Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 3: Building Popular Power in Minga

It is nearly 9pm on Tuesday night in the grounds of the Coliseo in the city of Cali. People have rested after the 3 day of walking 15km and young indigeneous are now dancing in large circles in front of the stage. The music fades and Feliciano Valencia, spokesperson for La Minga speaks to the thousands that have gathered to listen to the proposals for tomorrows activities;
  • delegations to visit 5 places in the city to talk about what is Minga and to invite community organisations to walk the word

  • a caravan in the 40 chivas through the streets of Cali to make the Minga visible,

  • join teachers who are marching against labour conditions and have invited us to join.

  • begin thinking collectively about what the Congress of the People, planned for July 2010, actually is with important questions for consideration such as how are we going to legislate and what are the mechanisms and strategies we need so that the peoples laws are put into practice?

With the sheer quanity of people I have been curious to watch how decisions are made at this scale, how different forms of power are working and and how popular power is being built. What I watched was these proposals being created through a serious of meetings. Firstly the political commision of the Minga, which includes representatives of each social organisation involved in the Minga, met and came up with a proposal with Feliciano playing the role of listening, gathering all the opinions and presenting a synthesized proposal. This was then discussed and adapted by some 40 governers of the different Indigenous reservations. This was then presented to everyone. During the night, each community will have discussed it and as I write, another meeting is taking place to finalise the plans for today.

The sheer presence of indigenous from Cauca, through their impressive organisational capacity, is a challenge to the proposal of Minga to be inclusive to all. Yesterday, there was some serious errors such as the idea to start the pre-congress before the second smaller march arrives , yet once this was flagged up the idea was inmediately dropped. There is much to be learnt, and to get wrong and do better the next time, in terms of thinking about how to make proposals that are not based in sectorial thinking, but thinking of all.

Much has already been learnt. The 5 point agenda includes indigenous based proposals around territory and cultural, while also going much beyond and is incredibly inclusive. And as a friend says over a beer last night, "i think there is a distortion of the reality abroad of Colombia. They either thing that all resistence follows the same logic as the insurgency or that the problems in Colombia are all about defending the profits from the drug-trafficing trade. Here, what I think is important to say to people in your country is that we are here saying clearly there is another reality in which many Colombians are living and from this harsh violent reality, we are building a resistance based in the grassroots, and it is a resistance that is building serious proposals collectively to create another country. And the government are worried, the moment the indigenous invited other social organisations to recognise the commonality, they see a threat to their dictatureship"

In Popayan, two hours further south, mainly campesinos organisations held a campesino and popular assembly on Monday in preparation for the precongress in Cali. They declare " In our territories, we, communities and organisations will not allows policies and laws to be applied that are harmful to us, that have not consulted with us, that do not take into account the wellbeing of all and that are not participatory, coordinated or integral. Handing over territory to private hands will not be accepted and we will assert our rights to sovereignty, autonomy and independence to maintain the integrity of our lands."
And in the north of the country, social organisacions write "With happiness and vitality typical of the communities, but also with the hope to change the hard conditions that characterise their lives, the habitants of the Sur de Bolivar and the south of Cesar are "navegating the word" down the river Magdalena towards Cartagena.

"The message that we want to spread nationally and internationally is clear, free mother earth and our territories from the proposals, policies and projects of death with proposals where life and happiness, are the foundations of the people as they build with dignity a free and self-determined future, it is the voice of the people in a country where death took control of the Great River Magdalena and the oblivion tried to occupy all the territory, leaving hope with none.

We are a people who have declared our resistance, faced with a violent and injust state, that acts through the dispossesion of land, natural resources, memoria and identity. Faced with this tough situation, the proposals of life of the communities are representes in the sound of the drums, the flute, the accordion, the bagpipes, and the maracas . This is the sound of the resistance which does not permit us to forget our numerous leaders who have been disappeared and murdered, such as Alejandro Uribe, Edgar Martínez and Edgar Quiroga; it is the rhythm through which victims of state crime, students, women, indigenous, workers miners, afro-colombians, small scale farmers, unions and many more Colombians continue to meet and see their own struggles in the struggle of their brothers and sisters. The proposal of the Minga of Social and COmmunity resistance is needed by all of us. "

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