Petition for the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia

Hands Off Venezuela Finland has written a petition against the repression of the indigenous population of Colombia. We publish the text in full here.

Hands Off Venezuela Finland has written a petition against the repression of the indigenous population of Colombia. We publish the text in full here.

Petition for the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations asserts that all human beings – and this includes also the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America - are born free and equal in dignity and rights, endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Any person representing Colombian Indigenous Peoples may, equally well as any citizen of Finland, demand the rights and liberties granted in the Universal Declaration, no matter what the political, administrative, or international situation may be.

Every Indigenous person on the planet must have the right to life, freedom and personal security.


Under the terms of the government proposed draft Constitution of the Republic of Bolivia, which will be subjected to national referendum, Bolivia is a democratic unitary plurinational, intercultural and decentralized State of representative democracy. Article 2 stipulates that sovereignty resides in the people, that it is inalienable, and that its exercise is delegated to the legislative, executive, and judicial powers. Specifically, the draft stipulates that the Indigenous Peoples will be returned the right to their lands, inherited from their ancestry, which belonged to them before the advent of colonialism. The draft guarantees them the right to cultural identity and self-administration in the form of municipal, regional and indigenous autonomy and the reconstruction of their lands. According to President Morales, “Before the Spanish conquest these lands belonged to the Indigenous Peoples, and they must be returned to them.” In Bolivia, the Guarani People have already been returned the rights to an area of more than 900, 000 acres. The State has the right to confiscate lands that are not being used for purposes such as agriculture or commerce.


In Colombia, a civil war has been waged for 43 years. The parties of the war are the Colombian army, supported by the U.S. and their partner the AUC (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia), the other side represented by the biggest leftist guerilla movements FARC-EL and ELN. The AUC consists of several ultra-right paramilitary groups, supported by the big landowners, the drug lords and a part of the armed forces.

The ethnic groups of Colombia consist of indigenous Amerindian peoples, descendants of white immigrants, of slaves from Africa, and mixed populations. The Constitution of 1991 formally recognized the rights of the indigenous peoples but forgot to fulfill their demands for their own lands.

In 1999, President Andres Pastrana advanced a proposal for 'Plan Colombia', with the goal of social and economical revival of the country by ending the armed conflict and creating a strategy against illicit drugs. The objectives of Plan Colombia have subsequently been altered to accord with specific political and military goals in Latin America of the United States and to accelerate the opening of inter-American markets by trade liberalization, as expressed in the Free Trade Area Agreement of Americas.

The incumbent President of Colombia, Alvaro Úribe, represents the Liberal Party. He became leader of the country in 2002. He acts as both head of the country and head of the Government. He saw it fit to grow the military budget as well as collaboration with the U.S. in order to weed out production of illicit drug industry and leftist guerilla movements.

Upon his visit to Colombia in 2002, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell described the U.S. attitude towards Colombia as follows: “Together, we renewed our commitment to work toward our common goals of strengthening democracy, increasing respect for human rights, combating drugs and terrorism, and especially, and perhaps most importantly, widening the circle of economic prosperity to include all Colombians within that circle.” To advance these goals, the U.S. provided Colombia with 1.8 billion dollars in assistance.


The Government led by President Alvaro Úribe enhances the Colombian democracy and respects the human rights of the Indigenous Peoples in a rather peculiar manner: by systematically suppressing them. On September 29, 2008, AUC troops killed the Indigenous leader Raúl Mendoza in his home. On October 12, in the Department of Cauca, armed units of the National Police and the Colombian Army backed by helicopters and tanks attacked Indigenous persons and peasants who demonstrated peacefully against the deadly policies of the Government and multinational corporations. The demonstrators demanded basic rights, freedom, autonomy and fair division of land.

The National Authority of the Indigenous Government (ONIC) reports that during the last seven years 1,125 Indigenous persons have been killed and 18 Indigenous Peoples have been pushed to the brink of extinction. A total of 450,000 Indigenous persons have been confiscated of their land. Over 600 children in the Choco Region died from undernourishment and preventable diseases. Three million Colombians have fled from the country. Four hundred thousand families have lost their homes. The homes of 4 million persons have been forcefully relocated. The number of disappeared persons hovers around 30,000. Five thousand death sentences have been enforced outside the justice system. Hundreds of teachers, journalists and trade unionists have been killed. Some six million hectares of best land is owned and controlled by drug barons, politicians and the AUC. Free trade agreements with the U.S., Canada and the European Union have opened roads to the exploitation andof the rights, cultures, knowledge, lands and economic values of the Indigenous Peoples, with the practices of forced labor and exclusion of these Peoples, including outright terror.

This is unacceptable to us.

We condemn the said malpractices of the Government of Colombia. We demand that it stops its exploitation and oppression practiced toward the Indigenous Peoples of Colombia and respects their human rights. We also demand that the Indigenous Peoples are granted autonomy and legal right to the possession of their traditionally owned and occupied land as their exclusive property. Helsinki, October 16, 2008

Hands Off Venezuela – Finland
Network of Solidarity with Latin America in Finland
PAND – Artists for Peace

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