By Jessica Garcia
Why are we still talking about the resistance of popular struggles today? Why is it necessary? Because those who should respond to the demands of the people do not do so, because the State does not respond. If the State had responded to the demands of the Indigenous communities in permanent Minga in the National Park, in downtown Bogota, for the past six months, we wouldn't be talking about their resistance today, we shouldn't be talking about this struggle to this day. If the State responded, or better said, if it responded not with repression but with the authorization to exercise already recognized rights, today we could be talking about how the indigenous communities have organized themselves in their territory again, how they live in peace without the need to fight for anything because their ancestral rights over this territory have been recognized and no one doubts their legitimacy.
However, we must remember that hundreds of families from 14 Indigenous peoples of Colombia (Muisca Gue Gata Thizhinzuqa, Tullpa Yanacona, Embera Katio, Embera Dobida, Kokonuko, Nasa, Cumbaltar Pasto, Uitoto Monifue + Uruk, Kubeo, Koreguaje, Wuayuú Bakatá, Zenu, Pijao Mohan and Esperara Siapidara) are still resisting, for six months now, in the National Park due to the lack of response from the Bogota and Colombian Governments. Today, we must remember that the humanitarian situation of the 1,600 people in the park is neither normal nor natural. It is the consequence of the lack of implementation of differential public policies for Indigenous communities that have already been agreed on. These 1,600 people are just a small fraction of the 37,266 Indigenous people who live in the city of Bogotá, and many as a consequence of the ongoing armed conflict in their territories.
For six months, these Indigenous communities have been requesting direct talks with the city government, but their demands have thus far been ignored and the few spaces that were set up have not worked. The Indigenous families resisting in the National Park requested official communications by State institutions be made available in their native languages, as many of them do not speak Spanish, but this request has not been answered either. Humanitarian assistance from the State has been scarce at best. Even in the face of the dire needs of Indigenous families, including many children. In fact, since last September, 8 Indigenous children have died and many others were hospitalized due to the inhumane living conditions in which they find themselves.
In November 2021, Autoridades Indígenas in Bogotá issued the first report on the humanitarian situation of the Indigenous communities in the National Park, while on December 9th, several Indigenous organizations, including the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), issued a statement supporting the Indigenous communities in Minga in the park in the face of a humanitarian crisis. On December 14, a legal suit filed by Bogotá's Human Rights Ombudsman ruled in favor of the communities. As a result, the city government was ordered to provide health services, food, drinking water, personal hygiene items, solid waste management and drainage within 8 hours, so that the communities could enjoy sanitary conditions while they waited for proper relocation. However, conditions continue to be unsanitary. Meanwhile, they are accused of not wanting to accept the relocation proposal, which is La Florida Park, where Indigenous communities have already denounced that there are no decent living conditions. On March 7, the Autoridades Indígenas en Bakatá again demanded compliance with the court ruling.
On the other hand, not only has the Colombian government not responded to the communities' demands, but on January 27, the Autoridades Indígenas en Bakatá issued a communiqué denouncing strategies to divide the indigenous peoples in the park. They denounced that Embera families were taken to the Integral Protection Unit (UPI) in Florida Park under false pretenses, a place where, as we mentioned before, the communities had already opposed moving to.
To this must be added the accusations made by the city government against some leaders accusing them of obstructing the progress of the negotiations for the relocation of communities in order to obtain contracts for themselves and financing for community kitchens, at the beginning of November 2021. Likewise, the accusation of "supplanting" of Indigenous authority to the Autoridades Indígenas en Bakatá, simply because they are not registered as such in the Ministry of the Interior, as if the legitimacy of a popular process were based on state recognition.
At the same time, threats against social leaders in the National Park have increased in recent months. On January 24 of this year, they denounced that armed men threatened and intimidated several leaders on several occasions.
In this context, it is worth mentioning that from the beginning the Indigenous communities have clearly demanded a response from the city government to implement an indigenous policy that already exists. However, the Mayor's office has said that it is Colombia's national government that should respond because these are communities displaced by the internal conflict and that what they are demanding is the return to their territories. At the beginning of March, the high advisor for Peace, Victims and Reconciliation of Bogota, Vladimir Rodriguez, informed that as of Tuesday, March 1, the more than 400 Embera indigenous people who are in the Protection Unit of La Florida Park would return to their territories and that they would be guaranteed security conditions. However, it is worth asking what security conditions he is referring to, when the worsening of the armed conflict in the Colombian Pacific region, where the Embera people come from, and where forced displacements continue to occur as a result of this conflict, is a matter of public knowledge.
Today, six months after the beginning of the protest, the humanitarian situation continues to be the same, only more people have been arriving to the camp due to violent mass displacement with no response other than repression and militarization. Today, the resistance of Indigenous peoples continues to be necessary and, therefore, it is also necessary to make a constant exercise of memory in order not to forget, not to normalize what is not normal, not fair, not natural. That is why today families from 14 Indigenous peoples continue to resist in the National Park.