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Tanja Nijmeijer

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Alexandra Nariño (Tanja Nijmeijer) is an international combatant from The Netherlands and member of the Peace Delegation of the FARC-EP
Saturday, 28 January 2017 00:00

What President Hollande did not see Part I

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The flash visit of the French head of State, Francois Hollande, to the Cauca region on January 24, opened a bottle of conflicting emotions among inhabitants of this Colombian region.

President Hollande, accompanied by Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, visited the headquarters of the Tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism[1] in La Venta, where he held a meeting of almost two hours with representatives of the three parts of the Mechanism: United Nations, FARC-EP and National Government.

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There were hundreds of journalists, accredited by the Presidency of the Republic, who also took charge of gathering them, transporting them on two buses, taking them to the news site where they were carefully directed towards what some gossiping voices ​​called "the chicken coop"; A place of some thirty square meters delimited with tape, from which all journalists obtained the same exact arrival image of the two presidents.

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Let's not leave anything to chance. Everything has to be perfect.

Meanwhile, a few hundred meters from the site, no cameras were present to record the discussion between seven Nasa[2] people and several members of the Army who were guarding the first checkpoint, which was in charge of stopping the flow of vehicles and to keep the highway clear.

The conversation was not recorded, so the exact words that they used will never be known, what was known, was that the natives were asking to enter in order to participate in the meeting with President Hollande.

The Nasa representatives, six governors and one Senior Councilor of the Sac Tama Quiwe association of cabildos[3], had met the day before with representatives of the Presidency, where it was agreed that they would participate in the meeting with the presidents. They had come to comply with the arranged but were confronted with a wall of bureaucracy, indifference, and falsehood. There was no entry for them, that was the order.

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After some consultations, only one of them was allowed entrance. He entered with his bastón de mando[4] (command baton) and passed - looking straight ahead without speaking to anyone - in front of the Presidency, the French security and the cameras ... He went to the tent where the meeting with the presidents would take place and sat there, alone. He lasted almost two hours like that, sitting still, waiting for the meeting.

On the afternoon of January 23, one day before the visit, the speaker of the Nasa community, located at the top of the cabildo's house, made the last call to the natives for them to be attentive to the presidential visit, the call was made in Nasa Yuwe[5] language and then Spanish:

"Let’s thank the presidents for taking us into account; this visit is very important for all of us. Therefore, we have to organize the town and we are going to make a minga[6] to collect garbage"

In the afternoon Nasa children were seen helping collect garbage from the dusty streets of Pueblo Nuevo.

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On January 22 there was another Indian minga on the road that goes from Santa Rosa to Caldono. Men and women with their babies tied behind their backs worked on the road with machetes, spades and shovels. They said they were repairing the road for the arrival of the President.

Guillermo Alberto Camacho, a member of the community, tried to choose his words carefully in order to balance hope with skepticism, while saying:

"I thank the President of France for his visit.... But I hope he does something for the poor, because if he only comes to make promises and leave ... I don’t have anything to criticize him on at this moment because it is just the first time he comes. Maybe it is necessary to wait, maybe he does want to help the indigenous"

Nelia Collazos, an indigenous woman from the village of Santa Rosa, expressed herself without any fear:

"I think there will be peace among those who have money, but for us I think things will remain the same. Those who have money will live well, as for us, we will live in the same conditions. Maybe certain things will change with the help of those who are coming to visit, maybe they’ll help us develop the community. Hopefully the President of France will look at the needs that we Nasa people have"

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The Nasa understood the importance of the visit; They understood that it might bring some benefit to their lands, which have always been forgotten by the Colombian State. Until the afternoon of January 23 they continued to believe that the president might pass through Pueblo Nuevo; they prepared dances, brought banana and cassava to prepare a sancocho[7] for the president and prepared their handicrafts for this important event. After the meeting with the Presidency of the Republic and with the governors, on the afternoon of the 23rd, they were informed that the communities were not included in the program.

All this -and more- must have crossed the mind of the indigenous leader who sat for two hours awaiting the meeting with the presidents. At the end of the meeting, the remaining six cabildo governors were allowed to enter in order for them to assist to the press conference that the presidents granted.

Meanwhile, in Pueblo Nuevo, the life of the Nasa returned to normality: to the minga, the craftsmanship, the cultivation of cabuya; to boredom, to the repetition of history.

By: Alexandra Nariño

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This article was originally published in spanish in the Comandante Alfonso Cano Bloc of the FARC-EP, visit their website here


[1] Translators note: The Tripartite Monitoring and Verification Mechanism, known as MM&V for its Spanish acronym, is an organ composed of United Nations observers, delegates of the Colombian government and delegates of the FARC-EP. Its role is to monitor the bilateral ceasefire between the FARC-EP troops and Colombian Armed Forces, as well, its role is to verify the compliance of the implementation of the agreements on the “End of Conflict” point, that is to say, the entire process of troop concentration in specific zones (Transitional Local Zones for Normalization) and the reincorporation and decommissioning of weapons process.

[2] Translators note: The Nasa are a Native American people who live in the southwestern highlands of Colombia, this is an indigenous people that like most Colombians in the countryside, have suffered the neglect of State abandonment and armed conflict.

[3] Translators note: An Indigenous Cabildo is a legally recognized special entity conformed of a group of native people and has a certain level of autonomy, representation and legal recognition.

[4] Translators note: The Bastón de Mando (Command Baton) is a baton that carries special symbolic meaning for many indigenous peoples which indicates a person’s authority or command over an indigenous identified collective. Chiefs and representatives of indigenous tribes are those who tend to carry such batons.

[5] Translators note: Nasa Yuwe is the name of the official language of the Nasa people.

[6] Translators note: Minga is a form in which indigenous peoples refer to a solidary gathering in order to carry out a common effort aimed at a given objective, it can be something as simple as organizing to collect garbage or it can extend to organizing different indigenous peoples around the country in order to carry out a given act of protest as it has happened in the recent past.

[7] Tranlators note: Sancocho is a soup that is composed of diverse ingredients, its specific composition varies according to the region and/or culture

Last modified on Saturday, 28 January 2017 22:33
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