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In the liberated land of the Colombian comuneros

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Reportage. The climate of excitement for Petro's presidency does not cheer the Nasa del Cauca peasant communities much. Between narcos, the army and the guerrillas, they have had to learn how to defend themselves and survive on the land.

written by Gianpaolo Contestabile

Topic Latin America

CALOTO, Colombia

June 23, 2022

Cauca is the cradle of the culture of the original Nasa people in Colombia, an Andean region that has been and continues to be the scene of bloody conflicts: from the resistance against the Spanish led by the indigenous heroine Gaitana to the current firefights between dissident Farc-Ep cells and the armed forces.

In the northern Cauca municipality of Caloto, we find Abel Coicué, a Nasa communero and former leader of the Huellas resguardo, a partially autonomous territory run by indigenous communities. His self-built house is surrounded by banana trees, coffee and yucca plants, myriad scents, a meadow where a cow is grazing, some poultry, several dogs and songbirds that offer a backdrop to his words.

Before, all this used to be covered with sugarcane fields, Abel recounts – the intensive agriculture of landowners who have historically dominated the region by exploiting indigenous and Afro-Colombian labor and destroying the tropical ecosystem. Abel was instrumental in establishing the local “communication fabric”: “We were doing work to raise awareness through radio, web, video and print media. This led to a number of problems for us with the state and armed groups, because we were giving visibility to what was happening on the ground. We had problems with our own organization too, because whenever leaders were making mistakes, we were making them public through our channels.”

Abel’s radio activism was as part of ACIN, the Asociación de Cabildos Indígenas del Norte del Cauca, which in turn continued the work of CRIC, the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, founded in 1971 with the slogan “Unity, Land, Culture and Autonomy,” a pioneering initiative in Latin America’s indigenous movement and an example of grassroots self-organization involving 84 resguardos belonging to 8 original peoples.

Abel had to leave his land and family for several months and go........

© Il Manifesto Global

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