“We Indigenous people grew tired of war, and this weariness led us to believe that true peace is built by all, through cultural diversity and taking into consideration good living for all Colombians,” said Jesús Chávez, senior councilor to the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) at the launch of the Indigenous peoples’ peace proposal on Dec. 14, on the ancestral lands of the La Maria reservation in the southwestern department of Cauca.
Many Indigenous leaders agreed with Chávez that their communities don’t feel represented in the “General Accord for an End to Conflict and the Construction of Stable and Lasting Peace,” which the government and the organized guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have been negotiating since November in Havana, Cuba.
Although they laud the process, the leaders called on negotiators “to build a real proposal based on diversity that includes the needs and rights of all.”
“We realize that those who are at the table in Havana do not represent us,” the Indigenous statement reads. “We call on them not to take up decision-making [for all] by going over the heads of civil society. The FARC does not represent us, to the extent that we believe that the armed conflict and the actions of the guerrillas within it has been a greater evil than the evils they propose to solve.”
“We say the same thing to the State (of Colombia), because although we have economic, social, political, cultural, and environmental rights in the Colombian Constitution, these are in large part violated or unfulfilled due to pressure from national and multinational elites who have taken ownership of [the State] and have also used the armed conflict to silence and weaken the social and political struggle for those rights,” the document added.
For years, Colombia’s Indigenous communities have demanded from administration after administration the recognition of their territorial rights and guarantees that they will be upheld. Since the Spanish arrived more than 500 years ago, there have been attempts to displace Indigenous peoples from their lands, and the current armed is being waged on those same territories in a fight for control of the natural resources there.
For that reason, the Indigenous proposal includes the recognition, protection, and guarantee of rights to ancestral lands for these communities, as well as territorial, social, environmental, cultural and regional reorganization within the framework of agrarian reform and a major national political agreement.
It also demands the right to sovereignty in food, water, the environment, and the plans of life of campesino, Indigenous and Afro-descendent communities, as well as respect for the exercise of self-government and territorial control.
The proposal, signed by CRIC, the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ORIC) and the regional Indigenous organizations of Valle del Cauca, Caldas, Tolima, Antioquia, Chocó, Huila, and Risaralda, among others, reasserted the Indigenous concept of Buen Vivir, or good living, by demanding the right to self-government and territorial control, and stating that the proposals for their own Indigenous systems of health, education, communication, and environmental authority “be known and understood by Colombians from the point of view of diversity, as an asset, not as a problem.”
“Count on us for peace,” the document stated in closing, “never for war.”