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A historic event took place on March 26, which becomes a landmark in the struggle of popular Colombian communities against large-scale mining in the country. The resounding victory of thousands of voices from the most innermost places of this municipality, who have resisted the offensive of large-scale gold mining for years, and have kept their agricultural and peasant roots, goes beyond a categorical NO against mining.
Cajamarca has taught Colombia a lesson about people participation and their will. They have shown that peace is built from the territories with concrete exercises and enforcing their popular will. They have challenged the "mining dictatorship" imposed a few years ago in Colombia, where mining justifies everything according
to the sector and the latest administrations.
Popular consultations have gone through many stages of discussion and disputes. All citizen participation mechanisms are established in the Constitution since 1991, but they have been used and limited over and over to favor individual interests. In the case of mining, widespread participation has been reduced to a mere formality. The prior consultation principle for ethnic communities has not been enforced in good faith and as established by law. Nevertheless, communities have recovered the worth of these citizen participation mechanisms as a legal and stringent way to demand the mandatory enforcement of their will and also as a mechanism to protect the traditional ways of living in the territory, which are substantially threatened by extractive activities in the country.
Ignoring the significance and binding effects of consultations, open councils, regulatory and legislative initiatives, among others, in Colombia is unconstitutional and antidemocratic, as well as terribly unfortunate for the post-agreement times we are living. Not only because it undermines the right to participate, which is necessary for democracy, but because it keeps sinking us in an extractive totalitarianism that does not admit dissenting voices and that in complicity with the governments in power, continues to impose death as the only path towards a type of development that is far away from the meaning of good living defended by rural and popular communities.
Without a question, the victory of the people of Cajamarca, which comes from the depths of the Earth, from the strength of the Machin volcano and the cries of the water, is the victory of all rural and urban communities who have warned and suffered firsthand what mining means in their lives. It is not necessary to travel far to see that the arguments of multinational corporations such as Anglo Gold Ashanti have been repeatedly disproved: La Guajira, El Cesar, Montelíbano are the closest examples we have to anticipate what could happen in La Colosa and the death sentence that mining implies.
Keeping in mind that the scenarios for dialogues between the multinational sector and communities have been extremely unequal, the popular consultation of Cajamarca shows us that beyond money and the corruption associated to the actions of companies, the entrenchment, love and resistance for the territory prevails in the hearts of peasants in our country, who are those responsible for supplying food to the cities and taking care of water. These priceless values have overcome the market tricks companies have used to buy dignity and have shown that when faced to large-scale mining there are no in-betweens, or "win-win" situations, as expressed by the Mining and Energy vice minister, but an imperative need to dismantle the transnational extractive model that has only brought loss and irreparable damage.
For these reasons, we join the demands of communities to respect the decision of the Cajamarca people to declare their territory free from mining and the recognition of citizen participation mechanisms established in the constitution.
The democratic strength of peasants of the municipality and the Environmental Committee in Defense of Life, made up by Cajamarca organizations such as COSAJUCA (the Socio-Environmental Youth Collective of Cajamarca) Conciencia Campesina, APACRA (the Association of Agroecological Farmers of Cajamarca), the Association for the defense of Chorros Blancos - Asocuenca Chorros Blancos, is an example of the autonomy and sovereignty of peoples and the need for national resistance in the defense of water.
NOTE: While we are discussing here whether the result of the consultation is binding or not, El Salvador took a solid step towards a post-extractivist world, banning all metal mining. See: http://www.radiomundoreal.fm/9688-final-stretch-el-salvador-advances?lang=en
Imagen: CENSAT Agua Viva - Friends of the Earth Colombia
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