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The Movement for the Liberation and Defense of Mother Earth of Huila Department, Colombia, agreed with the national government a dialogue and negotiation plan on several issues that are concerning social actors of the area. They have been carrying out several mobilizations since August 9th to make their demands heard.
The government and social forces will have a sectoral discussion table on September 6th and a high-level national table with representatives of several ministries and a delegation of the Presidency on September 20th. In that second space, they will discuss about the mining-energy policy implemented by Juan Manuel Santos’ administration and about the defense of Mother Earth. This is what Leonardo Homen, Head of the Huila Indigenous Regional Council, said to Real World Radio.
The Movement for the Liberation and Defense of Mother Earth of Huila gathers several social actors of the department, among them peasant, indigenous and fisher-folk organizations. On August 9th, a series of mobilizations started in the region against mining-energy megaprojects and for a political solution to the national armed conflict.
On August 13th, after Santos’ administration refused to listen to their demands, the demonstrators decided to block Panamericana Highway (which links Colombia with Ecuador and the South of South America), in Quebrada del Pescador, near Hobo municipality.
The protest lasted 20 minutes, because the Anti-Riot Police of Colombia repressed the demonstrators with tear gasses and stones. Tens of demonstrators were injured. Several police officers were also injured, because some demonstrators defended themselves by throwing stones.
However, the popular mobilization was successful. According to Homen, the Movement for the Liberation and Defense of Mother Earth continued resisting and alert in the hours following the attack by the Police. On August 15th, representatives of the movement travelled to indigenous reserve Maria, in Piendamó municipality, Cauca department, to meet with Colombian indigenous people, where President Santos and some ministers were present. People from Huila participated in the Indigenous Regional Council of Cauca and submitted a political document and denounced the repression they suffered.
The following day, a government commission with decision-making power travelled to Huila. There, representatives of some ministries, indigenous people, the departmental government, the National Ombudsman and the Regional Council of Huila met. -
Homen told Real World Radio about the most important aspects of the political document submitted to the government, which includes the issues the social groups of Huila would like to be addressed. “The main issue here is the mining-energy policy”, said the head of the Indigenous Regional Council of Huila. The different projects planned in the area and their direct and indirect impacts are worrying local social movements.
The respect for the indigenous and peasant territories is one of the important aspects of the document of the Movement for the Liberation and Defense of Mother Earth of Huila, and their demand for a peaceful solution to the armed conflict experienced in the country. Peasants and indigenous people are also demanding the respect for their rights to prior and popular consultations about projects on their lands. There are other issues, such as education and health care for indigenous peoples, which are also included in the document submitted to Santos’ administration.
Homen said to Real World Radio that they expect the government will comply and establish a high-level table on September 20th. “If the government does not comply, we’ll continue resisting defending our rights”, said the indigenous leader, who considered that this is a struggle for a “collective cause, of the entire department and the country”.
“Las mujeres somos quienes mantenemos la esperanza. Y creo que en ese mantener la esperanza tenemos que contagiar a muchas otras mujeres y decirles que se atrevan, que salgan, que levanten la voz, que no les dé miedo hablar. (…) Hay miedos que se nos han creado a las mujeres dentro de nuestros entornos sociales y culturales. (…) Cargamos la manta del miedo en un momento que nos llega, pero luego nos quitamos la manta del miedo, y seguimos con la manta de la esperanza”. Jakeline Romero Epiayu.
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