[No photographs yet—I hope to post some soon. And the Spanish translation will have to wait a while.]
A mass march of miners and supporters had been called for 8 AM today, August 1, starting at the cathedral in the center of the city. I knew very well that nothing would start anywhere close to 8 AM, but try as I might I could not overcome my gringo impulse to be on time, so I left the house at about 7:20—earlier than necessary to get there at 8.
Still, many people identify with the "small miners," or feel their future lies with them. And as one activist friend pointed out--it doesn't matter that people were paid to come to the march from the communities, or even if they felt intimidated. What is most relevant is that the miners were able to mobilize so many people."
The march was very well organized. The miners' federations provided food, organied the delegations, even even had big banners that crossed the road, saying where everyone was from. There were some funny aspects to this: for example, there were a few banners that said "Health (that health institutions or workers) support the paro," and "Education (that is schools and teachers) support the paro." But it was evident that the people holding them weren't health workers or teachers, but mine workers or barequeros. The truth is, most people not directly associated with the issue kept their distance, and in general behind closed doors, because of what turned out to be exaggerated fears.
By Thursday morning, normalcy had returned; there was an announcement on the radio yesterday evening that the miners’ federations will be negotiating with the government and the paro had been lifted. That's good for everyone, I think.
But there remains a serious issue, even before they deal with the transnationals. It's fine that the government and the miners will be negotiating--but if the communities, the federations, the organizations are not invited to the table, there's no way to deal with the issues—environmental damage, violation of the special rights of Afro and Indigenous communities in Colombian law, and more—generated by the current arrangement, can be addressed.
And in the end, I worry, even if the miners, the communities, the activists can all come together and form a common front, in the face of the enormous power and resources of the Colombian state and the transnational corporations, and in the era of Free Trade Agreements, whether they can put up an effective resistance.
Both in the short run and for the future, there's still a lot to unfold.
One good thing is that some of the federations of the affected communities here seem to have places at this table.
The first meeting of this group was scheduled for August 15, but on August 14 we learned that it had been postponed for a week.
What still feels certain to me is that the power of the transnationals and their allies in the national government is very great. And also that for the Colombian Pacific, as well as for countries like Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, and many more, and even more in Africa and Asia, and of course, even at home in the US, our futures hang in the balance as extractive industries (mining, oil drilling, lumbering) seem every day to be a greater threat to our cultures, to our social arrangements, and to our planet.