Colombian Indigenous Leader Describes a Life and Death Struggle
Release Date: 10/29/2008
The Indigenous People of Colombia Battle For Their Land and Dignity - U.S. backed Colombian regime attacks indigenous people fighting for land rights and against"free-trade" policie
"President Uribe trys to end poverty with bullets." .
On the weekend of October 25 and 26th Rafael Coicué spoke in New York about the battle for survival now waged by the indigenous people of Colombia. Coicué is an indigenous leader who lost sight in his left eye when he was assaulted by masked gunmen in his home. His brother was murdered by Colombian death squads. In a talk at Alwan for the Arts on Sunday, October 26th, he was asked why, despite decades of government repression, land theft and broken agreements, he is optimistic about the current uprising. "Because," he said, "we have come to realize that we have nothing to lose. Our backs are against the wall. I do not fear death." And he added, "we have also realized that we have common cause with the great majority of the Colombian people, the Blacks, the peasants, the workers, students. And we are finding ways to unite our struggles."
During his presentation, one of his Colombian colleagues announced that he'd just received a text message that over 60,000 people had gathered in Cali, Colombia's third largest city, to continue the Mobilization (the"Minga") that the Nasa people of Cauca had initiated on October 12. On Wednesday, October 22nd, Democracy Now! interviewed Rafael Watch the interview
The marchers are protesting the militarization of their territories, the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and the failure of Uribe’s administration to abide by agreements.
Evne the New York Times admitted in an October 29th article that "Prosecutors and human rights researchers are investigating hundreds of such deaths and disappearances, contending that Colombia’s security forces are increasingly murdering civilians and making it look as if they were killed in combat, often by planting weapons by the bodies or dressing them in guerrilla fatigues."
For those who speak Spanish, we present the talk that Rafael gave at a church in Queens, New York during his visit to the city. He was introduced by Ramon Mejias and Tiokosin Ghosthorse of First Voices Indigenous Radio.
Rock The Boat
In 1992 Deep Dish curated and distributed a series of 20 programs,
Rock the Boat, to counter the hype surrounding the quincentennial (500 years) of the arrival of Europeans in the "New" World. This Deep Dish series presents an alternative view of the encounter, produced by indigenous, African American and Latino video and filmmakers.
Today the battle for human rights and dignity intensifies in a new battle front led by the indigenous Nasa people of Northern Cauca in Colombia.
Mario Murillo* reports from Colombia of an intense struggle (more widespread and more violently repressed than Oaxaca) between the indigenous NASA people of Northern Cauca and the Uribe government. (Information and video available on Mario's blog. Also see a CNN video report.
Mario describes the mass upheaval of the indigenous people of Cauca that has spread into a nationwide struggle. The indigenous people's protests and demands have been met with military force (over 130 wounded, at least 3 dead) and government / media charges that their protests have been orchestrated by the FARC and that they are terrorists. A delegation of Indigenous came to Washington DC in late October to testify before the Inter-American Committee on Human Rights.
Rafael Coicué was part of delegation. He is among the most respected leaders of the contemporary indigenous movement. He was the indigenous governor of Corinto in Northern Cauca and representative of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, Colombia (ACIN). A long time Nasa activist, his brother was killed in the 1991 Nilo massacre of 20 Nasa, and he was shot at and lost an eye in July 2008, a direct attempt on his life because of his work. He will be in Washington, testifying before the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights about the
It is very important that people in the U.S. learn about and spread information on this struggle. The Alvaro Uribe government in Colombia is a linchpin of U.S. strategy in Latin America and the recipient of billions of dollars in aid.
*Mario Murillo is the host of New York Pacifica Network radio WBAI's Wakeup Call-Fridays, a professor at Hofstra University, and a member of the Deep Dish board of directors.) He is teaching in Colombia until January.