Militarized Police Attacks Peaceful Black Communities Mobilizing in Defense of their Ancestral Lands
BACKGROUND to attacks against Black Communities in Columbia
April 25, 2016 Cauca, Colombia
Over 2,000 elders, children, women and men from 41 AfroColombian community councils marched peacefully along four kilometers of the main PanAmerican Highway in Northern Cauca to demand that the Colombian Government respect the constitutional rights of black communities to autonomous governance of their lands. The government’s response to this first day of protest was smoke grenades, teargas, and at least one bullet wound as the Mobile AntiDisturbance Squad (ESMAD) attacked the peaceful protest.
“This is a political act of the sovereign black peoples of Northern Cauca” said one of the march organizers. “We are in full support of a negotiated end of the armed conflict. We demand the participation of the A froColombian National Peace Council (CONPA) and the Interethnic Commission in the peace process. We demand guarantee for the safety of the human right defenders and the mobilization gathered here today.”
For years the communities have been demanding that the Colombian Government follow through with its constitutional duty to recognize collective land titles to the Ancestral Afrodescendant Community Councils that make up the Association of Community Council of Northern Cauca (ACONC). Instead, the Ministry of Interior denies the existence of black communities, while both the National Development Plan, and the current peace negotiations ignore Black Communities’ collective territorial rights enshrined in Law 70 of 1993. Meanwhile, dozens of AfroColombian community leaders continue to be assassinated, displaced and threatened.
Although they have reached a tentative agreement with government officials on the general negotiation principles, the communities intend to block traffic along this main route until t heir demands are met. The communities call upon national and international solidarity to ensure their safety and support their efforts to provide food, water, medical supplies and other essential necessities as the mobilization is expected to last days. The U.S. Government must also urge Colombia to investigate the ESMAD’s disproportionate use of force, violence and aggressive tactics towards civilians who are protesting peacefully for their rights.
The Human Rights Team of the Process of Black Communities, Colombia (PCN), The Association of Community Councils of Northern Cauca (ACONC) and the Afro-Colombian National Council for Peace (CONPA) informs the national and international community and alerts the authorities about the following facts.
1. Yesterday April 27, 2016, strangers, in the village of Yolombó and the urban municipality of Suarez, Department of Cauca, were asking about the whereabouts of Alexa Leonor Mina and Mery Yein Mina, members of the Mobilization of Women for the Protection of Life and Ancestral Territory. Alexa and Mery are the sister and cousin of Francia Marquez, legal representative of the Community Council of La Toma.
2. Today April 28 at 10:36:46 am, Francia Elena Márquez Mina, received on her cell phone a text message saying: “Well, the time has come to settle scores with those calling themselves Defenders of territory, these **** Eduar Mina, Francia Marquez, Jhonjairo Valverde. We know how they operate and the order is to bring them down so that they do not oppose development. They are warned and should be prepared. Signed, Bandas Criminales Insurgentes. This message was sent from the number +57 3218570714
3. These facts and messages have occurred during and immediately after the mobilization of the Community Councils of Northern Cauca in defense of their rights and the establishment of an agreement with the National Government to comply with the points of the statement and agreements in the past established with the communities of Northern Cauca.
4. We call attention to the situation of permanent risk that communities and leaders of the Community Councils and Organizations in Northern Cauca are facing. Not in vain, this was one of the points of the mobilization that just concluded in last night. The authorities, the same who had the “courage” to crackdown harshly on mobilization of our communities and the same ones that did not go to the meeting at the school in Quinamayo because they did not feel safe to talk in that space with our communities and their leaders, should take all necessary measures to protect the life leaders of the Community Council of La Toma, the mobilization of Women for the Defense of Life and Territories, other leaders of the Community Councils, the territory and in defense of all the rights of our communities. These measures include the implementation of the Ethnic Protection Route, ordered in Constitutional Court Ruling 005 of 2009 and precautionary measures.
5. We call on the whole Black Movement in Colombia, other social movements and the international community to effectively and permanently gather round and accompany these leaders, their communities and their struggles for dignity, autonomy and defense of their territories and rights.
Afrokolombia, April 28, 2016
Process of Black Communties (PCN)
Association of Community Councils of the Northern Cauca (ACONC)
Afro-Colombian National Council for Peace (CONPA)