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  • Diana - Latinamerica Coordinator

D4C in Colombia: Debt, Alliances and the Fire Snake

Updated: Apr 10

Friday 19th Jan

It was difficult to exchange money as they were not accepting my $500 mxn. I arrived at my friend’s house, Gloria, and we looked for an exchange house that accepted my money bills. We succeeded, had a tour of the city center, where she told me revolutionary stories about each corner of it, then we drank a chicha (a fermentation from corn) and watched the movie “Embrace of the Serpent”.

Saturday 20th Jan

I met Esteban for the first time at Simón Bolívar Plaza. We looked for a SIM card for my phone, drank a coffee and talked about the left in Latinoamérica, Perón, Silvio Rodríguez, his illness and the meetings he had in Bogotá these last days. We also spoke about the debt swaps and the infiltration of the IMF in indigenous movements around here. We also talked about the expectations for this trip; we have some meetings already planned by Óscar, and we will also try to contact more organizations to bring debt cancellation into their agendas.

Then we meet with Óscar and his partner, Jenny. She’s working now in a feminist organization along with Francia Marquez, the Vice President of Colombia. We talked about the division of the country, the narco, the guerrillas, the elite groups and the difficulties that Petro, their president, is facing. We talked about fracking, the US military bases and the lack of information they have about Colombian public debt. We agreed on having some meetings next week and about the excitement of meeting with indigenous leaders this next Friday.

Then we meet with an artist friend of Álvaro and then we separate our ways. I’m now writing from my friend’s house, gonna read a book I’ve got about the debt in Latinoamérica (the Colombian chapter) and then gonna sleep.

Sunday 21st Jan

I visited PaloQuemao market with my friend Gloria, where I got to know a lot of colorful and tasty fruits. We also tried the yuca bread. Then we took a taxi and went to the flea market, drank juices and then we walked into La Independencia park. Then we met with Esteban and the painter we met yesterday, Constanza. We went together to a free tango show in a community center. Then we went to a coffee shop, which is a meeting point for poets and artists, where Homero, the owner, needed our help to place him into his bed, cause he is 80 years old and is disabled, so he cannot walk. Then we ate some crepes together and then Gloria and I returned home to watch “Los reyes del mundo” (such a sad and eye opening film).

Fruits held in hand at market
Viva la vida!

Monday 22nd

Today we had our first crisis call, then the fundraising call. I started working on the spreadsheet to calculate the money we need for mobilizations and conferences in Latin America. Also I started working on the script for the video that our region proposed for talking about the relationship between debt and women oppression.

After that, I encounter my friend Gloria to have some vegan food, and then I moved to La Redada, a cultural space where we encounter leaders of peasants organizations: Coordinación Nacional Agrario, Fuerza Nacional Campesina, Asociación de campesinos y pescadores, Red Campesina Rural and Red Nacional de Organizaciones Campesinas and Anti Fracking Alliance.

Debt for Cimate team with ONIC members around office table.
D4C team meeting ONIC in their offices.

First they shared their struggles with the new government. Even when they like Petro, there are a lot of contradictions and alliances between his government and the right wing, the OTAN and Biden, so they are also critical about him. They shared their desires of building autonomy in their territories by creating energy communities, giving back land to displaced people, creating popular economies, and free access to education and health functional systems. They shared the intrusion of OTAN “defending the Amazons'', the USA military bases in the region and the obstacles they face for accessing the money and resources that Petro promised. Colombian debt is more than 190,000,000 US dollars.
 Now they are fostering dialogues with civil society for achieving true peace, so the guerrillas don’t simply disappear and leave the space free for mining and extractive foreign companies. They shared that since the peasant strike in 2013, the peasants are acknowledged as subjects of law and special protection, but even that, they are still stigmatized as people that “harms the Amazons”. Among the big problems they face everyday are the state politics aligned with the right wing, paramilitaries, international extractive companies, hydroelectrics, foreignization of the land and mining for the energy transition of the North.

Esteban, Óscar and I presented to them the D4C movement, answered their questions and gathered their contact details for creating a D4C Colombia chat. They understood and accepted our campaign. We showed that D4C is at their service, so they can use it as a platform to amplify their voices and find a common point between feminist, indigenous and workers at a global scale, as a mechanism to generate popular power. We clarified aspects about the debt swaps. D4C is also a diagnosis of the financial and environmental crisis we are facing and that will only get worse if we don’t act now, all united. They told us they need this kind of radical postures, so when negotiations came they can get an equilibrium. They proposed to get this campaign to the other leaders with whom they organize, inviting us to their digital call this next Thursday. They got excited and proposed to have a “working breakfast” with more people to work deeper on this, facing the Biodiversity COP 16 that is gonna take place here this year, inviting also people from Perú and Brazil to work together towards 2025. We made a Whatsapp group with all their contacts and shared there our FAQs, campaign summary, social media, website and mobilization video. I would say, this was a great success! 
After the meeting I came back home to have my weekly meeting with la Promotora Nacional para la Suspensión del Pago de la Deuda Pública, in which they talked about the Argentinian debt and their current situation. 

Tuesday 23rd

I woke up early to have our core group call when I received a call from Óscar to go early to ONIC offices to meet there with Paulo Añokazi, leader from la Mesa Permanente de Concertación. So I ran and ran, grabbing a yogurt from a store, and I just managed to arrive at the place one minute before the call. Fffuf, they don’t have internet, so I connect with data. As Paulo was not arriving I could stay in our call for 1 hour and 44 minutes. After that, we waited and waited for him to appear, but he never arrived. So Esteban and I went for lunch and discussed difficult situations that happened within D4C; we definitely need some protocols as more conflicts are gonna appear.

We asked for a taxi as Avispero offices are quite far from the city center. On the way we talked about how to mobilize in Latin America and what kind of actions we should embrace. We must acknowledge that people are already working on their own platforms and organizations, so D4C should serve them for organizing and introducing debt cancellation into their own agendas. We also thought that summoning people as individuals could weaken the movement, as the energy and excitement get lost in the way, so the best idea for introducing debt into the public discussion would be talking with head of organizations and collectives, so they can incorporate our demand into their own agendas and into the public discussion.

When we arrived, we met with Alejandra from Avispero. They work in a Wework (coworking place) with 18 people in their office, but more people also work from home. They work as a platform for civilian mobilization, with a base of more than 150,000 people in Colombia (mostly in Cali and Bogotá). Their work has incidence in public politics, as they work for social media and street mobilizations. They receive their resources from Mobilizatorio and from donations. Nowadays they focus on 6 topics: 1. Education, 2. Gender. 3. Environment. 4. Peace. 5. Leadership and 6. Youth. They shared a bit about their “civic technology”, their database, their calls to action to sign petitions, to attend events and to participate in street mobilizations. They shared about the circle of civilian conversations in real life, in the mountains, with the trees and in COP 28. They have good alliances with the University in Bogotá, and also they are in good contact with decision-makers. They do a great job on helping people understand their campaigns, so they can promote them clearly and effectively.

Avispero also offers training in communications for environmental youth leaders. They have a great communication and design team, which they say is one of the most important parts of them, and that’s why it costs a lot of money.

They asked questions about our campaign; they thought we were advocating for debt swaps, so we went deep on this to make it clear. They seemed super interested in this, saying that they are gonna share D4C with “Colombia Resuena”, a group they support forming youth leaders.

They told us they need to talk to their CEO (Juliana) on how they could support us more and how we can build a strategic alliance, but for now they promised: 1. Valuate how much money it would cost us to give us a deep communications consultancy, 2. Inviting us to their communications courses, 3. And bringing the campaign to their citizen conversations. I promised to provide them with the analysis that CLACSO made from Colombia debt (the book that Promotora Nacional made about the debt in Latam and Caribe), and also sharing the articles that CADTM has about Colombia and about the swaps.

Then we left and moved to SINEDIAN, which is the union for customs workers. This was arranged by Óscar and Pedro. There 8 union leaders listened to us. They share that 54% of their GDP goes to pay debt; even when tax collection has tripled in the last 3 years, everything is still the same or worse: all this new money has been directed to debt payments. They also shared that their problems are not just with fossils, as 80% of their electric energy comes from hydroelectrics, stripping water from communities. They also got super enthusiastic about D4C, so they are gonna bring it into their organizational meetings. I shared with them flyers and we exchanged contacts, so I created a chat for sending them the FAQs, expanded info and our mobilization video. Success!

D4C team and SINEDIAN members in a circle in front of a decorated red wall.
D4C team meeting with SINEDIAN (National Union of Employees Directorate of National Taxes and Customs).

Then we moved to COICA again, meeting finally with Paulo Añokazi. We talked for around 3 hours about how uniting struggles and territories; he knows our campaign quite well. They seemed to rush to bring solutions into their territories, as Petro has only 20 months more left in the presidency; they have never had this opportunity of having the left in the government, and it seems this would never happen again. They have been having conversations with Petro about the swaps, but they say that it seems that Petro says one thing internationally, but internally things are different. As usual, they are critical about him, but they also know it could always be worse.

Along with Óscar and another comrade from la Mesa Permanente de Concertación, (which I forgot her name because she was having another 2 meetings at the same time), they said it would be great to arrange as soon as possible a forum about Debt cancellation with organizations from Perú and Brazil, working on the agendas and strategic demands about debt, building since now the alliances necessary to face COP30 strongly. They proposed to have a meeting in March in Leticia (Colombia) with 3 leaders from each of these countries. For this I’m having a call with them next week to see clear names, budgets, needs and goals. I proposed to include Alicia in these conversations and meetings too, so she can also monitor and accompany these dialogues, assuring everything is accomplished. They accepted so next meeting we will have more info on this.

I came back home really late, so I need to hurry up doing my accounting, sending the information I promised in the new chats, reading WhatsApp groups and finishing this diary. Uf, I’m exhausted, but super happy!

Wednesday 24

Today I got a big bittersweet feeling. It’s a sad day in Bogotá. Two days ago, a fire hit the oriental mountains that border the city. People around here knew something in the air was odd. Since I arrived there are no clouds, sky is blue and the days are warm. I never expected that this could mean something wrong, but it was for sure something unusual for the inhabitants or the territory. When the fire started, they knew it was linked with this weather, as they were expecting some rain this summer, but no single drop is visible in the skies. Today the fire is covering huge amounts of land in three different parts of the mountains, giving to the skyline an apocalyptic frame, full of flames, smoke and uncertainty, as there are not enough helicopters and firefighters to stop this.

In the afternoon, Esteban and I met with Mayra from OPIAC-COICA. She told us that today was the warmest day in Bogotá’s climate history. Smiling and always super professional, she quickly explained to us the 40 years history of COICA, an organization that gathers indigenous collectives from the 9 amazonian countries. She told us about the Movement of Indigenous Women in Defense of the Amazon, the leadership of Fany Kuiru Castro as a General Coordinator of Coica (2023-2027) and the interventions they are doing in their territories. She told us about the conflicts between these territories, either by language differences, constitutional disparities, continuation of the colonies, personal conflicts and poor lines of physical and digital communications. She told us about their campaign #CUENTAREGRESIVA80X25, which aims to save 80% of the Amazon by 2025. She also shared that indigenous communities are familiar with the carbon bonus, as a lot of “carbon pirates” came to buy land to make profit from it, displacing people, fragmenting their communities and favoring the entering of narcos and mining; that’s why they are already skeptics over the debt swaps. She acknowledges that it is crucial to generate unity between these territories to protect the Amazon and to build their true autonomies. The people in these territories need financial capacitation, a good communications infrastructure and contact with other territories from the Global South to know how they struggle and resist. She mentioned that this requires a huuuge amount of money, as for example, there are no direct flights between these territories, and supplies are way more expensive on Amazon than in its surroundings (gasoline, food, accommodation…). For example, for the Women events at COP21 they gathered thousands of dollars to bring them all together, sometimes flying Aruba-France-Colombia as no direct flights are available. She said that now along with Fany they are reaching out to the original creators of COICA, trying to remember collectively why it was funded, and that no such large amounts of money are necessary to get the financial autonomy they want.

When we shared our campaign she got super happy, as more than 10 years ago she was in the US fighting for debt cancellation, so she is gonna bring our campaign and flyers to Fany and more women leaders in the region. We agreed on being in contact for the 8M webinar, as we would like to invite them to attend and maybe planning a strategy to make them participate, sending short videos saluting the world.

After our successful meeting, I went to Gloria’s house, where she was crying because their friends climbed the mountains to help to stop the fire, but it got out of control, as one burning tree fell on 6 people, perforating the lungs of her friend Arturo, who is now in hospital. We hugged, went for a last walk before I departed and then we witnessed the most sublime and scariest scenario ever: the fire was creating a serpent line, descending from the top of the mountain into the city. It seemed as if Bachué, the ancestor serpent from which the Muiscas descended –the original people of this land– was springing up again from the lake on the mountains to warn its valley children about a huge catastrophe coming. At the same time, and just behind this fire line and its clouds of smoke, a giant full moon arose, showing us that even when chaos and death surround us, the beauty of this world will never vanish.

With this image I left Bogotá, heading now to the shores of the mysterious and sacred Amazon.

Thursday 25th

We woke up in Rionegro. During the night I had strange dreams. I went down to have breakfast and Esteban was strange, a little irritable. Óscar had fallen asleep, but when he came down he told us that in Valparaiso they were waiting for us with the medicine for Esteban, and that we would first have to enter a temazcal to detoxify ourselves. The temazcal is a semi-spherical structure without ventilation that goes directly to the earth, in which people welcome their ancestral stones, which after being heated in a strong fire for more than 4 hours, are introduced to the center of the construction, and water with aromatic herbs and incense is thrown on them, creating a kind of sauna of collective healing.

We ate without saying anything else and then we began the serene drive to Valparaíso.

For four hours we saw how the landscape was getting warmer, but always full of life. Óscar told us that these territories are full of paramilitaries, since from this region came much conservative thinking, which emerged after the land was given as a present to private companies during the Uribe period. Also in this area there is a lot of coca cultivation.

We arrived at the village and each of us went to our rooms. The idea was to eat something and then go to where the taita, the spiritual elder, was waiting for us.

During the meal Esteban told us that he did not feel well or with the ability to withstand temperatures of more than 40°; he felt affected and preferred to stay alone. Óscar did not reply and said that he was fine, that he should listen to his body and that he and I should go anyway. There we were received in a maloca, a sacred space dedicated to speech and healing. The taita shared his mambe and ambil, and spoke with us much of his wisdom about lies, bad intentions, humanity, the heart, sweet talk, grandmother plants, the seed of the word and fire. After a while, about 100 years, we entered the temazcal with the mayors, the children, the babies, and the youth of the community. From the moment the first stone started, it was very difficult to breathe and you could feel your skin burning. The loud singing and screaming of the babies began. I could not help but convulse in tears, finding refuge in the screams of the children. After the first chant to Ometeotl, Huitzilopochtli, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca, the door opened and people began to breathe. The mothers and babies came out; with this new space we could lie down on the earth to breathe its cold air. More stones came in, the doors closed and the chanting restarted. This was repeated for 5 cycles, where we thanked our ancestors, our territories and gods for putting us here together.

When we left the temazcal we lay down on the cold grass to contemplate the majestic mountains facing the sunset. By accident I lay down on an ant hill and got stung all over my right arm. After some hours I noticed that the pain I had been having there for a couple of years was greatly reduced. They gave us a bath of water with lemon leaves, we said goodbye with the agreement of meeting again in the evening, so we left to rest a little in the town. When I entered the rooms, I found Esteban's key on the kitchen counter. I saw that I had a message from him saying that he was not feeling well and that he was leaving without us. I was a little worried, but I understood his decision and his need to be alone. I showered, had a call with D4C Mexico and at 9pm Oscar picked me up to return to the maloca with the elders to treat us with their medicine, singing and prayers. I felt a lot of clarity to discern the power of our campaign, a lot of confidence in the women and men we work with and a lot of strength to continue our struggle, which is just and necessary. The elders gave me their voice and resistance to continue this journey with all of you. Thank you.

Friday 26th

Álvaro and Luci called me in the morning, telling me that Esteban was going to Medellin to meet them. I was relieved and proceeded with my computer work, calmly and quickly. I made the invoices for the VLE payments, I had an interview about D4C with Rodrigo Estrada from the Mesa Permanente de Concertación in Colombia, who have a printed newspaper where they are going to publish us; then I had a call for the coordination of the Earth Social Conference in Oaxaca, but I noticed internal coordination and communication problems, so not many people joined the meeting. I have faith that they will be able to coordinate to bring this to a good end.

After the calls and negotiations, Óscar arrived for me to go to the Cabildo of the Resguardo Marcelino Tascón, where the elders, the children, the leaders and representatives of the communities meet every Friday to share their word about the organization of the indigenous territories of the region. There they shared mambe and ambil, tobacco, sahumerios, infused waters, songs and dances, while the word was sown and flourished. The meeting lasted more than 5 hours, while the spiritual elders shared their visions on the defense of the territory and the environment. They gave me the floor to share our campaign and I felt very clear in sharing our work with them; they received this word with interest, as they recognize how extraction, colonialism and debt affects their territories. They felt very interested in knowing how the indigenous peoples of Africa and Asia struggle, resist and exist, so they told me that they will support us. They told me that they need to "mambear" this campaign more, that they should discuss it with their spiritual guides and that we should share with them more in-depth information about the numbers and mechanisms of the debt, so that they know how to get involved, but that they will definitely support us. Óscar took photos and videos and then on the FB page of the Resguardo they shared more photos.

We went back to rest for a while; Óscar told me about the struggle of indigenous peoples in Colombia to be recognized as subjects of rights and protection, about guerrillas, violence and peace processes, about corruption, cocaine and drug trafficking, about institutional and democratic processes for the defense of life and about experiences he has had in the defense of the territory. He is also a great teacher.

6 members of Marcelino Tascón sitting in line wearing colorful collars.
Members of the "Marcelino Tascón" Indigenous Reservation of the Municipality of Valparaíso.

Children dancing traditional music in a row indoors.
Children part of the reservation dancing traditional music.

Woman in white dress and colorful collar.
Leaders of the Indigenous Reservation

5 people standing up indoors.
D4C present in the political meeting of the "Marcelino Tascón" Indigenous Reservation.

We went to have some dinner, and from there we headed back to the Resguardo, where they were holding a night ceremony. Many people from the community gathered there, sharing songs and dances, which represent their historical and spiritual organizations. Children, leaders and elders shared again the mambe and ambil, tobacco and herbal teas, which gave us serenity, understanding, empathy and coherence. We left around 3am, but it seemed that they would continue well into the early hours of the morning.

Saturday 27th

We woke up early to leave for Medellín. On the way we stopped for 20 minutes at a beautiful river where people were bathing and laughing. I took a couple of videos of the plants, rocks and animals, when suddenly a pickup truck came in and the men in it started grabbing lots of rocks from the river. I felt a little scared because I had been filming the river when the men came to take the stones, and they stared at me for a long time, while talking quietly among themselves; I felt it was an illegal extraction, and I had everything documented by accident. I put the camera away and left the place, getting into the truck to wait for Óscar. Óscar on many occasions talked about the paramilitaries in the region and the violence around here, so I preferred not to stay close to avoid any problems or confrontation.

We arrived in Medellín, and I was dropped off at Berrío Park, where Álvaro and Luci were waiting for me at a sit-in for Palestina. There they introduced me to many of their comrades. The square was full of people dancing, singing, doing political acts and selling juices. A very hectic area with a lot of political and social life. I was told that Estaban was on a nearby mountain in a ceremony, so we would see him early tomorrow morning.

Three people in Palestinian sit-in holding sign and Palestinian flag.
D4C team present in the mobilization for Palestine in Medellín.

When the sit-in was over they took me to see the Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe, where there was an exhibition of contemporary art and a terrace from where you get a beautiful view of the city. Then we walked through the park where there are many sculptures by Botero. We went to the university in the public square, where we sat and talked for a while. Then we went to dinner and later to meet his friend William, who is a programmer of video art cycles. An hour later I felt exhausted from all the teachings of the previous days, the road and the sit-in, so I went to rest at his friend Alberto's house, since they had no space at their house for the moment.

Sunday 28

I woke up at Alberto's house, Álvaro and Lucy's friend. After he returned from his daily bicycle ride, we had breakfast together and he told me about the social outbreak in Colombia in 2021, the mobilization in the streets, the violence during the guerrillas, his involvement in social causes, the prevailing right in Medellín, the Uribe’s regime and the moral ambivalence of Colombians.

After this beautiful conversation, I started working on these diaries and answering chats and emails. Since my cell phone didn't turn on, Álvaro picked me up and we went to a temple that he goes to every week, where we met Luci and Esteban, who had just come down from his medicine session in the mountains. He told us that it went very well, that the medicine took a toll on him, but that he felt better. There we heard a reading of a spiritual guide and had lunch together. From there we walked to the metro to take a cable car tour of the city and then head to a town called Barbosa, where Álvaro's house is. He splitted from us for some part of the trip because he had to go to get her mother, since he was gonna take her to the doctor in Barbosa the next day. When we arrived Esteban was already irritable and tired again, so he tried to rest.

I stayed talking in the afternoon with Luci, who told me how the feminist movement was in Colombia, about her participation with XR, about the struggles for water and for the defense of the land, as well as her time at university. Álvaro and Esteban joined us for a moment, where we talked about dictatorships in Latin America, Milei, comedians from the region and revolutionary musicians.

Monday 29

Álvaro went to take his mother to the hospital and when he returned, Esteban left directly to Europe. Álvaro accompanied him to the station and I walked with Luci through the forest. On the tour I helped Dianey to edit the payment excel and I decided to return home to start working on the budget for actions and meetings in Latin America. I joined the core group meeting to put together the agenda for the global call. I talked to Álvaro about the problems and disappointments they have had with Óscar, but that they still love him and will continue in the fight with him. Then we talked about what would be done at the People's Health Assembly.

The three of us went swimming for a while in a river and we went to the center of town to have a coffee and talk about Latin American cinema, the cultural battles and the resistance of the indigenous peoples of Cauca.

We returned and I went to rest. These last few days I feel like my energy is low, but my spirit is high.

Tuesday 30

I woke up early to continue working on the budget document. We reviewed it between the three of us and agreed to call again next Thursday with clearer details. We had breakfast and started packing everything because today we return to Medellín together and from there I fly back to Bogotá. I received sad news from home, so I began to absorb myself. I recorded one last video with Álvaro and we left for Medellín. Along the way I was reflecting on the long road that remains to be retracted within this voracious capitalism, and how important it is to take care of our energies and find ways to heal collectively, taking into account the strength and safety of individuals. Álvaro talked about the importance of forgiveness and finding ways for our struggles to be based on strong friendship and trust, which is the only thing that in the end makes us strong.

I thought about the errors and omissions of previous D4C members, and all those who will come. What would be the processes for men to learn to collaborate and care for their fellow fighters? What do we have to do to recreate lost trust? How can women confront and undo the violence inherent in our patriarchal structures? I don't have any answers, just a lot of doubts and confidence that if something is done from the heart, it can be stronger than hatred and forgetfulness.

I arrived in Bogotá and met my friend Gloria, who told me what happened with the fires. She told me that she saw Esteban because he came to pick up his suitcase and that he looked tired. We talk about the political decision processes carried out by indigenous peoples in Colombia, the importance of their medicines and the long road ahead to recognize them as the future of our Earth.

Wednesday 31st

I had a last meeting with Paulo from Mesa Permanente de Concertación and Óscar, who asked me if it was possible if D4C arranged an encounter on debt gathering 3 Amazonian organizations: ONIC (Colombia), PUINAMUDT (Perú) and APIB (Brazil). They said that they could arrange these meetings along with people from D4C to go deep into Debt systems, numbers and solutions. They mentioned it would be also good to have someone from CADTM to go deep into the problems of the Debt Swaps, the Payment for ecosystem services and the Carbon offsets and credits. They would like to have these encounters prior to the Biodiversity COP 16 in Colombia and the COP 30 in Brazil, so they are familiar with all the topics, demands, experiences and solutions. They know of these organizations in the Amazons, but never had worked along with them, so it would be good to work together on the debt system, creating strong connections before 2025. I said to them I would consult with all of you and that it would be good to think on budgets for this. They confirmed their interest in working along D4C and pushing Petro’s agendas against debt. We said goodbye and with the two hours left, I headed to the Gold Museum. Then I headed to Gloria’s home to pick up my stuff and go back to MX.

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