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Indigenous peoples’ summit: defending their right to the land

Granma, Cuba

Indigenous peoples’ summit: defending their right to the land

29 March 2007

The fight for land and territory and opposition to neoliberalism and free trade treaties (FTAs) with the United States are the main issues at the Indigenous People’s Summit currently meeting in Iximché, Guatemala.

Several speakers agreed on the need for agrarian reforms and for extending the concept of territory, which is not only a geographically-delineated area, but also a spiritual, cultural and economic environment inhabited by communities.

“It is a question of restoring the approach to life of our ancestors, which was that being human is being part of Nature, and she cannot be offended or plundered like the transnational corporations are doing,” Guatemalan indigenous leader Daniel Pascual told Prensa Latina.

The issues of land and territory in North, Central and South America were the subject of broad panel discussions at the 3rd Indigenous People’s Summit, which began on Monday, March 26 in this city, 75 km from the Guatemalan capital.

Representatives from different groups also complained that the majority of countries do not grant full recognition of indigenous nationalities, legal systems or particular forms of social, political and cultural organization.

The need for reform in countries that often have exclusive and racist policies, and for abandoning neoliberalism, was raised by political analyst Miguel Angel Sandoval, who harshly criticized free trade agreements with the United States.

“Since their implementation, these treaties have generated more unemployment and more emigration,” he said. “It is false that they bring investment for development in our countries.”

For his part, Pascual noted that thanks to a series of mobilizations by indigenous organizations and communities, the free trade agreement between Ecuador and the United States was stopped, and in Costa Rica, there is also strong resistance.

“Where they have been approved, a general impact can be felt in economic, political and social life, above all because it is a direct attack on food sovereignty and the economies of the peoples,” Pascual added.