logo logo

Call for a citizen’s popular consultation Concerning the Free Trade Agreement

Call for a citizen’s popular consultation Concerning the Free Trade Agreement

Public declaration of the indigenous and popular congress


February 18, 2005

Public declaration of the indigenous and popular congress
Call for a citizen’s popular consultation

"The State that should protect us, is pursuing us, attempting to dismantle the rights won throughout the centuries of resistance, denying us our fundamental rights, acting against the soveriegnty of the country and the well-bing of its citizens. It does so in favour of private and external interests, as it represses, criminalizes, defames and persecutes our organizations, leaders, and people." (From the Political and Action Proposal of the Indigenous peoples, September 2004.)

Yes to Life and NO to the FREE TRADE AGREEMENT:

Las lenguas ancestrales nos llevan a tener conciencia de donde pertenecemos; la historia quedó incrustada en el paladar.
Abadio Green.

There is a profound cause that motivates our actions and words about this particular juncture in time. We begin by returning to our very roots and rebuilding from the true origin of our peoples. We collectively invoke our ancestors and our diverse memories although this is not sufficiently expressed through these words.

We have life so that we can be in life, in her multiple and diverse forms and manifestations. It is all we have, and it is all we are and can be. We are related to all that lives and our obligation is to coexist. It is an obligation that requires the highest wisdom, memory, experience and work. Because we have in order to live, we accept pluralism and diversity and we seek equilibrium and harmony. As communities and peoples, we assume our responsibility in history as the obligation to coexist, to defend and promote life in all its diversity. History is a difficult and painful path of experiences and relations from which we promote and seek coexistence within diversity. So this is our project: to have in order to live.

Languages are mirrors where history is collected from peoples, in territories that exist among living beings. Languages are collected, counting on species, traditions, food, and relations. Identities and cultures are recorded in language, among living beings of the earth. Each language is an autonomy, the recounting of a life experience and of a particular project. The entirety of life, of being, of territories, of relations, of autonomies, is collected along the way in the diversity of languages, as project, memory and wisdom. Coexistence among peoples is the encounter of meanings and wisdom of diverse experiences, of lives, and multiple relations contained in the stories and possibilities of language.

For the culture that is being imposed and has been imponed since the time of continental conquest, life is based on ownership. For those who conquer, being alive and human is not an end in itself, nor is coexistence a goal. Being is only a medium for having. There are harsh words with which we recognize. We remember why they sound familiar and why they maintain alive the painful memory of what they brought, and what they continue to impose. "Frontier", "Discovery", "Conquest", "Exploitation", "Growth". We know their intentions because of these words. They are aimed at possession, more and more, and with more power. It is an instrumental and utilitarian logic. In a territory, they discover what they want to exploit, in order to conquer it, extract it, and transform it into merchandise, sell it and accumulate power and wealth. What does not have immediate utility is destroyed. Technologies are at the service of these consortia which have been used as arms of expansion and accumulation throughout time... Industries, cities that grow, occupying space and devouring lives, and the supranational corporate power. Around the global corporate cities, the metropolis cities of the third world grow and are fed by war, confusion, propaganda and business, as the global countryside is turned into wasteland, contamination, misery-towns, monocultures, in caves and orifices where minerals are extracted, gases, petroleum, and all that can be transformed into merchandise and profit. People are converted into wage labour. In its wake, deserts, poverty and destruction are left, disguised as happiness and entertainment that leaves the false illusion of the right to consume, in the tempting and priveleged hands of only a few.

With each language that is extinguished, species, experiences, traditions and relations are buried without memory. There is something worse than death, and that is the end of birth itself. With the words and phrases that will not live again, autonomies are lost, territories and forms of life. We propose, and name, life. That is why we are obliged to resist. We are all who defend plurality, diversity, coexistence, those who possess in order to live and to coexist. We have defended, from our autonomies, and we propose to weave them in reciprocal solidarity. We are pragmatic. Not only because we have been able to survive, nor because we have invented ways of coexisting with dignity within exclusion and oppression, but because we defend life. We defend living with the earth and its creatures. In our histories, words resound full of the meaning of struggle, of memory and of commitment. We name them resistance, recuperation, and autonomy. But the moment has come to unite us within diversity, for life, to create in the weaving between peoples and diverse processes, a new world, possible and necessary. That is why we proclaim the alternative as the hour of another birth. The Alternatives revindicate the value of words for the rebirth of languages linked to the diversity of coherent actions. That is why we rescue the Nasa thought:

It also says:

"A Project that threatens life does not respect borders, for that reason they call it Globalization. It arrives in our communities and our homes everywhere all over Colombia and the world. It brings war and the propaganda lies whereupon it, deceives with ability and all the power of the laws and money. It comes for nature’s wealth and the work of people to exploit them and sell them like merchandise. Those that control and make decisions to serve their own interests are far. They are in the directives of great Multinational Corporations and in the financial centers of the world that guard the loot. We do not know them, we do not see them, and they are not responsible for their acts and have Governments as their agents, the armies, the companies and institutions that act on their name to serve them. They convince us that all this is inevitable."

Consequently, when defining the working agenda and the position of the first congress it is recognized that the ’Free Trade Area of the Americas’ (FTAA) and the ’Free Trade Agreement’ (FTA) that the Governments of the Americas are negotiating with the Government of the United States, are two of the multiple politics and strategies that the multinational capital is imposing, to control territories, towns and markets and to establish monopolies for the exploiting of wealth and its increasing concentration. The crisis that the country is experiencing is explained consequently:

"The emergency situation is due to a main problem related to the neoliberal strategy and globalization and for that reason the initial operation is part of a medium to long term struggle. The results that the FTAA and the FTA wish to accomplish represent the most dangerous and destructive forms of aggression for which constitutional reforms are being made and who are in the end served by war and terror."

Based of this analysis of the present reality, the Mandate of the First Indigenous and Popular Congress chose four subjects for analysis and action:

1. Resisting the Free Trade Agreement and the Free Trade Area of the Americas
2. Building Mechanisms for the Construction of Popular Resistance and Sovereignty

Taking into consideration the analysis of these themes, the First Indigenous and Popular Congress Decided to:

"Summon all the organizations and the People of Colombia to develop the necessary and pertinent actions to stop the negotiation of these agreements and to promote the organization of a POPULAR REFERENDUM against the FTA and the FTAA."

The Indigenous and Popular March that gave origin to the Mandate and the Traveling Congress, constituted the most important democratic popular opposition action since the installment of President Uribe’s Government. By summoning national and international interest, it has initiated a process whose impacts are beginning to be felt. Although the process is in its initial phases, the content and decisions exposed in the Mandate are beginning to mobilize coordinated actions and weave solidarity between diverse initiatives. The call to Popular Consultation of the FTA registers within this processes the achievement and articulation of popular sovereignty with a democratic and peaceful character.

The question:

If the FTA is so good, why are the peoples being misinformed, and why are its proponents so scared of a democratic and conscious popular decision?

The right of the people to be consulted and to decide in a democratic, conscientious and informed way to the negotiations of FTAA and FTA is being demanded throughout Latin America. Nevertheless, the negotiations and signatures of these agreements exclude consultation and transparency. The negotiation of the first FTA between the United States, Mexico and Canada was characterized by misinformation, lack of transparency, distorted official propaganda, and systematic rejection of protests and recurrent mobilizations. This imposed misinformation provoked the indigenous communities of Chiapas to an uprising for democracy and against neoliberalism. The diverse forms of resistance to this type of hidden and taxing negotiations grow and they are fortified to the point of generating a global popular consciousness in resistance that halted rounds of negotiation of the WTO in Seattle and Cancún and to delay the advance of the FTAA. When the people managed to surpass the deceit and in these agreements signed for the benefit of a few, or when they discovered or experienced the real and destructive impact of such agreements, they mobilized in resistance and demand to be consulted and that their right to reject policies that go against them, be respected.

Within this context, what has been voiced in the Mandate is shared with national and international popular initiatives that confront neoliberal globalization. We are motivated by the conviction that drives those in resistance to believe that "another world is possible" and necessary. In addition to the Zapatistas, many other communities have compromised with the pressing need to develop popular consultations. In Brazil, for example, more than 10 million people voted against the FTAA. The same happened in Mexico. In Ecuador and under the leadership of the CONAIE and the National Campaign against the FTA, a Minga has been initiated to collect signatures to call for a National Referendum. In the last trimester of 2004, the Indigenous and Popular organizations of Peru launched a consultation convocation against the FTA. Meanwhile agreements are being subscribed with diverse countries to a manipulated public opinion or against the popular will.

In Colombia, individuals, institutions, organizations and diverse coalitions such as RECALCA, Farming Salvation (Salvación Agropecuaria), and the Great Democratic Coalition, have been leading efforts to investigate, analyze, and to inform the population on the risks of the FTAA-FTA and about the contents of the negotiations, summoning acts of informed and solidarity resistance to face this threat. On October 12, just three weeks before the traveling congress of the peoples was approved by the indigenous and popular mandate, massive mobilizations took place throughout the country, as part of a National Strike against the neoliberal policies and the FTA. In Bogota, a million and a half people marched in what was described as the popular referendum against the FTA.

As long as the FTA is one of the strategies used by the United States in its intention to promote the corporate interests of the multinationals to consolidate the neoliberal project of annexation and control of resources, populations and territories, the organization of a popular consultation not only constitutes a challenge to the process of negotiation and signing of the present FTA but also to the interests and policies that this strategy represents. By making the consultation in a peaceful manner, the right to information, to conscious decisions to democratic participation, to the defense of life, identity, culture, land, sovereignty and wealth is proclaimed. To not make the consultation would imply a yielding of these rights and the subjugation without resistance to an imposition that threatens to subordinate and destroy communities and territories.

The current national context features the imposition of a neoliberal model through military strategies, propaganda, and intolerance from Government policies that hardly respect dissent, democratic opposition and the popular proposals of alternatives and popular rights that confront the neoliberal model. To promote a Popular Consultation of the FTA imposes threats and risks for the people, organizations and processes involved in the same. It requires unity, solidarity and decisive endorsement at the regional national and international scales as a fundamental strategy of protection.

The experience that decries and demands

The experience of the countries that have been put under the neoliberal policies and the FTA, the results of the economic opening imposed by the Government of President Gaviria, the process of negotiation between Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and the U.S.A., puts in evidence that the right to democratic and popular consultation and resistance is justified. The following examples demonstrate this:

 Governments, the media who serve them and those who represent corporate interests are putting forth a campaign of selling off public patrimony and benefits in a way that excludes open, responsible and serious debate.
 Those who question this situation are denied information, debate, and the power to decide.
 The decision to sign the treaty in the first four months of 2005 was not made by the Government of Colombia but announced by the US negotiator, Robert Zoellick, during a visit by President Uribe.
 The FTA with Colombia is just one of many similar accords that the US negotiates and imposes throughout the world. Colombia is one more territory in the process of global annexation.
 Colombia does not have its own proposal, and for this reason is only negotiating based on the US proposal, on the basis of accords that have already been negotiated and signed. Colombia is only negotiating for minor adjustments.
 The negotiation is unequal and conditioned by the economic, political, and military power of the US.
 On both sides of the table are people who share the same ideology and interests. In practice it is not an agreement between two different parties, but between the same corporate interest based in different countries.
 If a negotiator were to try to represent the interests of the citizenry he or she would be expelled from the table, as occurred with the health advisor.
 The Colombian negotiators lack legitimacy to the degree that they have not consulted, nor do they represent, the interests of the citizenry.
 The corporate monopolies, recognized legally as ’juridical persons’, impose the content and the purpose of the negotiation and supplant as subjects the rights of peoples, communities, and citizens. FTA gives rights to corporations over peoples.
 There is much more being negotiated than a trade agreement. It is instead a territorial, institutional, juridical, political, economic, and cultural reordering that permits corporations to seize and exploit the wealth of countries.
 The accords, treaties, and international obligations are subsumed to FTA and cease to have validity.
 FTA does not open the US market to Colombia. Instead it extends the frontier of corporate economic power over the resources and peoples against which the treaty is being negotiated.
 Under FTA, ecology and life itself can be patented for the purposes of commercial exploitation by multinationals.
 FTA promotes the destruction of pluralism, identity, and cultural diversity.
 By way of FTA corporate power advances in the transformation of diverse peoples into cheap and disposable labor.
 FTA imposes a new, transnational, neoliberal constitution.
 The negotiation requires mechanisms to hide the reality of FTA and mobilize support among those who are included by emphasizing sectorial benefits. Such an analysis is not done as a nation or society, but as interest groups. Special interests and benefits are being promoted and announced.
 The Economic Opening and the relationship with transnational capital provides the following lessons.
o Loss of food sovereignty, productive capacity, concentration of land and importation of basic foods.
o Uncontrolled increase in the national debt and active exportation of the savings of the population in order to service the debt.
o Privatization of essential public services and the consequent lack of access to these services by those who need them most, supplanting basic rights in the name of private profit.
o Promotion of labor market ’flexibility’ in order to reduce salaries and benefits and dismantle social rights by promoting competition between the excluded to do more work for less remuneration.
o Dismantling the national industrial and commercial base in favor of multinational consortia and monopoly.
o Simultaneous transfer of value (products with a high profit margin) upward to monopolies by way of devaluing production.

There are no mechanisms for democratic consultation or information which would permit the citizenry to express itself and decide on a subject with such serious implications and impacts.


As a consequence of the Indigenous and Popular Mandate expressed in the Political Proposal of Indigenous Peoples and facing the advancing FTA negotiations and the prospect of their imminent ratification, we decide:

  1. To convoke a national, popular, open, democratic, transparent consultation in which the citizenry can freely express its position on the negotiation and signing of FTA.
  2. To declare that the popular consultation on FTA is not a rejection of ’free trade’ but of the form and content of this process and of the proposed treaty for its anti-democratic character, its lack of transparency, and its intention of annexation, displacement, and impoverishment of the population of Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. The popular consultation will suggest that a proposal for popular and democratic exchange, defined on the basis of the defense of life and diversity, for autonomy and sovereignty of peoples and in their benefit, is possible and necessary.
  3. To begin the consultation in the Department of Cauca in indigenous, campesino, and popular lands of the eastern zone, in the municipalities of Toribio, Jambalo, Caldono, Silvia, and Inza.
  4. To demand of the popular mayors of these municipalities to facilitate these consultations by way of resources and support, according to their possibilities and capacities, including interceding so that the Departmental and National authorities recognize, respect, and facilitate this democratic process.
  5. To establish commissions charged with orienting and conducting the consultation made up of representatives of indigenous, popular, and peasant organizations in the territories of the five municipalities.
  6. To mobilize national and international support and solidarity.
  7. To establish communication, logistics, and political coordination teams with the responsibility of moving this process forward.


This consultation seeks to realize a symbolic act towards the exercise of direct democracy, creating a mechanism for the expression of the will and the sovereignty of the people. This symbolic act will be made practical by way of the consultation, which must be an example that is contagious and invites extension and perfection of the mechanism to other communities. To succeed it is indispensible to mobilize concrete support to protect the people and organizations involved in the process. The consultation should be a conscious exercise of the democratic right to participate and decide. It requires the design and implementation of pedagogical strategies to put the necessary information in the hands of the people in an opportune and appropriate manner. The consultation recognizes, requires, and nourishes solidarity with other peoples and processes by way of practical mechanisms of exchange and coordination. This process, besides promoting a consultation on FTA, seeks to promote and establish from practical experience a popular mechanism for sovereignty and resistance in the perspective of opening spaces for participation and decision designed and implemented by and for the peoples as a result of the Indigenous and Popular Mandate.

1. The objectives are:

 Prevent the ratification of the FTA by the National Congress and by the Constitutional Court, once signed by the Presidents of Colombia and the US, based on the popular decision expressed in the Popular Consultation.
 Convene and mobilize reciprocal solidarity with international organizations and processes, with particular emphasis on those based in Ecuador and Peru, countries involved in the current FTA negotiations.
 Achieve conscious, transparent and committed popular participation in the consultation process in Cauca.

2. Educational

 Inform and sensibilize the population about the FTA and about the importance of their conscious mobilization in the municipalities where the Consultation will take place.
 Develop mechanisms and educational material to support dissemination, debate, information and knowledge exchange about the Consultation, the Mandate, the FTA and related topics.

3. Consultation Character and Mechanisms
Having decided to carry out the Consultation, the authorities and representatives of popular, peasant and indigenous processes and organizations establish:
 Although this is an appeal to a National Popular Consultation on the FTA, the Coordination will be responsible to carry out its development within the initial 5 municipalities mentioned.
 The Consultation has both a citizen and popular character. This means that those citizens registered in the National Electoral Census will be able to participate as well as young voters between the ages of 14 and 18.
 Voting polls will be located at the usual sites for municipal and other elections.
 Two separate tables will be established at the voting polls:
a. For citizens: older than 18 years of age and registered in the electoral census.
b. For young voters: ages 14 to 18.
 The ballots for citizens and young voters will be counted and reported separately.
 This popular and citizen consultation is supported legally by articles 8, 50, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56 and 57 of Law 134/1994 on mechanisms for citizen participation.
 Those consulted will answer a single question expressing their agreement or disagreement with the FTA.
 Each municipality will be autonomous in the development of the mechanisms to carry out the Consultation taking into account their possibilities, local dynamics and particularities, following the general directions outlined by the Coordination and contained in this Proclamation.
 The Coordination assumes responsibility for the development of the Consultation within the 5 municipalities mentioned and calls upon other municipalities, processes, organizations and regions to do it.
 The Consultation will take place on Sunday March 6th 2005.
 The Official Launching Ceremony for the Consultation will take place on Friday February 11th 2005 in the village of Pescador, municipality of Caldono, Cauca.

Organization of the Consultation

1. Coordination Commission:
a. Composition:
i. Leaders and representatives of peasant, popular and indigenous organizations of participating municipalities.
ii. Municipal Mayors and or their representatives.
iii. Operative Commission
iv. Representatives of those responsible to carry out the Consultation at the municipal level.
v. Representatives of National and Regional organizations and processes. Under previously agreed criteria such as:
1. Knowledge, respect and Commitment towards the Mandate.
2. Informed and clear position regarding the FTA and the FTAA.
3. Individuals and institutions that are known by the Coordination.
b. Tasks:
i. Political and logistic orientation of the consultation.
ii. Decision making responsibilities for the process.
iii. Definition of spokespersons and representatives of the consultation.
iv. Mobilization of political, technical, economic and human resources in support of the Consultation as required.
v. Managing relationship with Government representatives and institutions as required on behalf of the Consultation.
vi. Convene National and International support teams.

2. Operative Commission
a. Composition. Representatives from the established Teams:
i. Communication and Propaganda
ii. Education and Mobilization
iii. Logistics
b. Tasks.
i. Operationalize the orientations and decisions made by the Coordination Commission.
ii. Design, implement and follow-up a Plan of Action for the Consultation Process in articulation with the Coordination.
iii. Organize an education-mobilization process to cover the territory.
iv. Coordinate and harmonize the tasks of all teams.
v. Evaluate the Consultation process development within the evolving context in order to propose the appropriate and necessary action in consultation with the Coordination as required.
vi. Mobilize resources as needed.

3. Communication and Propaganda Team.
a. Composition
i. Representatives from community organizations and processes with experience and knowledge on Communication and External Relations and
ii. Delegates from community media and radio stations.
b. Tasks
i. Design and implement a communication strategy aimed at informing about the Consultation at all levels and mobilizing support and solidarity.
ii. Identify, contact and convene organizations, institutions and processes at the National and International levels inviting them to extend the Consultation process.
iii. Invite international and national personalities to participate as observers and advisors of the Consultation.

4. Education and Mobilization Team
a. Composition
i. Representatives and delegates from popular, peasant and indigenous organizations of the 5 municipalities with knowledge about the FTA and with experience and capacity in educational processes.
ii. Popular, peasant and indigenous authorities with recognized ability to carry out educational and mobilization activities at the local level.
b. Tasks
i. Design and implement and education and mobilization strategy involving the consulted population to achieve their conscious and informed participation.

5. Logistics Team
a. Composition
i. Representatives of municipal and village teams with experience and capacity in planning and implementing consultation and electoral processes in coordination with local authorities.
b. Tasks
i. Establish and orient municipal and village Consultation teams.
ii. Design the Consultation logistics process and plan the necessary details for its realization in the municipalities and villages.
iii. Mobilize the required logistic resources for the Consultation.

Department of Cauca, February 1 2005.

The following organizations sign this proclamation on behalf of the POPULAR AND INDIGENOUS CONGRESS and abiding by its MANDATE:

National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC
Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, CRIC
Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN
Cxahb Wala Kiwe
The Nasa Project and
Indigenous Authorities of:
San Francisco
The Global Project and
Indigenous authorities of Jambaló
Association of Indigenous Councils of Caldono U’kawesx Nasa Cxahb and Indigenous authorities of:
La Aguada San Antonio
Las Mercedes
Pueblo Nuevo
La Laguna-Siberia
Juan Tama Indigenous Association and Indigenous Councils of Inzá
Territorial Indigenous Council of Eastern Cauca - COTAINDOC
Peasants Associations of Inzá - ACIT
Associations and Indigenous Councils of Silvia
Peasants Associations and Organizations of Silvia
Alianza Social Indígena ASI

 source: En Camino