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13 de junio | | |

Interview with Juan Pablo Soler of the Ríos Vivos Movement - Colombia

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The National Minga of Colombia is extending its decision to unblock roads as an expression of political will for dialogue and will continue negotiating with the Colombian government while the people continues mobilizing.

After two weeks of mobilizations and strikes in Colombia, the National Agrarian Peasant, Ethnic and Popular Minga came to an end. Among disinformation by the Colombian government and the public demonstrations of the participants of the Minga -over 100,000 people in 27 departments- on Friday the people decided to unblock the Panamericana route during 36 hours as a gesture of political will of the Agrarian Summit, and to establish a single Negotiation Table in Quinamayó, Santander de Quilichao municipality.

After 36 hours with the roads unblocked and with conversations ongoing between delegates of the government and spokespeople of the Agrarian Summit, Real World Radio, through its correspondent, Danilo Urrea, interviewed Juan Pablo Soler, member of the Movement in Defense of the Territory and People Affected by Dams -Ríos Vivos.

Soler has participated in the official negotiations with Juan Manuel Santos administration and said that "we believe that the government´s position is weak with reference to the matters of substance and those that imply some kind of economic effort, which has not been well seen by the participants of the Minga, since these mobilization efforts, which also imply economic efforts, need to be respected by the government at the negotiation table".

One of the issues dealt with at the first exchanges was the guarantees for the National Minga, since after 14 days of mobilization, 3 indigenous people were murdered, and hundreds were injured and arrested. "The first issue we agreed on was the proper treatment given to the mobilization and the respect for peaceful protests. The government committed to issue a statement to highlight the respect throughout the territory for the communities that are mobilizing", said Soler.

However, while the government issued this statement on the website of the Presidency of the Republic on Saturday, that same day the Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) of the national police and the army sealed off La Lizama, in Santander Department, and the demonstrators denounced attacks by ESMAD, clearly breaching the guarantees promised at the Negotiation Table.

After the 36 hours agreed between both parties to unblock the Panamericana Route, Soler said that "we´ve advanced in expressing our will for dialogue and to move forward in the discussions, and therefore, we´ve extended the unblocking to continue advancing in the negotiation". "We believe that popular mobilizations open the door for understanding that in this country there aren´t only victims of the armed conflict, but also victims of development, of the implementation of megaprojects", said the leader of the Ríos Vivos Movement.

Real World Radio learned that during the negotiations, the demonstrators highlighted that the post-agreement government (making reference to the advances in the armed conflict with the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia -FARC- and those expected with the National Liberation Army -ELN-,) cannot continue being centralized in Bogota, but it must be transferred ti¿o black, peasant and indigenous territories.

Meanwhile, the issues related to the negotiation statement submitted to Santos´ administration, among them, mining, energy, infrastructure, water, land, among others, are starting to being discussed. "We are expecting the Vice-Minister of Mining to travel to Santander de Quilichao, as well as the Environment Minister; without them, there is no point in advancing on the dialogues about these structural issues", said Soler.

About the concrete advances of the Ríos Vivos Movement, the leader highlighted the support of the international community, of the Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power, the Transnational Institute (TNI), among other groups, and all the international solidarity that has allowed them to make their struggles visible in all parts of the world, and that has demanded respect for the Minga and the Ríos Vivos Movement. "The proposal of the Movement is included and approved by all sectors that are part of the Summit (...) The reality imposed by hydroelectric dams is displacing the population in many territories. We are in this space with a population that is mobilizing, and the Movement continues being present in Valdivia, amid paramilitary threats", concluded Juan Pablo Soler.

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