Heriberto Arrechea Banguera,
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Colombia’s 1991 Constitution, which came about due to the Constituent Assembly born out of peace talks with M-19 guerrillas, the Revolutionary Workers Party (PRT), the Popular Liberation Army (EPL), and the Quintin Lame movement, declared Colombia to be a pluri-ethnic society. It paved the way for legislation that protected Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities’ collective, individual, and political rights. As a result, these groups were granted two permanent seats in the Colombian Congress with the purpose of representing their respective interests.
In 2013, two “mestizos” ran as candidates for the Afro-Colombian seats with the support of an Afro-Colombian group called the Ebony Foundation of Colombia (FUNECO). They won the election through questionable means, including with alleged support from a local powerbroker known as “La Gata,” who is currently serving 40 years in jail for links to paramilitarism. Since then, Afro-Colombian activists have taken legal action, arguing that these congressional seats are meant for Afro-Colombians. In this April 23 discussion, panelists will present their views on this situation and what mechanisms can be put in place to guarantee a political space for Afro-Colombians as the country transitions into a post-conflict era.