PEACE IN COLOMBIA: Afro-Colombians, Indigenous fear new Pitfalls in Peace Deal

Published on teleSUR english, by Heather Gies, 25 Sept 2016.

  • Vulnerable rural communities warn that the development model of Colombia’s new era of peace could spark a new exploitative land and resource grab.
  • As Colombia’s government and main rebel group prepare to sign a historic rapproachment Monday, the question that remains following more than 5 decades of civil war is this: does peace necessarily bring progress … //

… Laying the Groundwork for Peace: … //

… An Eye of Caution from the Margins:

  • Despite the positive rhetoric championed in the deal and the unquestionable victory of ending more than half a century of armed conflict, history has taught Colombia’s Indigenous and Afro-descendent groups that their rights, land, and resources must be defended, and that’s what community leaders are prepared to do in peace — just as they did in war.
  • According to local organizations, the Colombian government is sitting on at least 1,000 pending requests for legal recognition of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian title to their collective lands. For Omaira Bolaños, Latin American program director of the Rights and Resources Initiative, the “historical debt” of unrecognized traditional and ancestral territories weighs heavy on the country’s current page-turning moment. And whether or not authorities show the political will to act on pending titles could mark the difference between progress and setbacks for Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, as well as the environment.
  • “Indigenous peoples are already mobilizing themselves to present their own proposals,” said Bolaños, highlighting movements struggling to protect the local environment and assert their rights to informed consent as tools of resistance against the economic policies that put mining exploitation at the top of the agenda … //

… Learning from the Past:

  • The challenges facing Colombia may be new to the country after decades of war, but the looming questions, particularly about the inclusion of diverse groups and protection of their rights, don’t come as a surprise to those who have observed similar peace processes elsewhere in the region.
  • (Video in espanol, 1.47 min).
  • Rodolfo Cardona, a representative of a nature conservancy and community well-being program in Guatemala’s Peten region, told teleSUR by phone from Bogota that Guatemala’s peace deal — and its shortcomings — can offer many lessons to Colombia as it navigates this historic moment. Importantly, he stressed that even though Guatemala ended its 36-year civil war with the signing of the peace accords in 1996, the Central American country failed to transform its culture of violence, while sidelining Indigenous issues in the agreements. Now, Guatemalan society still struggles under the weight of the root problems of inequality that spurred the war, epitomized today in soaring levels of outmigration, rampant gang activity, and unfinished fights for justice.
  • While the process in Colombia has significant differences from Guatemala’s, the history can still offer a warning sign, Cardona argued. Critics say that lawmakers in Guatemala dragged their feet after the 1996 accords, betraying a lack of political commitment among elites to build — as it has been called in Colombia — “true and lasting peace.” The 50 proposed constitutional amendments born directly and indirectly out of the peace accords were struck down at the ballot box in 1999 — three years after the 1996 accords — as confusion and disillusionment discouraged over 80 percent of voters from going to the polls. As a result, Guatemala’s dictatorship-era constitution hasn’t been updated since the final years of the 36-year civil war in 1993, leaving cornerstones of the peace process unprotected by the constitution.
  • The historical lessons hangs heavy for Cardona as Colombians prepare to vote in the Oct. 2 plebiscite on the question or whether or not they accept the peace deal between the Colombian government and the FARC. Unlike in Guatemala, the plebiscite comes quick on the heels of the signing of the agreement and is aimed at giving democratic legitimacy to Congress to make legal reforms after the vote, but it is still pivotal in defining the tone of the path forward … //

… (video, 0.35 min).

(full long text, related news).


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