[Marxism] Indigenous People Seek Alliances

Hunter Gray hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Sun Jul 25 10:46:38 MDT 2004

  Note by Hunter Bear:

  Obviously quite significant gatherings, these kinds of events have been
occurring with regularity for several decades.  At various points, they've
been globally Fourth World in scope -- the tribal peoples -- and have often
included Maoris and Lapps [Saami] as well as many Africans.

  Indigenous People Seek Alliances

  Kintto Lucas

  Over 10,000 people will attend the more than 300 activities scheduled for
the First Social Forum of the Americas, which opens Sunday in the Ecuadorian

  QUITO, Jul 23 (IPS) - The regional gathering forms part of the World
Social Forum (WSF), which every year draws thousands of activists and
representatives of non-governmental organisations opposed to the direction
taken by the globalisation process.

  Most of the 700 indigenous people from around the region taking part in
the Second Continental Summit of Indigenous Peoples and Nationalities of
Abya Yala ('America' in the language of the Kuna Indians of Panama) which
opened Wednesday, will join the Social Forum when their meeting ends Sunday.

  Luis Macas, one of Ecuador's most highly-respected indigenous leaders,
said the summit is a means of ''joining efforts to fight neo-liberalism,
which runs directly counter to our communities, because it seeks to impose
market values on the collective way of life that native peoples have
developed over centuries.''

  Macas, a founder and former president of the influential Confederation of
Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and a former parliamentary
deputy, served as agriculture minister in the first six months of the
current administration of President Lucio Gutiérrez.

  ''The sectors in power in the Americas and the U.S. government see the
indigenous movement as a threat to the democracy that they defend, which
excludes segments of society,'' said Macas at the opening of the summit.

  Indigenous people, on the other hand, want a democracy ''based on
coexistence revolving around the community.''

  ''In the community, we help each other, with solidarity, to build our
houses, plant our crops, or build a road, and the decisions are taken
collectively, in search of consensus,'' which forces everyone to participate
with their opinions and suggestions, said Macas.

  Out of a total population of more than 500 million people in Latin
America, there are around 50 million indigenous people, 80 percent of whom
live in poverty.

  In Ecuador, ethnic Indians account for 30 percent of a total of 13 million

  Indigenous democracy is ''inclusive, more participatory than the democracy
in which one merely casts a vote that does not signify an influence in the
later decisions of those who are elected,'' he said.

  Macas was alluding to the case of Gutiérrez, who became president in
January 2003 after promising an inclusive, progressive and participatory
government -- pledges that he quickly abandoned once in office.

  ''He was elected with the support of the indigenous movement, but since he
did not live up to his campaign promises, we had to pull out of the
government,'' said the former agriculture minister.

  Gutiérrez has applied policies that have had a divisive effect among the
country's indigenous communities, complained Macas.

  For example, the government has modified ''the decrees that govern the
National Office on Intercultural Bilingual Education, the National Office on
Indigenous Health, and the Council of Nationalities and Peoples of Ecuador,
which used to be autonomous, and he has designated indigenous people with
ties to his government, thus politicising those bodies,'' he said.

  Since indigenous people began to organise, ''we have been building another
world, which we will not do alone, but in unity with different social
movements, and that is part of what the WSF is about,'' he added.

  Rodolfo Fucops, a Mayan Indian leader from Guatemala, said the biggest
problem facing indigenous peoples in the Americas are free trade agreements,
which turn a blind eye to social questions.

  In Guatemala, the free trade agreement signed this year between Central
America and the United States, which is still pending parliamentary
ratification, ''was not discussed with the indigenous peoples,'' who make up
more than 60 percent of the population, said Fucops.

  ''The treaty's effects on the communities were not debated, although it is
clear that it will have a major impact on national agricultural production,
which will be unable to compete with U.S. products,'' he added.

  The president of Ecuarunari, which represents the Quichua people and is
the biggest member organisation of CONAIE, also expressed concern over
Ecuador's negotiations of free trade with the United States.

  According to Humberto Cholango, the indigenous groups will draft a
document opposing the creation of the Free Trade Area of the Americas
(FTAA), the continent-wide project sponsored by Washington, and other free
trade accords.

  ''It is important to work on a proposal for bringing together diverse
political and social sectors at a continent-wide level to oppose the
construction of the unipolar world that the United States wants to impose
using economic instruments like the FTAA or (bilateral) free trade
agreements, and political-military tools like the Plan Colombia'' anti-drug
and counterinsurgency strategy, said Cholango.

  The activist proposed the creation of a ''great Latin American alliance
bringing together the indigenous movement, the different social movements,
and progressive governments'' like those of Venezuelan President Hugo
Chávez, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Argentine
President Néstor Kirchner.

  ''That alliance could build an integrated Latin America to oppose the U.S.
onslaught,'' he said.

  Peruvian indigenous leader Miguel Palacín Quishpe, with the National
Confederation of Communities Affected by Mining, also believes an agreement
that Lima is discussing with Washington would hurt native communities in his
country, where an estimated three million people out of a population of 26
million are ethnic Indians.

  Indigenous activist Blanca Chancoso, president of the Ecuadorian chapter
of the WSF and of the Social Forum organising committee, told IPS that the
gathering which will run Sunday through Friday ''will be a democratic and
pluralistic space, open to the participation of everyone who wants to share
this commitment of building a different world.''

  Economic analyst Alberto Acosta, a member of the Social Forum organising
committee, said that ''Making an enormous effort, a group of organisations
has convened civil society groups from throughout the hemisphere to analyse
reality, share experiences in resistance, propose solutions to the
challenges of the moment,'' and join together ''in the fight against
neo-liberalism and all forms of domination and exclusion.''

  ''It is also a moment to share the continent's cultural wealth and
diversity, with special recognition of the presence and vitality of
indigenous peoples and people of African descent,'' said Chancoso.

  The debates and discussions in the Social Forum will revolve around five
main thematic areas. The ''economic order'' will include issues like human
and environmental impoverishment, foreign debt, corruption, economic rights,
and the construction of alternative models.

  ''The violent face of the neo-liberal project'' will focus on questions
like U.S. hegemony, militarism, strategic control over biodiversity, sexist
violence, and resistance.

  In ''power, democracy and the State'', panellists will discuss questions
like how to build democracy in a period of breakdown of international
structures, and power dynamics and relations with international institutions
at the sub-regional, regional and global levels.

  ''Cultures and communication'' will focus on cultural resistance, the
construction of identities, critical and alternative language, and building
democratic and participatory communication media.

  ''Indigenous peoples and people of African descent'' will cover areas like
collective rights, territories, autonomy, diversity, multiculturalism,
knowledge and intellectual property.

  All Social Forum activities -- conferences, panels, workshops, artistic
performances, indigenous and youth camps, and street demonstrations -- will
be infused with a gender perspective and diversity.

  The Social Forum has been organised with economic support from several
international development agencies, universities in Ecuador, and the
government of the province of Pichincha, where Quito is located. (END/2004)

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