We are happy to report that your calls and efforts on behalf of the Afro-Colombian and Indigenous communities in the municipalities of Buenos Aires and Suarez ( Cauca ) resulted in the Colombian government taking steps that will help protect the lives of members of these communities. On December 17, 2009 a meeting took place between the Colombian authorities (Presidential Program for Human Rights- PPDDHH, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Mines, Ministry of the Environment, Public Prosecutor for Human Rights and Department of Foreign Affairs) and leaders belonging to the Black Communities Process (PCN), the Community Council of La Toma, the Municipal Human Rights Committee of Buenos Aires, the Association of Women of Buenos Aires and NGO Sembrar.
At this meeting the Colombian authorities agreed to do as follows:
1) Leaders who are under threat that are currently outside of the areas will be given temporary relocation assistance. This assistance will be given the week of December 21st.
2) Colombian authorities will conduct a security risk analysis so that these leaders can return to the area ( Cauca ).
3) Authorities will be looking out for other requests regarding security involving other members and their families of these areas.
4) The community leaders requested that the Colombian authorities provide relocation assistance for the office of PCN that is currently situated in La Balsa de Santander de Quilichao. The authorities agreed to consider this request in January so that PCN can continue to work in this area of the country.
5) Authorities will put into place protocols for how they should respond to future emergencies concerning the physical security of leaders.
Persons responsible on the part of the authorities for carrying out the above: Diana Botero-PPDDH and Flor Romero of the Protection Unit of the Ministry of Justice.
Mining and Environment Titles:
1) The organizations will send the listing of land titles that violate the previous consultation process and law 70 of the black communities to the Ministry of Mines and Energy so that this Ministry can review them and respond in terms of whether or not such titles should be suspended and whether or not new titles need to be granted to the communities in question.
2) At minimum, the Ministry of the Environment will locate the environmental plan pertaining to Salvajina and review it to assess whether or not EPSA is violating the terms of the title when it comes to Afro-Colombians and Indigenous communities' right to previous consultation.
3) They will organize the next Regional Corporation for Cauca (mixed governmental and non-governmental environmental entity responsible for Cauca ) meeting.
4) They will look for and send to the communities the information they are requesting in terms of how these communities can become involved in the environmental assessments made for the use of these territories.
Community Councils and Constitutional Court Order 005 on Afro-Colombian IDPs:
1) The community councils have asked that nine of the community councils that have requested their incorporation for the past two years (with little response) are in fact incorporated. These include the following community councils located in the municipality of Buenos Aires : Cerro Teta, Brisas del Rio Cauca and Alsacia. For the municipality of Suarez these include: La Toma, Asnazu, Las Brisas, Mindala and Las Mesetas and Robles. The authorities took note of this.
2) In terms of implementing the recommendations made in Constitutional Court Order 005 of January 2009 pertaining to internally displaced Afro-Colombians in the areas of Cauca in question, it was decided that the Direction for Afro-Colombian Affairs will respond the week of December 21 on what steps will be taken to implement this Order in this area of the country.
1) The Public Prosecutor for Human Rights will unify the various investigations that exist concerning threats against members of these communities into one case. This will be done internally by this entity in order to streamline the response.
2) The Public Prosecutor for Human Rights will decide who should be responsible for this investigation-whether it should be dealt with in Bogota or at the regional level in Cauca . The week of December 21st the authorities will decide this.
3) The authorities will provide periodic updates on how these investigations are going.
4) A person will be appointed to serve as the liaison between the communities and the Public Prosecutor for Human Rights.
Agreements and Responsibilities Directly Attributed to the Presidential Human Rights Program:
1) Starting the week of January 4th, Hermedis Gutierrez, official from the PPDDHH program in zone 2 will be present in the areas in question every 15 days. Mr. Gutierrez will be responsible for monitoring the threats against Afro-Colombians residing in the municipalities of Buenos Aires , Suarez and Morales.
2) In January, after the 12th, this entity will convene an internal meeting whereby a contingency plan will be developed. This plan will include a general analysis of the situation and steps that will be taken to deal with issues surrounding mining licenses, environmental plan for Salvajina, protection of these communities, formal recognition of the community councils, Constitutional Court Order 005 and investigations to be undertaken by the Public Prosecutor for Human Rights.
3) Carlos Franco discussed the security situation in these municipalities with Coronel Murcia. It was decided that the liaison for these communities concerning threats and security is Coronel Chavez. He is now the person in charge of monitoring the security situation in the area and attempting to clarify where the threats against the Afro-Colombian leaders originated, as well as the person responsible for addressing the presence of illegal armed groups in this region.
4) All new incidents concerning these communities Hill be directed to Remedís Gutierrez, Sandra Navaez, Diana Botero and Carlos Franco. These are the persons who should receive the information first. After these authorities received the information then the municipal human rights ombudsmen or PCN must send the information to the security forces in the area.
5) The communities' request for a community ombudsman in the area will be sent to the Human Rights Ombudsman.
While the security threats against leaders remain and the situation is far from being resolved, the fact that the meeting took place and that it resulted in the Colombian authorities agreeing to act in order to address the security concerns of the communities is a step forward. This step would not have happened if persons like you had not intervened and urged members of the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of State to act. Thank you for the actions taken.
We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you informed of further developments.
Gimena Sanchez, WOLA
Charo Mina Rojas and Marino Cordoba , AFRODES USA
Rising Awareness on Afro-Colombian Grassroots Communities Struggle