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31 de mayo | | | | |

Effects of public consultations in Cajamarca - Tolima: reduced territorial autonomy and direct democracy

By CENSAT Agua Viva – Friends of the Earth Colombia

The decision by mining company AGA to suspend millions of ounces of gold exploration and extraction in Cajamarca municipality, until having legal certainty for foreign investments in the country, put extractivist companies and the government on alert to reform citizen participation mechanisms, limiting their scope with reference to land use, underground soil, territorial autonomy and the autonomous building of territories (CC 1991, Law 388/97, Law 134/94, Law 152/94 and Law 99/93).

The last democratic vestiges of the Colombian political system (CC91, the Social Rule of Law, the Constitutional Court and citizen participation) have been dynamic tools to defend the purpose and use of the territory, territorial autonomies and direct citizen participation. This is the case of Tauramena, Piedras, Cajamarca and Cabrera public consultations and the Regulatory Popular Initiative of Cerrito, Santander, which made decisions over their own sustainable living and economic models in the region, opposite to the dominant extractivist, oil, mining, strategic and agroindustrial model which brings huge profits for the global market but enormous socio-environmental liabilities that become a territorial-environmental debt.

The limitation of these participatory mechanisms by the political regime, with the complicity of the global market (bills to limit public consultations, prior consultations), implies to strengthen the legal certainty that aims to attract transnational investments, defend state profits and the general interest* (of the market). In turn, it implies the emptying of national political citizenships to ensure the maximum extraction of national richness without the restrictions of "emotional communities" (the voters in public consultations), that do not know the technical aspects of responsible, sustainable and eco-friendly mining.

This scenario gives more contradictory, tense and conflicting elements to the spaces of territorial power. First of all, municipalities and regions that are in conflict with the central government; secondly, the commitments in favor of territorial biocultural diversity opposed to the homogenizing national and global views; and thirdly, the conflicts of territorial popular sovereignties regarding national representative democracies.

But not only are constitutional guarantees the ones to ensure the defense of diversity and economies for life before economies against life (mining-energy), but also the condition of historical subjects of peasant communities and environmental popular organizations, such as the significant political effects resulting from the public consultation of Cajamarca in Tolima.

*The legal concept of public profit and general (national) interest contradicts the meaning and scope of public profit and general interest of territorial entities (municipalities, regions and towns) and territorial and local communities.

Imagen: CENSAT Agua Viva - Friends of the Earth Colombia.

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