Black Women's Movement in Defense of Life and the Ancestral Territories Update on Suspended Negotiations
Towards the end of 2013 and throughout 2014, Black and Indigenous communities in the State of Cauca, attempted to remove hundreds of illegal excavators from their territories. These excavators invaded ancestral territories with the illegal compliance of military checkpoints, without the corresponding checks from fuel distributors, and without any environmental control for the massive quantities of Cyanide and Mercury used to process the stolen gold deposits.
The situation is so grave that the National Ombudsman’s office and the Governor of Cauca have declared a state of environmental emergency. Nonetheless, this declaration has not translated to integral responses to the crisis from the National Government. Instead, it has led to increased threats and displacements for communities leaders, including their daughters, sons, and parents.
Today, there are over 2,000 excavators destroying the Ovejas, Quinamayo, Palo, Timba and Cauca Rivers. The waters of the rivers are dying. We can no longer eat from the river. We can no longer bathe in its waters, wash our clothes, much less cook. We can already see the health effects on the skin of those who continue to bathe in it, and on the reproductive capacity of the women who once used to make their livelihoods from the ancestral gold mining.
In this context, we appealed to the Ombudsman’s office, the Governor, the Department of Justice, and human rights organizations, and there has been no response that would lead to a real change in the conditions in which we are obliged to live.
Our demands were the following:
Repeal of the mining titles awarded without Prior Consultation of the communitie
An end to the illegal mining operations
Enforcement of previous agreements
Popayan-Incoder Accords of 2013
Tragedy at San Antonio Mine accords of 2014
Constitutional Court Order 005 of 2009
Integral Protection Plan for Communities and Community Leaders
On November 17th, we embarked on a March from the community of Yolombó, in La Toma, Suarez and arrived in Bogota until December 11th. We walked with fear, but we were met by other women from Cali, Palmira, Tuluá, Buga, Armenia, and Cajamarca. In Bogota, the government officials offered us the best hotels and conditions, but they do not extend the same will in our territories. We had an audience with the Constitutional Court, and later declared ourselves to be in Permanent Assembly in response to the lack of valid answers from the National Government.
We recognize that this is the face of racism. Why hasn’t the Constitutional Court held the National Government in contempt in light of government refusal to adhere to court rulings? Why hasn’t the Ministry of Interior and other institutions denounced, much less started investigations of, the public officials who should be working to guarantee the agreements and court rulings?
Following four months of government officials showing up to meetings unprepared and without integral responses, the only thing that has changed is the level of danger; the scale of destruction of the possibilities of life in our territories; and the ensuing displacement. The government’s response is to attempt to impose protection measures without listening to our concerns and proposals.
While we occupied the Ministry of Interior, the guarantors reassured us that they would be following the process to ensure that the accords would be implemented. However, the guarantors themselves have not been given notice of meetings, and have had to file freedom of information requests in order to be able to ascertain the government’s action or lack thereof.
As a result, the Black Women’s Movement in Defense of Life and the Ancestral Territories has suspended negotiations with the National Government. We will seek alliances with national and international organizations to increase political pressure on the government and to assist our struggle to remain and thrive in our territories.