Letter to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez
May 20, 2010
Dr. Alvaro Uribe Velez
President of the Republic of Colombia
Palacio de Nariño
Carrera 8 No. 7 -26
Dear Mr. President,
In the name of the Afro-Colombian communities of the Community Council of La Toma, Suarez municipality of the northern region of Cauca and our own, we ask that you immediately intervene to prevent the displacement of the families from their ancestral territories and deprivation of their economic and territorial rights on May 21. Rather this is a day when Colombia should be celebrating the "Day of Afro-Colombian Identity."
The families of La Toma, inhabitants of this territory since the year 1636 and inheritors of the mine since then, have wrongfully been designated as "owners of bad faith" or "disturbers" for mining in an arbitrarily conceded area to Mr. Hector Sarria, an outsider to the community.
The displacement of families from La Toma is a violation of their constitutionally guaranteed rights established by Law 70 of 1993; the Universal Declaration on Human Rights; the International Pact on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights; and Civil and Political Rights Pact. These are all national and international human rights standards Colombia has agreed to implement. The concessions for mining exploitation given to foreigners in this territory have been done in violation of the rights to previous consultation and consent as prescribed by (ILO Convention169, Arts. 6-7), the Law 70/93 and Constitutional Court Order 005 of 2009. Said concessions deprive the native inhabitants of these lands from exploiting the mineral that has been there means of subsistence for centuries, increasing factors that deteriorate food security in the region a violation of their economic rights. Their eviction increases the possibility of internal displacement, a phenomenon that you, Mr. President, are trying to avoid and control. It provokes emigration and condemns a practice that is part of the identity and culture of the region. Therefore, it is a violation of their territorial rights and hurts the cultural development of Afro-descendant communities.
The eviction is also a confrontation with the Afro-descendant population. The mining communities of Suarez represent a bastion of the Afro-descendant diaspora, which has protected with dignity and cultural pertinence not only their culture, but also the environment; natural resources; ancestral territory; and dignity, which are supposedly recognized on the Day of Afro-Colombian Identity.
It is important to highlight, Mr. President, that these communities and their leaders have been declared a "military objective" by the paramilitary structure denominated as the "Black Eagles." The communities and leaders have been threatened for "being against the government and its policies" and for not allowing that "development enter the region."
Mr. President, given the aforementioned situation and the protection provided by constitutional and legal rights that assist the communities of La Toma, we kindly demand the following:
- Stop the order to evacuate La Toma and begin a negotiation with the Community Council that will overcome the factors that threaten their rights.
- Revoke the 35 mining licenses that were awarded in violation of the community's rights and in particular the concession BFC 021 given to Hector Jesus Sarria, the reason for the evacuation order in question.
- Respect the regulations of ILO Convention 169; Law 70 of 1993; Auto 005 of 2009; the National Constitution; and the various international laws regarding previous consultation and the right to free and informed consent on all mining issues and exploitation regarding the territory of the Community Council of La Toma and any Afro-descendant territory in general.
- Order the Ministry of Interior and Justice; the Human Rights Office; and the Office of Afro-Colombian Community Affairs, Palenquera and Raizal, to act immediately to guarantee the physical and integral security of the leaders in the zone.
- Publicly and severely condemn the paramilitary structure that threatens democracy, human rights and the fundamental freedoms of Afro-descendents in different parts of the country and create a strategy of concrete actions that will guarantee its dismantlement.
We hope that you will immediately pay attention to this situation.
Charo Mina Rojas, Eunice Escobar, Marino Cordoba, Otoniel Paz, AFRODES USA
Arturo Escobar, PhD, Professor, Anthropology, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill
Gimena Sánchez, Senior Associate, Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)
Monika Kalra Varma, Director Center for Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights
Kelly Nicholls, Executive Director, US Office on Colombia (USOC)
Carlos Quesada, Director, Latin America Programs, Global Rights
Roland Roebuck, Afro-Latino Activist, Member of NASGACC
Joseph Jordan, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Department of African/African-American Studies and Member of NASGACC
Agustin Lao-Montes, PhD, Associate Professor, Sociology, Afro-American Studies University of Massachusetts and Member of NASGACC
Nicole Lee, Executive Director, TransAfrica Forum