[News] The Indigenous and Popular Minga Has Taken Over Colombia's Capital

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Nov 25 10:35:21 EST 2008

The Indigenous and Popular Minga Has Taken Over Colombia's Capital

Written by Mario A. Murillo
Monday, 24 November 2008

It's been a busy series of days in Bogotá as the 
Popular continues to expand and flourish. From 
the streets in the center of the city, to the 
Plaza del Ché at the National University where an 
international forum was held on Saturday, from 
the media centers of the indigenous movement to 
the dozens of meetings taking place around the 
city where "Mingueros" are discussing the five 
point agenda with all the sectors that are 
interested to listen, the enthusiasm and energy 
of the popular movement can be felt.

After Friday's massive march through Bogotá that 
started at the campus of the National University, 
one that brought together over 20,000 people into 
the Plaza Bolivar for a spirited rally under a 
consistent rain, Saturday was a day focused more 
on concrete work that needs to be carried out to 
continue the organizing of the people. The 
highest profile meeting was held at la SENA, 
government ministers and the indigenous 
leadership met for several hours in a tense 
session to discuss the government's failure to 
fulfill its obligations to the communities under 
previous accords, and the ongoing violence being 
carried out by the state security forces against indigenous people.

Simultaneous to that high-level encounter, 
representatives of the many different regional 
organizations participating in the MINGA got 
together in commissions, and scattered around 
throughout the city, meeting with student groups, 
local community councils, rank and file workers, 
and many other sectors to promote the message of 
the Minga. These are what the community refers to 
as "barridos," or "sweeps," designed to open up 
the dialogue with the people even further, and 
begin an ongoing discussion based on the conclusion of Friday's historic rally.

At the rally, Feliciano Valencia, a member of the 
council of chiefs of the Regional Indigenous 
Council of Cauca, CRIC, reminded the crowd that 
"the Minga is a long-term process that does not 
conclude with a rally where we hear some strong speeches and then go home."

He emphasized the need to continue to build on 
the momentum started on October 11th, in La 
Maria, Piendamó, in Cauca, where the Minga began 
over five weeks ago. In essence, Valencia and 
other speakers were talking about the 
construction of a broad-based popular movement in 
opposition to the neoliberal, militarist model 
that is represented faithfully by the current 
regime. They are very well aware that 
work will not be easy, given the many different 
sectors they are calling together and the 
diverging interests that they could come to 
represent. However, what is clear from the events 
of the last several weeks, and in particular the 
unity expressed this weekend here in the nation's 
capital, is that there is a commitment to joint 
mobilization, as well as to continue working together for the long-term.

One of the highlights of Friday's rally was the 
public pact made between the leadership of the 
Central Workers Union, 
and the indigenous movement to work together from 
now on in coalition to confront the government of 
President Alvaro Uribe. Tarsicio Mora Godoy, the 
President of CUT, made a rousing speech and shook 
the hand of Feliciano Valencia, committing the 
resources and the sweat equity of the rank and 
file to join forces in the Minga in its struggle for social transformation.

"The CUT will march together with you so that all 
the violent actions against the civilian 
population cease and so that the state guarantees 
the respect for the human rights of the people 
and that impunity is broken. So that they 
guarantee all the victims of this violence the 
right to the truth, justice, reparation and that 
it will not happen again," said Godoy.

He emphasized,"We cannot continue fighting our struggles alone."

This point was reiterated by Ezequiel Vitonás, a 
Nasa leader from Toribio, and chief council of 
of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN, 
who summarized the work agenda towards the end of the rally.

"The minga does not end here, the minga continues 
with its call, waking up the conscience of the 
people and uniting forces, sharing pains, walking 
the word without looking at borders nor limits. 
Because the hope for life transcends these 
physical spaces, and each and every one of us is 
responsible for taking care of and watching grow 
this little child that today is being born," he said.

There have been a number of other big stories 
making headlines in Colombia the last several 
days, pushing the coverage of the Minga to a 
second, third and even fourth tier in terms of 
the commercial news agenda. The ongoing crisis 
caused by the financial schemes known as 
"Pyramids" continues to generate the most 
attention, followed since Friday morning by the 
natural disaster unfolding as a result of the 
of the Nevado del Huila volcano. Latest reports 
say that at least ten people were killed and 
another 150 remain trapped as of Sunday morning 
as a result of the avalanche and mudslide caused 
by the melting of the snow after the eruption. 
The departments affected by the eruption include 
Huila, Tolima and Cauca, in particular the 
indigenous territory of Tierradentro.

Yet despite the limited commercial media coverage 
of the important events related to the protests 
and meetings this weekend, it is quite apparent 
that the Minga has developed a life of its own, 
and is not dependent anymore on getting the 
attention of these corporate information 
channels. The representation of the Minga on the 
major news channels has been problematic from the 
start. The evidence is clear: The National 
Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC, 
<http://www.altanto.info/onic>has been 
documenting every news piece that has come out on 
just about every media outlet since October 11th, 
so anybody interested can check for themselves. 
The public, unfortunately, remains extremely 
uninformed about the historic developments that are unfolding before them.

Today, there are many alternatives! The massive 
presence of independent media at all these events 
- video cameras documenting the marches and 
rallies, photographers clicking away at the 
dramatic militance of the protesters, community 
radio producers gathering natural sound, 
speeches, and interviews for their respective 
outlets - are presenting a comprehensive 
alternative narrative - the people's narrative - 
that undoubtedly is having an impact on how the 
Minga is playing out with public opinion. It has 
resulted in tremendous solidarity from abroad, 
and unprecedented collaboration and participation 
from ordinary people here in Colombia since the Minga began.

Despite the false accusations of the government, 
despite the racist underpinnings of the media 
coverage, and the almost deliberate 
mis-information that has accompanied it, the 
people have come out in small towns and large 
cities to welcome the mingueros, and join with 
them in solidarity. No doubt there is still 
profound opposition to the Minga from a certain, 
very powerful and intolerant sector of Colombian 
society. I am not naive to think that the 
indigenous movement has reached everybody with 
equal amounts of empathy and solidarity. If you 
read the comments section on the websites of El 
Tiempo and El Espectador, for example, the 
vitriolic hate speech comes across loud and 
clear. But undoubtedly there is widespread 
support from a broad cross section of the 
Colombian population who have simply had enough 
of the Uribe propaganda machine.

For me, one of the most impressive images of 
Friday's march was seeing dozens of men and women 
in business suits, the heart of Colombia's 
business class on their lunch breaks, lining the 
famous Avenida Septima in downtown Bogotá, 
applauding enthusiastically and raising their 
fists in the air as the thousands of protesters 
marched by. One elegant man shouted out "No more 
lies of this tyrannical President! Que viva la Minga!" It was wonderful.

The next steps are still being hammered out by 
the leadership and the base. One clear target 
date is October 12, 2009, where the movement will 
hold a national people's congress to move the 
Minga forward. But there is a lot to do in the coming days and weeks.

On Sunday, more events are planned throughout the 
city. There might even be another debate with the 
President, although this has yet to be hammered out.

To hear some of the sounds of Friday's rally, 
<http://www.nasaacin.org/index.html>check out the 
ACIN's website and scroll down a bit to the audio 
links. There you will hear the voices of 
Valencia, Vitonás and Mora, as well as the many 
other speakers at the Plaza Simón Bolivar.

Mario A. Murillo is associate professor of 
Communication at Hofstra University in New York, 
and the author of Colombia and the United States: 
War, Unrest and Destabilization. He is currently 
living in Colombia, finishing a book about the 
indigenous movement and its uses of community media.

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