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Maricel Saldoval, Afro-Colombian activist welcome in Spain

Thursday, 25 April 2019
Rosa M Tristan


Maricel Sandoval Solarte is 29 years old and has 15 fighting for the rights of its people on Colombian Cauca. From adolescence this black, young woman but of great conviction, and therefore activist threatened, has not stopped fighting. Now, it's been three months in Madrid foster people defenders of the human rights programme launched by the City Council of Madrid and Mundobat, which works by the Solidarity Alliance. Currently, Maricel coordinates the Palenque de human rights integrity ethnic and Cultural Association of Councils community of the northern Cauca (ACONC), territory where the 2016 peace agreements have not put an end to the violence. In 2018, 110 killings of leaders and Colombian leaders, 27% Afro-Colombians like her, give an idea of a situation that forced her out of the municipality of Buenos Aires. Now, after receiving support and training in Spain, will those hills, that water, this land to continue representing the 42 communities that make up the ACONC.

How is that so young already it was subsumed into social activism it?

I am in an area where the training from kindergarten was made in community centers, the children's houses, so from there, and also thanks to my family, they already put the bases of what I am. In 2006, 17, I joined the neighborhood Action Committee. I have always been clear that we need as ethnic village community lands for our agricultural production practices, as it recognizes the law 70 of 1993.

Twenty-five years after the law that recognized their rights and peace after what is the actual situation?

Our lands are occupied by major employers in sugarcane, illegal mining, by 'narcos' coca growers and large hydroelectric plants, such as La Salvajina, built in 1985 on the Cauca River. It is a skin hardened by conflict because armed groups, displaced populations and favoured the arrival of these companies. And they are investments that are made without prior consultation or with Colombians or Indians. We are told that does not exist, when in 2005 there was a census that confirmed that we are 195,000 'Afro'. It is a mockery. Over, they say that we are opposed to the development, when it is not true. We want development, but not at our expense.

What are now the main fronts open in the communities of ACONC?

They are various, but articulated within the same economic system, based on extractivism. On one side is the mining of gold and coal, but on other crops of sugar cane and, as mentioned, hydroelectric dams. They do not generate wealth in the area. For example, for more than 30 years who built hydroelectric La Salvajina Suárez and today have no river ambulance which then pledged to facilitate.


What can you do to reverse these situations of spoliation?

We have a Plan for good living in my Association. He began designing in 2015, with 11 clear axes of work, within the framework of the law mentioned. We advocate the strengthening of a self-government community, the protection of human rights and make special emphasis on the role of women in the defence of the rivers, forests and, above all, water. So we cannot continue. The Cauca is one of our major rivers and is so polluted that the fishermen have been wrecked. No one wants to buy fish with cyanide. And no alternative, people are going to work in the coca. The small mills of brown sugar, which is what the communities, had are able now by large sugar of sugar that we can't compete. My mother had to stop selling oranges because they were not buying them. Therefore we call for support to small farmers, which is controlled to mining companies as AngloGold Ashanti Canadian or making consultations with new projects, as hydroelectric.

Has he had threats for his activism?

All the people of the ACONC directive and which work for agrarian reform proposed in the peace agreements have been threatened. We have not been able to go to the territories. In my case, it was target for being the ethnic bond of Association. That is why Alliance for solidarity introduced me to this residency program, which allows me to visualize the situation.

Everything indicates that there is now more violence against the leaders and leaders than before the peace...

It is true that with the agreements they have decreased clashes between armed groups, the army and the FARC, but that they have also increased the murders of people practising the social leadership. From 2016 until today there have been 465 crimes of this type. Only in 2018, there were 110 and 27% were Afro-Colombians or Indians, mostly in the Cauca. They have also increased the crimes of leaders. This year we already have four of the 29 people killed.

Are not you afraid?

Well, it is important to not give up. I have the example of my ancestors that not never abandoned their land struggles. It's not something for me, it's something for my neighbors to my nephews. I am not going to give it up.

What can we do from the other side of the world?

A lot. Anyone can help with everyday actions, how to buy. You have to encourage responsible consumption, ask yourself where does things. Are they stained with blood? Civil society can put pressure on producers to change their business, influence to improve their practices. And it is also important to be connected, Park indifference because the violence generated by the development here, in Europe, moves to countries like mine, Colombia. And there live people that care of resources for everyone, not just for us.

What it leads from his tenure in Spain?

A lot. Not only to know the reality of this part of the world, but I've also improved my strengths in the face of my organization. And has been used to send a message to the Government of Ivan Duque, that we are people of dialogue, not adversaries that we come to give bad image of Colombia, as well as more protection to leaders and women leaders is required. We do not want that six years of peace negotiations are eventually thrown overboard and I would like to leave the message that the EU countries have a large task.

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