Colombians have been on a national strike since April 28 with protests in 500 cities and blockades that have shut down the major highway. The protests were sparked by a proposed bill that would place the burden of financing the country’s debt on the people while cutting taxes for the wealthy, but economic conditions for most people have been in decline for a long time. The government has responded to the protests with violent repression by its militarized police that is funded and trained by the United States. Clearing the FOG speaks with Charo Mina-Rojas, a human rights defender in Colombia who was a leader in the 2016 peace agreement, about the protests, the conditions, and the political environment in Colombia.
Charo Mina-Rojas is an Afro-Colombian human rights defender with more than two decades of experience in activism at the national and international levels. Ms. Mina-Rojas is a member of the Black Communities’ Process (Proceso de Comunidades Negras- PCN) and a member of the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network.
Ms. Mina-Rojas was extensively involved in the Havana peace process, serving on the Gender Committee of the Ethnic Commission. The Ethnic Commission was composed of the Afro-Colombian Peace Council (CONPA) of which PCN is part, the National Indigenous Orgarnization (ONIC) and Consejo Mayor Indigena.
The Ethnic Commission was formed to advocate for the inclusion of Afro-Colombian and Indigenous rights and perspectives in the agreement. Their collective advocacy led to the landmark achievement of an Ethnic Chapter within the Peace Accord, which contains protections for Indigenous and Afro-Colombian Peoples, including for their gender-based human rights. Ms. Mina-Rojas was instrumental in guaranteeing that Afro-Colombian and Indigenous women’s rights were included in the final agreement.
Ms. Mina-Rojas is now a member of the Special High Level Body for Ethnic Peoples, and is working to ensure the Colombian Government’s peace implementation plan fully adheres to the provisions of the Ethnic Chapter and other relevant provisions of the Peace Accord, including its gender rights protections.
Ms. Mina-Rojas has worked for many years to educate grassroots Afro-descendant communities on Law 70 of 1993, which recognizes their cultural, territorial and political rights. It was PCN, the organization that she works for that successfully advocated for the enactment of this law as well as the development of the Observatory of Racial Discrimination in Colombia, and the addition of specific statistics on Afro-descendant people in the Census 2005. Ms. Mina-Rojas raises awareness about gross human rights violations against Afro-descendant women at national and international level, calls for accountability and provides protection for Afro-descendant women leaders and women human rights defenders.