Conflicts in the Cauca indigenous movement

Conflicts in the Cauca indigenous movement

By Efraín Jaramillo Jaramillo

It is basic, a change of attitude, doing things well, recovering ethics, strengthening principles, governing with transparency, recovering humility, the capacity for dialogue and listening, but we must not forget that we cannot alone, we must have the capacity to establish an intercultural relationship from all spaces, which allows us to strengthen ourselves together.

In May 2010, the communication fabric of the Association of Indigenous Cabildos del Norte del Cauca - ACIN, published an article entitled "Strategies to divide the indigenous movement." (1). I do not know the reasons that led the ACIN to publicly air an issue that had been discussed only in groups of people versed in this matter; however, I perceive that by making public the discrepancies that arise within the organizations, a debate and I deduce consequently that it is welcome to issue a concept on this writing. In my case I am going to make a series of observations in this regard. But in addition to commenting on the article, I dare to point out developments in this space of information and opinion of the indigenous world, which in the opinion of many friends of the indigenous people, are misguided.

I consider it wise and I welcome that the ACIN, displaying the motto of its communication body "for truth and life", does not reserve problems and unless it twists reality, as many social and political organizations have accustomed us, to which the main thing is to show a radiant and favorable image outwards, even if they are bursting inside.

A first appreciation about ACIN's communication fabric is that many of its news items already contain an opinion. In this way, the news is not impartial information, as it is edited by the ideological ideas and positions of the person who issues it. No difference is then established between information and opinion. Information requires objectivity. The opinion is different, it is subjective, it is an assessment of the information. Both information and opinion are essential to guide the action. However, it is not appropriate, in terms of communication, to merge them without distinguishing them.

A second assessment of this communication body refers to the style of generating communication, which has been evolving disadvantageously to the detriment of communication with indigenous communities and organizations, giving more priority to external relations. This evolution would be fully justified if the aim is to win friends abroad and capitalize on the support that organizations need so much, solidarity even more necessary in the Uribe era. But what's unfortunate in terms of communication is that their views are brash, not to mention uncompromising. Their convictions are imperative, unappealable, since it seems that the editors suppose that if they did not do so, this means of communication would appear insecure and weak, which would reduce its credibility, as is the case of official party bodies. This, together with an imposing ability to discuss all possible topics, divine and human, starting from iron ideological positions ('bulletproof') leads to dogmatism, a constriction of dialogue and the devaluation of other voices, which does not favor critical training, does not promote analytical skills, does not promote interculturality, nor the development of a different political culture, nor the management of relationships with other social sectors, with which they maintain cultural and political differences, although they share similarities exclusion conditions.

"To have convictions is to have hope," Brecht said. But conviction is one thing and obstinacy is another, a blinded mental attitude that blocks the deliberative spirit that any democratic concert requires. Alejandro Gaviria points in this direction when he affirms that “deliberative democracy needs flexibility, even ideological detachment”, since “without changes of opinion, deliberation is a sterile exercise, almost absurd” (2). Perseverance in unshakable opinions is not an attribute of consistent liberal political positions (3), since dissenting arguments are repudiated in advance. Furthermore, the spirit to search for other alternatives or new paradigms is closed (4). Immune to any evidence that contradicts their ideological allegiances, the editors dispense with many information and developments in society that are beneficial to indigenous peoples. In that way there is no dialogue between different points of view. There is no struggle of ideas. Creative means are not developed to promote interculturality.

Turning to the writing, I confess that I was surprised by the frank and flat manner of the writer to deal with the differences that are manifested within the Cauca indigenous movement. Also that in this case it is sought to be objective with the problem that arises. This sends positive messages for the practice of communication and I therefore intuit that they will receive these modest critical appraisals as a contribution to continue improving this means of communication, not only because on the ethnic issue it is the only one in the country, but because it plays a role in the political formation not only of the indigenous people, but of their peasant and Afro-Colombian neighbors.

I begin by stating that the article has a series of statements that, although correct, paradoxically lead to misleading conclusions. It is not the absence of syntax, which is also presented in the writing. Nor because the writer is betrayed by the memory that, constrained by desire, distorts experiences of the indigenous movement, as will be seen later, but because of the wrong (sometimes absent) political assessment that it makes of conflicts. I apologize, no more, for the upset that these criticisms may cause.

The article has three significant paragraphs that briefly describe the problem:

"In August 2006, a group of community members made up of communities mostly from Caldono and Caloto, called" Movimiento Sin Tierra Nietos de Quintín Lame, "appeared in Caloto, Cauca. They raise a nonconformity with the authorities, from the leadership of the CRIC to the local authorities. The grandchildren of Quintín Lame arise within the framework of the liberation of mother earth, they argue their reasons of origin in search of answers to the lack of land, economic exclusion, the privatization of health and education, the lack of representation by part of the managers against the rank and file, impunity and injustice. They also denounce the concentration of land in a few hands and demand a true agrarian reform. They argue that if pressure measures and direct actions are not taken, the government will never hand over land to the communities. This leads to strong contradictions with the traditional leaders, who continue to bet on dialogue and peaceful actions ”.

“With the same arguments as the grandchildren of Quintín Lame, the Lorenzo Ramos and Avelino Ul Indigenous Associations emerged with members of the communities of Miranda, Corinto, Tacueyó, Toribío, San Francisco, Jambaló, Canoas and Caldono. They strongly question the traditional authorities, with whom they have had strong contradictions, affirming that the leadership uses undemocratic styles of participation. They propose the search for a broader environment of participation, without vertical obedience and with young critics. The traditional authorities reject the attacks, defamations and acts of vandalism by these groups against the indigenous organization, such as the burning of a Nasa Project vehicle and the threat against some leaders. Nor do they justify their disagreement and for these acts of aggression they have sanctioned some community members ”.

“The traditional authorities state that with direct actions and ignorance of the internal process of the organization, these groups, before favoring the interests of the communities, hinder the process that is currently being carried out since they generate internal contradictions and confusion, which leads to strengthening the historical strategy of alienation (sic) and division exercised against the process ”.

It is therefore recognized that there are gaps in the organization. It is also recognized that mistakes have been made, which would have caused disagreements in community members of various reservations. What "traditional authorities" do not admit is that they "justify their disagreement" and less with violent actions.

When the reasons for the nonconformity of the Quintín Lame Grandchildren Landless Movement are raised but are not refuted, it leads us to think that in reality those causes exist and that the discomfort would have a basis. And this should set off the alarms of the indigenous organization. Why? Because it was those same reasons (surprisingly similar!) That gave rise to the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca - CRIC, the most belligerent indigenous organization in the conquest of the rights of indigenous peoples that Colombia has had. Let's remember:

The CRIC, founded on February 24, 1971 in Toribío, arises at a time when pressure from landowners on indigenous lands had become unbearable and threatening for their survival. It was therefore not surprising that the main claim had to do with the "recovery of the lands of the reservations." Nor was it by chance that the indigenous people who most supported the creation of the CRIC were the ‘terrajeros’, those indigenous people without land who had to work for free for the boss several days a month, in exchange for receiving a piece of their own land in usufruct. These landowners came from various indigenous areas of Cauca. The best known and most combative were those of El Credo, in the Municipality of Caloto, but there were also "very boar" landowners (in the words of Álvaro Tombé) from San Fernando and Gran Chimán in the Guambía and Loma Gorda reservations, in Jambaló. Since the public authorities were allied with the landowners and gamonales, these indigenous struggles for land acquired the character of insurrection and as such were repressed by the government, causing hundreds of deaths in the communities. This struggle initiated by landless landowners, recovering the lands of their ancestors, has been the most authentic struggle for "liberation of mother earth."

But there is another proverbial similarity: These “insurgent” landowners also rose up against their authorities, the cabildos, because they had turned their backs on them and did not support their struggles. Rogelio Mestizo, a former landowner from El Credo, commented that the governor of his town council forced them to stop the fight for land, “because they (the town councils) said that it was a sin to take the land from the boss” (personal conversation).

Given the little understanding that prevailed in the country for the indigenous, the language of the leaders was prudent and, in some way, assimilated in external relations with the peasant movement, agrarian unions, churches, etc. With a pragmatic sense, the alliances were carried out without meticulous analysis of the ideologies and purposes of those who sympathized with their struggles, since what was involved in this stage of mobilization for the land was to grow, join wills, "join shoulders ”, Add friends and accumulate forces to conquer political spaces that would make possible the consolidation of their movement, since what was at stake was the land, the fundamental means for their survival. It was not a matter of measuring forces with their traditional adversaries, and much less if they did not have a certain chance of emerging victorious from the contest. But neither at any time, no matter how unfavorable the correlation of forces, was it about submitting the direction of their struggles to an external actor, motivated by the need for protection.

The need to maintain control over its organization and its political agenda has been present throughout the history of the CRIC, still resorting to armed self-defense, when this was evidenced as necessary to stop the killings of indigenous people, but also to prevent co-optation or subjugation of their movement by armed groups. This pragmatism of these pioneers of indigenous struggles turned out to be an effective strategy for the growth and consolidation of the CRIC. And this is important to point out here, since it is difficult to believe the statement that "at the time the indigenous movement took part of a leftist ideology as a protection strategy." Here the author's desire restricts his memory, distorting the CRIC experience, since it is precisely the other way around. To show a button: when the leadership of the peasant movement decides to convert the ANUC into a political party, the CRIC separates from this organization. In passing, it is appropriate to note that this decision was correct, since it prevented the indigenous organization from disintegrating, as happened with the peasant movement, due to the internal struggles of the different political tendencies for control of the movement.

In the end, the article reveals the deductions drawn by the traditional authorities after “a self-critical analysis” of the situation: “… (The indigenous authorities) affirm that the manifest disagreements show the lack of consolidation of the platform (…) of the CRIC . The autonomy proposal (…) has stalled (…). The land issue has been one of the most critical and where historically, since the recoveries, there have been poor performances (…). It is these elements (…) that generate great gaps and are skilfully exploited by ideologies of the right and left. (…). We cannot think in autonomy with all the tools provided to develop our proposals, that is where the structure falls apart, that is why it is necessary to review the failures and what we have stopped doing ”.

In general, errors in politics have costs: in the best of cases they lead to divisions, which the writer euphemistically describes as "gaps" that "are cleverly exploited by ideologies of the right and left." In the worst case, these errors end up destroying a social movement, which in terms of the writer means that "the structure falls (...)". In the case of the CRIC, this would be disastrous, since this organization has so far managed to avoid many attempts at division and co-optation, due to the judicious way of acting of its leadership, to face the problems, acting with wisdom and serenity, above all with speed. , without underestimating and even less ignoring the divergences. A couple of examples can illustrate this strategy outlined by the leaders:

At the beginning of the CRIC, back in the mid-70s of the last century, Cornelio Reyes, a conservative laureanist and political representative of the landowners of the Valley, advanced a violent offensive against the CRIC in Cauca, being President Alfonso's government minister. López Michelsen. This person created the CRAC (Regional Agrarian Council of Cauca), in full swing of the recovery of the lands of the reservations, to end the CRIC and take over the leadership of the indigenous councils. The government's promise to the CRAC was to hand over land and resources in bulk, as long as the land “invasion” was abandoned. The strategy of the CRIC consisted of intensifying the recovery of land, at the same time that it mobilized its leaders to instruct the councils on the ways to act at this juncture, illustrating them about the government's intentions. This government attempt to blow up the CRIC was in vain and failed miserably. Here, too, the similarity of the CRAC with the creation in March 2009 of the OPIC (Organization of Indigenous Peoples of Cauca, which the writer, who, betrayed by memory, renames as "Organization Pluricultural de Pueblos Indígenas de Colombia") is also amazing. The creation in Popayán of this organization was arranged by the trickster Fabio Valencia Cossio, Minister of the Interior in the government of Álvaro Uribe Vélez. This monstrosity of the government, like that of the CRAC, was made to contain the advances of the indigenous movement, in this case their marches. No one was surprised by the fact that after its formation, the OPIC had declared its support for Democratic Security and praised the Investor Trust, President Uribe's flagship projects. Here it is worth mentioning that the attacks from the right, at least in the case of the CRIC, have not affected the movement much, in some cases they have strengthened it, which cannot be said for the contradictions with the left.

The other example is the treaty that the CRIC signed with the Federation of Cattlemen of Cauca (known as the "FEDEGAN - CRIC Agreement") in 1984, at a time when the CRIC had not yet managed to overcome the violent crusade unleashed against social organizations. by Turbay Ayala with the Security Statute and attacks on the CRIC were intensifying from various flanks (government, army, landowners, sugarcane growers, church, 6th front of the FARC), which together with internal conflicts over land between reservations (Ambaló and Guambía) and clashes with small and medium peasants in Siberia (Caldono) threatened to annihilate the CRIC. With a sense of humor, Trino Morales said that the CRIC had the honorable distinction of being the only social organization in Colombia that had the luxury of attacking itself, and at the same time, all its enemies. In the FEDEGAN - CRIC agreement, the ranchers committed to agreeing policies with the government for the delivery of land to indigenous people and the CRIC committed to stopping the recovery of land. This agreement, criticized by the left for "giving up the CRIC struggles," gave this organization a break, by managing to neutralize the repression that the landowners used and that had cost valuable lives of indigenous leaders and community members. In the end, FEDEGAN did not comply with the agreements reached and the CRIC, already recovered from the blows, restarted the recovery of land.

A few months later, in February 1985, a meeting of all the indigenous councils of Cauca (at that time 45) called by the CRIC was held in the Vitonco reservation. There they resolve to unify their forces to repel all attempts to undermine their autonomy. At this meeting, the armed movement Manuel Quintín Lame, composed mainly of indigenous people, made a public presence, which promised to repel any attack on the reservations and councils, and to respect the indigenous authority in their territories. With the Vitoncó Resolution, those adversaries of the indigenous people were dissuaded from continuing their punitive actions against the leaders who were at the forefront of land recovery.

An example of how, from a basically correct statement, a nonsense is deduced, it is offered to us by the writer at the beginning of his writing:

“(The) permanent siege and pressure have led to the fact that at some point in the history of the process, indigenous organizations assume partisan political positions. Let us remember, for example, that the Tacueyó shelter has been a shelter of liberal political ideology, the result of the period of violence in 1948, (…). Similarly, the indigenous council of Toribío took a position around the conservative political movement, the San Francisco council around a communist movement and similarly the other councils ”. This part of the story is true. From this statement it is inferred, however, that: "It is evident then, that in the desire for protection and subsistence and in the permanent search for autonomy, indigenous organizations have made decisions that, before strengthening, have weakened and divided the process." This conclusion is foolish, since it is not at all "evident" that party affiliation occurs in a "permanent search for autonomy" of the organizations. These affiliations were the product of the impositions of mayors of the traditional parties (including the communist), of the church, of gamonales, and of guerrilla groups. Where the priest concentrated power, as in some reservations in Tierradentro, the indigenous council was elected by the priest. Where the mayor was conservative, the council was of this affiliation, where the communist party or the 6th front of the FARC had control, the council was not chosen precisely by the priest, etc. During the 'violence', some indigenous people were dragged by these partisan passions fueled by the clergy and the liberal and conservative political caciques, reaching extremes such as what happened in Tierradentro, where several conservative councils of the lower part killed all the members of the council from the San José reservation (upper part) because they were liberals. Hence, the CRIC's struggles also had the purpose of taking control of the councils from these forces and “putting an end to these scoundrels”, according to the old Palechor.

But beyond recovering the councils, the CRIC leadership also sought to shield itself from the attempts of the imperishable vanguards that assault the grassroots social organizations to impose the "correct line" on them, screwed into the idea that without their ideological orientation the movement social is hopelessly doomed to failure. This behavior of the avant-garde is always the same, it is immutable. This is how they always act, regardless of whether or not there are internal contradictions in the organizations that facilitate their purposes. Consequently, the following aside from the letter is familiar: "At the end of 2009 in the village of La Playa, Tacueyó, the Association for Indigenous Economic Development ASDECOIN was formed, which is part of the Political Social Movement of Ethnic and Cultural Integration MOSUEC, an organization non-profit based in Buenaventura. Their main objective is to change the political system in Colombia with the exercise of direct democracy, gaining political space from the grassroots ”. The objective then is not to advance in the conquest of the rights of the communities, but to "change the political system in Colombia", a more elaborate and literary expression for what has commonly been called the "seizure of power." For this, they must win "a political space from the grassroots", which in the same sense of the previous statement, means "co-opting the grassroots social organizations." If this is the case, it is not strange that the social movements of indigenous and black peoples do not suit them. Furthermore, they are obstacles to the implementation of his project of taking power. Consequently, these vanguards do not encourage the development of social movements, but rather steal its breath, turning them into mere "transmission belts of its ideology." The "ethnic and cultural integration", which should be a principle (revolutionary for others) of the struggle of the territorial ethnic peoples, loses its real content, as it is degraded to the simple artifice of the vanguard political project. Naturally, this conflicts with what is expressed by the Cauca indigenous movement, that power is not taken, but is built in the daily struggle. And it is in these daily struggles for their rights that indigenous people, peasants, and blacks begin to meet, recognize each other, and establish alliances. And although they are aware of their differences (historical, cultural), it is also in these struggles that they realize that they are equal in their condition of exploited and similar in the disgrace of a ruling and selfish class that excludes them. This is also how they begin to conceive changes in the system. And more than changes to think about the construction of a new institutionality that includes all of them politically, economically and culturally. A power thus constructed is more solid and more authentic.

There is a paragraph that reports on two events that occurred in the context of the division, which without further information leaves the question of whether or not they are related to each other or, most worryingly, whether they have to do with internal divergences: “Members of associations like the Avelino Ul they are also part of ASDECOIN. It is also worth mentioning that the vice president of the ASDECOIN board of directors was assassinated in December 2009. In past political contests this organization promoted support for Piedad Córdoba for being critical of government policies ”.

We could point out more inconsistencies and other minor mistakes in the article. The aforementioned are enough to recognize a presumption that is constant throughout the writing, that is, that the traditional authorities have revealed themselves to be powerless and unable to contain the effects of nonconformity and prevent the creation of new organizations. It is also hinted (without providing any clue and letting an atmosphere of suspense float on the stage) that there are "new leaderships" that have also entered the scene to rectify the course. And these seem to be the messages that the writer wants to convey.

However, just as Don Quixote, in the last moment of his life regains sanity, our columnist in the last paragraph regains lucidity and states that "from the traditional leadership and the new leaderships a critical review and changes are proposed that allow strengthening and redirect the initial organizational principles, which are adapted to current realities and allow a response to the demands and concerns of the community under a true collective construction ”. And immediately afterwards he puts into the mouth of a commoner a paragraph that is the one that I like the most and with which I stay, because it recovers the compromised perspective and abandons the careless perspective of the previous paragraphs:

“It is basically a change in attitude, doing things well, recovering ethics, strengthening principles, governing with transparency, recovering humility, the capacity for dialogue and listening, but we must not forget that we cannot alone, we must have the capacity to establish an intercultural relationship from all spaces, which allows us to strengthen ourselves together ”.

Efraín Jaramillo Jaramillo, Jenzera Work Collective - June 2010 - Bogotá, Colombia


(1) "Strategies to divide the indigenous movement." Communication and external relations fabric for truth and life. Cauca, April 29, 2010.…). Published in English by Indigenous Peoples Issues & Resources: “Strategies To Divide The Indigenous Movement In Colombia”. May 2010.…)

(2) El Espectador / May 22, 2010

(3) The concept ‘liberal’ understood here in its historical sense, which means to be generous, humanist, lavish, altruistic, detached.

(4) According to Alain Touraine, the state of democracy in a society can be evaluated "by the breadth of alternatives that it organizes ... (and) by the diversity of solutions it proposes."

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