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Leaders from Peru, Chile, Colombia and Guatemala, participating in the panel on “Challenges and Opportunities for Indigenous Nations and Peoples”, highlighted the importance of this Congress.

“This Congress is an opportunity to develop proposals and solutions from the grassroots up”, stated Carlos Batzin, from the CICA, Guatemala.

“Traditionally”, noted Humbert Cholango, President of the Ecuarunari, “indigenous people have been invited to forums, to speak as guests, but not as key actors. This coordinator is formed by indigenous peoples, will be led by indigenous peoples and will work for indigenous peoples.” For Batzin, “the Coordinator is building a space for reflection and analysis where indigenous peoples can generate new proposals, alternatives and solutions to the problems we face. It will be a space for dialogue and the construction of plural agendas, where we will fight for our collective rights.”

Problems such as the exploitation of natural resources, privatization, and free trade agreements which ignore ancestral rights were underscored as principle threats, and challenges.

“The right to the land is not in the Colombian constitution” affirmed Lorenzo Muelas Hurtado. “We are claiming this right for a law of Origin. There are today 85 indigenous Communities in Colombia; half of which are located in the jungle. This territory is our geo political space: the biological diversity, the environment, the ecology, the hydro resources, all of these are essential for our survival, but these rights are not recognized.”

In Chile, as Pablo Mariman Quemenado, of the Mapuche Nation explained, the Mapuches who live by the coast have to pay to use the port, and the privatization of maritime resources is of concern. The Mapuches make up 10% of the country’s population, “there are also Mapuche Nations in Argentina, and we are working to rebuild unity. We are also in the process of building a political project towards Territorial Autonomy, reclaiming our ancestral territories, from which in the future, we will govern autonomously.

One of the key necessities mentioned by both Quemenado and Rodrigo Montoya Rojas from Peru was the need to prepare leaders to advocate and negotiate politically. “But we are calling for different forms of power, different types of relations”, stated Rojas. “We have to avoid the power traps, and not fall into the spiral of charity/aid. Also, we have to choose our allies with care. Many NGOs arrive and neutralize. They depoliticize us with the promise of easy money. There are exceptions, but one of the jobs of the coordinator will be to evaluate critically, these forms of relations. We are not going to arrive at the future alone, we need allies, and support, but we are going to seek out allies who have a heart for change. We have to remember that many of the large political projects and changes came about without large sums of money, and with peoples own resources.”

The advances in Bolivia and Ecuador, in the building of indigenous movements with strong leadership, capable of advocacy, influence and the assumption of important political positions, were recognized as inspirational antecedents.

"Over the past 20 years, the Bolivians and Ecuadorians have built their ethnic and political movements, but in Peru, over this time period it was not possible. There was a war, an extremely violent war, and as a consequence of the confrontation between the Aymara forces, the Sendero Luminoso, and the forces of the MRTA, it was impossible for anyone to even think about mounting a Quechua organization. There were so many massacres.

"The truth commission reported that 75% of the victims of this war were Quechua and Ashininka Indigenous Peoples, many of whom lived in the Amazon. And it was only when this war ended, more or less in 2000, that this united strength began to crystallize", explained Rojas.

However, not all indigenous people are aware of the political project of the Coordinator. The digital divide, inequities brought about by the high speed of modernity, collide with many communities, some of which have only very recently been contacted for the first time. “These communities suffer high levels of discrimination and live in situations of extreme vulnerability. Often they are treated as thieves or terrorists, when really in their way of thinking everything in nature is for consumption. And so they collide with the petrol extractors and others who are ravaging the natural resources.” For Batzin, “there is an urgent necessity to formulate new proposals and alternatives based on the recognition of diversity and the values transmitted by indigenous Peoples.”

“The struggle against neoliberalism and exploitation will continue to be a priority”, affirmed Cholango, “We are going to mobilize against unjust Free Trade Agreements, and against projects of collective suicide”.

Themes such as self governance, land rights, bilingual education, political participation, the construction of community forms of power, the recognition of dynamic cultural identities, and the development of alternative economic models which take into account transversals such as gender, bio diversity, and the environment , were highlighted as key priorities.

“We are also not only going to struggle for these changes for ourselves alone”, claimed Cholango, adding that we are doing this in solidarity with all peoples affected by poverty. Also, we are not only united for the past but also, we are doing this for our future, so that in the future, our young people will have this. And in the future, our young people, bilingual, trilingual, will govern with new faces, and new names and they will be more capable of moving easily between the different worlds, and achieving the changes called for.