local populace.
Ultimately, President Uribe did meet with indigenous groups, but during these talks La Minga saw no progress towards actual input in the policy making process in Colombia. Because of this, the group stated that the mobilization will continue, with a march to Bogotá with arrival planned for the 9 November. The main aims of the La Minga mobilization are to obtain inclusion in policy decisions that concern indigenous peoples rights in every arena, including international trade agreements and to denounce the grave human rights violations and violence committed against indigenous peoples by the government of Colombia.
Marcial Arias, Fundación para la Promoción del Conocimiento Indígena, Panama; Phone: +507 250 6193 or +507 672 63683; Mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Diego Cardona, Amigos de la Tierra Colombia/ CENSAT Agua Viva, Colombia; Mail to: email@example.com
Simone Lovera, Global Forest Coalition; Paraguay mobile: +595 21 663654
 Report of the Commission of Guarantors to the Minga of Indigenous Resistance and Social Movements conformed by Delegates of Indigenous Peoples from: PANANA, BOLIVIA, ECUADOR, and PERU and REPRESENTATIVES FROM SPAIN AND COLOMBIA. The members of this commission participating in the meeting of the Minga held in the Central park of Cali on October 26, 2008. We acted as witnesses of hope in the dialogue between the Minga Indigenous People and social movements in Colombia with the President Alvaro Uribe Velez.
With the arrival of the Minga from the University of Central Valley towards the square of CAM, place where they had to develop the dialogue of Indigenous brothers with the Colombian government, a peaceful behavior was observed. The single purpose was to be heard publicly and to begin the discussion with the President.
People waited patiently and with high spirits of peace and unity, while on one hand a mediating commission conversed with the President, searching to establish a dialogue with the concentration of the Minga. For the whole day the only answer was "Negative – the president will not come to the meeting place" with the argument that the place where the people waited did not offer sufficient security, and which cause shock and dismay in the crowd.
Due to this refusal, the concentration of the Minga met at the Central park, without the presence of President Uribe, placing an empty seat amid the Indigenous authorities and the commission of guarantors, symbolizing the wait this way, and in the face of the lack of will and seriousness on the part of the President to solve the demands of the People, and the fruitless efforts of the mediation committee, members of the church, members and senior officials of the United Nations representatives in Colombia. Governor and Mayor of Cali made the decision, after the long wait, to stick to the proposal for a joint public meeting not only for delegates as President Uribe had requested.
After finishing the assembly, the Minga decided to move to Valle University, place where they were encamped and when more than half of people had left the central park, the traffic was suddenly interrupted by the police forces, journalists, and the Minister of Internal affairs and Justice Fabio Valencia Cossio, impeding the exit of Indigenous Peoples to return to the University.
Surprisingly President Alvaro Uribe appeared on the pedestrian bridge, to begin the supposed dialogue, the same one that failed earlier due to his absence. The Indigenous People and Social movement, who were waiting for him the whole day, were withdrawing outraged. President Alvaro Uribe Velez with a megaphone in hand, continued with his conversation, while no members of the Minga peoples were present.
Given this fact, the Commission of Guarantors concluded the following:
1. – That the President of Colombia Alvaro Uribe Velez did not have the political will to dialogue, and the public announcement of his interest in the dialogue with Indigenous Peoples and social movements was not in earnest.
2. – The behavior of President Alvaro Uribe Velez made visible his disrespect for his word and for the authorities of the Peoples and the members of the Minga.
3 .- It was demonstrated at national and international level that the actions of the marchers in the Minga did not show terrorist behavior, but were peaceful and made clear the legitimate need to solve their claims with the President of Colombia. This did not materialized.
4 .- The international solidarity commission, the participation of various sectors of the country, was very positive, also to observe the dialogue among people who marched thousands of miles, to meet the president, although this did not materialize, and the claims of people are still pending.
– To the President Alvaro Uribe Velez that he should resume his commitment to dialogue in a serious and responsible manner in a open and public space with guarantees and without retaliation. Only a dialogue of respect can resolve the demands of the Indigenous People and social movements.
– To the members of the participants in the Minga, we express our respect for their sacrifice, their courage, their peaceful behavior and firmness in the fight, therefore we call on them to remain united in peaceful struggle, one which has dignified Indigenous Peoples today.
The commission is committed to:
– Spreading in different ways and areas of the world the situation observed. And that the demand be resolved peacefully through dialogue, without militarization, neither repression.
– Request a bigger accompaniment from various international agencies, to ensure respect for the life of peoples, and a call from different agencies for the government of Alvaro Uribe to meet the demands of the Peoples.
– Keep abreast of the events that occur in the following days regarding a solution through dialogue between the Government and Peoples of the Minga.
– We support the decision of the Minga to continue with the demand of the dialogue to the President Alvaro Uribe in the completion of their demands.
Cali, 27 October, 2008
Delegado por Baltazar Garzon