New Internationalist

Territory, autonomy, dignity… and no coal’

September 2008

‘We are at the vanguard of the resistance,’ proclaims Jorge Montiel. He belongs to an indigenous organization called Maikivalasalii, meaning ‘Not for Sale’, reports IPS. At stake is his homeland, threatened by state and foreign-run coal mining operations in the Guajira Peninsula, which straddles the Colombia-Venezuela border on the Caribbean coast. ‘If coal mining operations continue to expand we will be left without land to grow crops or raise goats, to live in the ways of our culture. We will end up living in destitution in the cities,’ he adds.

Jorge’s community is part of the 500,000-strong Wayúu indigenous group, and it is not only their home in the northern foothills of the Sierra de Perijá which is under threat. Environmentalist Elpidio González explains: ‘If they open more mines it will be the end of the Wayúu communities, but also the end of the Sierra, because the forest clearing and pollution will destroy the trees, the rivers, the biodiversity and, ultimately, the water. What was once a mountain jungle will become a desert.’

Maikivalasalii, along with a number of other community and activist groups, is demanding that the Chávez Government fairly enact the 1999 constitution which established the demarcation of indigenous territories. Until now, only tiny blocks of land have been allocated, areas too small to be a source of food and to allow the communities to follow a way of life in accordance with their traditions. Says Jorge: ‘We are going to be the last to leave here, and that is why we want the demarcation of indigenous territories, so that we can protect the land and the water for everyone. We are the guarantors. Our motto is: territory, autonomy, dignity, and no coal.’

This column was published in the September 2008 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Never miss another story! Get our FREE fortnightly eNews

Comments on 'Territory, autonomy, dignity... and no coal'

Leave your comment


  • Maximum characters allowed: 5000
  • Simple HTML allowed: bold, italic, and links

Registration is quick and easy. Plus you won’t have to re-type the blurry words to comment!
Register | Login

...And all is quiet.

Subscribe to Comments for this articleArticle Comment Feed RSS 2.0

Guidelines: Please be respectful of others when posting your reply.

Get our free fortnightly eNews


Videos from visionOntv’s globalviews channel.

Related articles

Recently in Web only

All Web only

Popular tags

All tags

This article was originally published in issue 415

New Internationalist Magazine issue 415
Issue 415

More articles from this issue

  • Botswana

    September 1, 2008

    Since independence in 1966, Botswana’s annual growth rates have been the highest in the world – bar none. It is estimated that were it not for the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, growth rates would be one or two per cent higher today.

  • Breaking China’s coal addiction

    September 1, 2008

    Renewables revolution is there for the taking

  • Black holes and demonstrations

    September 1, 2008

    Positive outcome, but at a cost of seven campaigners lives, killed by police during a demonstration against the GCM coalmine in Bangladesh.

New Internationalist Magazine Issue 436

If you would like to know something about what's actually going on, rather than what people would like you to think was going on, then read the New Internationalist.

– Emma Thompson –

A subscription to suit you

Save money with a digital subscription. Give a gift subscription that will last all year. Or get yourself a free trial to New Internationalist. See our choice of offers.