Skip to main content
 

We Have Felt Their Insolence: A Narrative from Carlina Urdaneta, Leader of the Network of Indigenous Guayú Women

Carlina Urdaneta is a leader of the Red de Mujeres Indígenas Guayú (Network of Indigenous Guayú Women). She is a member of the Plan Colombia Working Group of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Venezuela (CONIVE). In the following narrative, she describes the intensifying impacts of Plan Colombia on the indigenous peoples who live along the Colombian border in Venezuela.

Voices of the Unvanquished: Indigenous Responses to Plan Colombia

On August 7 The New York Times reported that "five homemade mortar shells were fired into the center of Bogotá as newly elected president Álvaro Uribe Vélez prepared to take the oath of office in the Congress." The attack killed 19 and wounded 70 people in poor neighborhoods near the Congress and the presidential palace. On October 22, another report said a car bomb killed two people and wounded…

There Can Be No Peace Without Indians at the Table: A Narrative from Armando Valbuena

In the Andean region, indigenous leaders increasingly refer to Plan Colombia as the military arm of the Free Trade Area of the Americas and U.S. economic policy in Latin America. Leaders find themselves connecting dots as their territories are invaded by armed groups, subjected to aerial chemical spraying, and leased to multinational corporations for massive resource development…

The Spirituality of Coca: Comments by Maria Eugenia Choque & Carlos Mamani, Directors of the Center of Aymara Studies, La Paz, B

We see Plan Colombia as a North American strategy to control what they call their "back yard." This control comes with a strong presence of military forces, some with uniform, some camouflaged as advisers, others in the form of the DEA [U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration], the embassy personnel. Their presence has a notorious effect in the Chapare region. There is a military school there, for…

The Ones Who Preserve Our Identity: Women, Children, and Plan Colombia

In southern Colombia and the border regions of neighboring countries, distinct indigenous communities are menaced by the same sources of violence. The faces of those affected are varied and numerous, but women and children are the greatest victims. Within indigenous groups, the effect of the conflict on women has caused increasing alarm because women play a critical role in maintaining the social…

The Bolivian Coca-Growers Movement: A Narrative from Leónida Zurita Vargas

For our people the coca leaf has been part of our culture for millennia. It has been used throughout the Andes by our ancestors since before recorded time. Our defense of the coca leaf is part of the defense of our very culture here in Bolivia. Coca is our natural medicine. Millions chew it to sustain themselves against the harsh conditions of the altiplano. It is used to make coca tea, chewing…

The Battle for Putumayo

The Colombian department of Putumayo, located along the Ecuadoran and Peruvian borders, is at the heart of Colombia’s and the United States’ war on drugs. Some 50,000 to 60,000 acres of coca are grown in the province, nearly half of the total under cultivation in the entire country, making it the primary focus of Colombia’s counter-drug strategy, known as Plan Colombia, and its U.S. counterpart,…

Spraying Crops, Eradicating People

"We always used to have a pharmacy in the jungle. But now we can’t find the trees and animals that we need. The animals and fish have disappeared. The birds, too. We have never seen anything like this before. It has to be the result of the spraying. We notice the effects immediately after the area is sprayed. Birds, animals, and fish begin to disappear within a few weeks. The health effects…

Political Defense in the Chapare: Voices from Bolivia (Introduction)

Leónida Zurita Vargas is president of the women’s branch of the Federación del Trópico de Cochabamba (FTC, Federation of the Cochabamba Tropics) and the Six Federations of the Tropics of Cochabamba, the campesino organizations that represent coca growers and others in the tropical Chapare region of Bolivia. She is also president of the Bartolina Sisa National Campesino Women’s Movement. The…

Organizing and Protecting: A Narrative from José Soria of the Organization for Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon

José Soria is president of the Organization for Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon (OPIAC), which represents 56 indigenous groups from six departments: Amazonas, Caquetá, Putumayo, Guaynia, Guayiare and Vaupes. In these departments live a variety of ethnicities: Tucano, Siriano, Curripaco, Guahibo, Tanimuca, Huitoto, Murui, and many others. The following narration comes from an…

Nowhere Left to Run: An Indigenous Ecuadoran Perspective on Plan Colombia (An Anonymous Narrative)

The Colombian conflict has spilled over to all of its neighboring countries. Ecuador, which shares a 560-kilometer border with Colombia (with only three official checkpoints), has been the most affected of Colombia’s neighbors. Of Ecuador’s three northern-border provinces, Sucumbíos, located in the Ecuadoran Amazon south of the Colombian department of Putumayo, has experienced the most…

Innovative Resistance in Cauca

As indigenous and human rights groups have amply documented over the past few years, Colombia’s Native peoples are increasingly targeted in the region’s armed conflict, not only by the paramilitary and their allies in the Colombian army, but also by various guerrilla organizations. In a sense, Native peoples are caught between two fires--the Colombian military and other armed groups--accused by…

Indigenous Voices in Washington, D.C.

Since July 2000, the United States has spent more than $1.3 billion in taxes on military and police aid to Colombia, primarily for counter-narcotic programs. More than $500 million have been spent on a massive anti-drug operation in the southern Amazonian region of Colombia that includes the aerial spraying of herbicides to eradicate illicit coca crops. In the past two year, indigenous activism…

Defending the Amazon: A Narrative from the President of the Coordinating Body for the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Bas

Established in 1982, the Coordinating Body for the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA) links more than 400 indigenous groups, or roughly 1.5 million people, from nine national-level member organizations from each South American country with territory in the Amazon Basin. Though expressly a coordinating body, COICA, through active participation in a variety of international…

Colombia's Expanding War

Rapidly deteriorating conditions in the Colombian border regions of Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, and Venezuela point to misplaced priorities in the Colombia government’s Plan Colombia and the United States’ contributions to the strategy. In the moment of re-evaluation provided by the transition in the Colombia government in August when Álvaro Uribe Vélez took over the Colombian presidency and…

Advocates or Obstacles? NGOs and Plan Colombia

Plan Colombia’s original title was "Plan Colombia, Plan for Peace, Prosperity and the Strengthening of the State." [1] But even though "peace" was listed as the first of three elements to describe the plan’s objectives, only $3 million of the $860.3 million in aid given to Colombia through Plan Colombia in 2000-2001 was allocated to promote peace. The "peace" funding was directed toward conflict-…

A Voice from Peru: A Narrative from Edwin Vasquez, Huitoto Indian from the Peruvian border

Edwin Vasquez, a Huitoto Indian from the border between Peru and Colombia, is a leader in the Peruvian Amazon and vice president of the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Jungle (Asociación Interétnica para el Desarrollo de la Selva Peruana, AIDESEP). He is also the coordinator of the Coordinating Body for the Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin’s (COICA)…

A Tale of Spiritual Resistance: An Anonymous Narrative

In continues to be a last line of defense for indigenous peoples. However, when processes of colonization reach advanced stages, the cultural and spiritual aspects of this resistance become a critical part of the survival strategies of beleaguered communities. The continued physical existence of indigenous peoples requires a variety of factors--from land and resources to…

A Putumayo Experience: An Anonymous Narrative

I am the governor, maximum authority figure, of an Inga-Santiago community of upper Putumayo. The aerial spray has affected the entire area of upper Putumayo. Our tomatoes, beans, and our banana plants died, and our traditional medicine plant sources ran out completely. At first we didn’t know why all our plants were dying, but then we learned that this was a result of the herbicide spraying in…

Water Prospecting Threatens Sami Sacred Site

In northern Finland, homeland of the Sami, water prospecting threatens a natural spring and an ancient sacred site called Suttesája. Since May 2001, the municipality of Ohcejohka/Utsjoki (Finland’s northernmost municipality, in the heart of the Sami home region) has planned to bottle and sell the spring’s water on the world market. The area surrounding the spring has been of spiritual importance…

The Massachusetts Connection: Colombian Indigenous Residents Bring Coal Mine Concerns to U.S.

In May the North Shore Colombia Solidarity Committee (NSCSC) in Salem, Massachusetts, hosted Remedios Fajardo, an indigenous Wayúu who in 1982 founded the indigenous rights organization Yanama in the Colombian Guajira, and Armando Pérez Araujo, a lawyer who has worked for the past decade defending communities in the Guajira affected by the Cerrejón Zona Norte coal mine. This visit was…

Speaking Kurdish in Turkey

On August 2, the Turkish parliament passed a reform bill that introduced a number of remarkable changes in the letter of the nation's law. The bill reversed several longstanding policies: the death penalty was abolished in peacetime, non-Muslim religious groups were given the right to purchase property, and Kurdish-language private schools, television, and radio broadcasts were legalized. …

Review:World Directory of Minorities

The vast majority of violent conflict in the world occurs not between states but between majority and minority groups within states–peoples polarized by ethnic and religious divides. There is an urgent need for more dialogue on minority rights issues, and it is absolutely essential that accurate, objective, and up-to-date information is available on the 10 percent to 20 percent of the world's…

Review: The Green Book of Language Revitalization in Practice

In the early 1990s, UNESCO funded the development of a database called the Red Book on Endangered Laguages. The electronic Red Book provides basic information about languages that are no longer spoken or are likely not to be spoken natively in the next century. The reasons for the loss of these languages are manifold. In some cases, war or disease have eliminated the speakers. More often, the…

Our Culture is Our Resistance

In 1996, Peace Accords ended 36 years of civil war between a coalition of four rebel organizations and the Guatemala army and government. According to the United Nations Truth Commission, more than 200,000 civilians were killed during the conflict; 93 percent died at the hands of the military and related security forces. More than 40,000 people were "disappeared"; their whereabouts are still…

One Year After Breakthrough Court Order, Nicaragua Government Still Ignores Awas Tingni Rights

One year after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered that the Nicaragua government demarcate and grant title to Awas Tingni territory, the state has yet to respond. Although the Inter-American Court’s order of August 31, 2001, required that Nicaragua submit progress reports on the demarcation process every six months,1 no reports have been filed. In response, the court issued a…

Moratorium on Talo Dam Construction Still Holding

The Djenné Project is a Cultural Survival research and advocacy initiative that has demonstrated serious flaws in plans to build a large dam at Talo, Mali, along the Bani River. Responding to local and international concerns, in 2001 Cultural Survival commissioned a study by an expert team from the International Development Office at Clark University in Massachusetts. The report, completed in…

Mohawk Family Hopes to Reclaim Identity in Canadian Court

Like thousands of other aboriginal women in Canada, Connie Perron, a Mohawk from the Tyendinaga reserve in southern Ontario, lost her Indian status when she married a man without Indian status more than 30 years ago. The status is conferred by the federal government. Now Perron, along with one of her sons and his four children, is attempting to launch the first class-action suit against the…

Fair Trading from the Source: Black Mesa Weavers for Life and Land

The Navajo-Churro sheep, developed by and sacred to the Diné and at the core of their culture and economy, is the only domesticated breed of sheep indigenous to the Americas. Though driven to near-extinction since the 19th century by government stock reductions that slaughtered hundreds of thousands, the churro was always cherished and protected by the Diné, who hid remnant herds in remote areas…

A Disappointing Declaration

The Final Political Declaration produced at the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, received criticism from a number of different angles. Most all of the critiques argued that the document did not effectively address the world’s most pressing problems, including poverty, environmental degradation, and the social and political problems found nearly…

Meeting the Challenge in Armenia

The success of global covenants and international declarations pertaining to biodiversity and sustainable development—in particular those emerging in the wake of the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit of 1992 and now the Johannesburg World Summit—require not only the formulation of enabling legislation at the national level but, more importantly, implementation plans at the local level: culturally…