Indigenous and Popular Mandate

The First Popular Indigenous Congress

The Indigenous and Popular Mandate of the Minga for Life, Justice, Joy, Freedom, and Autonomy

Cali, September 18, 2004

The Challenge Before Us

We bring with us the memories and experiences of a long history of struggle and resistance. We rely on our identities and cultures to confront the many threats that face us time and time again. This path has not been easy. Since the Conquest and without cease, arrogance, egoism, ignorance and disrespect have fallen on us with lies, false promises, the power of ever more lethal weapons, and with institutions, laws, and norms that bring us misery, exploitation, pain, and dependence. Each time they attack us, they assure us it is for our own good. Each time we have had to learn the deception, unite and organize to defend ourselves. It has always served us to return to our roots, take advantage of the wisdom of our own collective memory, listen to our elders and pay attention to nature to make ourselves a part of life and defend ourselves by defending it. Time and again we have had to learn to resist and do so differently in accordance with the challenge before us. We have come from far, over a long period. The latest steps have brought us to this Congress of Peoples, the latest stage in this long history. More than the latest stage, it is the beginning of a new path we have decided to take. With the 60,000 that marched to Cali and in other parts of the country, our memories have marched; our elders have marched; those who opened the way by struggling before us, many men and women in many places within and outside of Colombia who have recognized the danger, suffered the pain and got up to march for the other world we know is possible and necessary.

The challenge of this new age is immense. It may be the most serious of our entire history. We suffer a damaging, evil ‘order’. We know this and say it loud. It is not only our cultures, communities, peoples and families who are at risk. It is life itself that can be destroyed by the blindness of those who are using the greatest power in history to make everything that exists part of a market with their project of death.

We know that what must occur does not yet exist except in our own commitment, the memory of everything we live and what we must invent, grow, and protect to open the way.

The project that threatens life does not respect borders – that’s why it is called ‘globalization’. It comes to our communities and into our homes throughout Colombia and the world. It brings war, lies of propaganda, the power of law, and the power of money. It comes for the wealth of nature and the work of people to exploit and sell. Those who control and make decisions to serve their interests are far away. They are in the directorships of large multinational corporations and in the financial centres of the world that end up with everything. They use governments and armies and institutions to do their bidding. They convince us that all this is inevitable.

This is hard to see, understand, resist and change. It requires unity, creativity, solidarity, commitment, sacrifice and work, but also a desire to live. Because we face a large and difficult challenge, this mobilization is also different. We have not come out only to demand something of the government or to denounce, though we are doing that also. This time we come to bring people together, to bring organizations and processes together. We march to express our commitment to unite to work and weave reciprocal solidarity that is necessary to defend life. This time we know that we cannot do it alone and we need one another to understand, resist, and create the possible and necessary world. We have surprised the government, power, the country, and the world because we have not come out to demand what is ours by right. Instead we call this Minga with a proposal so that all peoples can define an indigenous and popular mandate to orient the process and advance from this reality of confusion and death towards a project of life for and from the people.

Our actions show the value of our words. That is why our power to convoke and the force of our arguments grows. For us, our acts of dignity and resistance speak. The first indigenous and popular congress has won its objectives. The country and the world have heard us. The government could not ignore us and knows it will have to respect our legitimacy. The word we bring in peace has become fact that speaks for itself. Even some of the commercial media were forced to listen and transmit our proposals, though many others continued to distort the truth. The solidarity of the world was present and accompanied us. We recognize the responsibility that all this implies. It is a collective responsibility to continue our work and take up the challenge. This mandate collects what has happened in the past and signals our plans for the present.

We register the irresponsible and disrespectful posture of the President of the Republic towards the first indigenous and popular congress, and reject his lies about the motives and content of this congress to public opinion when he describes this peaceful, civil, democratic gathering as a political act of terrorists. On September 2, days before the congress, the prosecutor general’s office detained elder Alcibiades Escue on false charges in an act this congress calls a political kidnapping. The President declared today, during the final public audience, that he has taken over the case of Alcibiades Escue and that the Congress is headed by parliamentarians and political opposition who have had no influence whatsoever on our process. This shows the weakness of a government that relies on lies and force to silence the truth of the people when they assume their dignity.

Agenda and Position of the First Congress

The commissions ratified the following position for this Minga.

-What is happening in this country and in our territories is serious, urgent, and we must mobilize immediately.
-The situation of emergency is due to a deep problem related to neoliberal globalization and for that reason the first action is a part of a struggle in the medium and long term. The results that follow FTAA and other free trade agreements are some of the most dangerous and destructive forms of aggression that will impel constitutional changes which will in turn impel more war and terror.
-Urgent mobilizations are neither the beginning nor the end of the struggle, but a stage of the process that we propose to create in minga, a process of indigenous and popular alternatives to make possible a country that is just, democratic, respectful of all its people, and peaceful.

Based on the above analysis, the themes debated in commissions and plenary sessions at the indigenous and popular congress were the following:

1. Defense of life and human rights facing the armed conflict and the politics of “democratic security”
2. The Constitutional “Reforms”
3. FTAA and other free trade agreements
4. Mechanisms for the construction of popular resistance and sovereignty

The indigenous and popular mandate for life, justice, joy, freedom and autonomy:

The authorities, organizations, processes and people participating in the First Indigenous and Popular Congress decide:

1. To declare ourselves under INDEFINITE PERMANENT ASSEMBLY until we have definitively overcome the threats against our life and integrity.
2. To establish the Indigenous Popular Congress to assume and deepen the themes of this Minga, to constitute and consolidate the process and Plan of Resistance and Life of Peoples. The congress will initiate sessions in the Peace and Coexistence Territory of La Maria, Piendamo, but it will have an itinerant character and will have sessions throughout the national territory, facilitated and led by all popular processes.
3. To create a PERMANENT TRIBUNAL OF THE PEOPLES with participation by people of the highest capacity at the national and international level, to examine, pronounce, recommend and act against the attacks and violations of human rights and the right to life of popular and indigenous organizations and processes.
5. To establish a PERMANENT AND AUTONOMOUS DIPLOMATIC MISSION OF THE PEOPLES that will represent organizations and processes in diplomatic questions internationally, with representation from the international commissions of the movements and processes within the country.
6. Develop a SOLIDARITY ECONOMY and establish markets and mechanisms of production and exchange that will be reciprocal and oriented to defending and promoting life and the good of the communities.
7. Collect, analyze, deepen and adopt the recommendations and conclusions of the thematic commissions of the congress, as well as the declarations, agreements, pronouncements and resolutions of the organizations, movements, and events where positions and proposals were brought.

The Congress declares the following:

With regard to the armed conflict, the violation of human rights and the politics of “democratic security”

-To design and put in place popular mechanisms for a negotiated solution to the armed conflict.
-To demand truth, justice, and reparations for the victims of armed conflict.
-Promote popular and autonomous mechanisms of civil resistance, peace and security that include the recognition of the Guardia Indigena as a popular force for peace.
-Demand and design mechanisms of civil resistance with national and international pressure, support, and observation to win the exit of armed groups from our territories and respect for the civil population, respect for indigenous autonomy and indigenous organizations.
-Design mechanisms of resistance and civil disobedience against the politics of “democratic security” of the Colombian government.

With regard to FTAA and free trade

-Convoke organizations and the people of Colombia to develop the actions needed to stop negotiations of these agreements and promote a Popular Referendum against the Free Trade Agreement and FTAA.

With regard to the Constitutional Reforms:

-Demand the suspension of any attempt at constitutional reform and demand that in future, any proposed reform must be submitted to popular consultation and approval.


Indigenous authorities and leaders present at this first congress will design an Indigenous and Popular Commission responsible for the design of mechanisms and agenda to fulfill this mandate as rapidly as possible. The criteria for selecting members of the commission must include: participation from diverse sectors; legitimacy of representation in the name of organizations and processes; and recognized capacity to do the assigned work. We will continue to act to confront the political kidnapping of elder Alcibiades Escue (*TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: ALCIBIADES WAS RELEASED AFTER MUCH POPULAR MOBILIZATION AND IS BACK IN INDIGENOUS TERRITORY – OCTOBER 6, 2004).

Words without action are empty.
Action without words is blind.
Words and action without the spirit of community are death.

For life, justice, freedom and autonomy, we continue to move forward.

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