Alternative Media Cover the Colombian "Minga"

From (Mario Murillo's coverage of the Indigenous March to Bogota): It's been a busy series of days here in Bogotá as the MINGA Popular continues to expand and flourish. From the streets in the center of the city, to the Plaza del Ché at the National University where an international forum was held on Saturday, from the media centers of the indigenous movement to the dozens of meetings taking place around the city where "Mingueros" are discussing the five point agenda with all the sectors that are interested to listen, the enthusiasm and energy of the popular movement can be felt. After Friday's massive march through Bogotá that started at the campus of the National University, one that brought together over 20,000 people into the Plaza Bolivar for a spirited rally under a consistent rain, Saturday was a day focused more on concrete work that needs to be carried out to continue the organizing of the people.


The highest profile meeting was held at la SENA, where government ministers and the indigenous leadership met for several hours in a tense session to discuss the government's failure to fulfill its obligations to the communities under previous accords, and the ongoing violence being carried out by the state security forces against indigenous people..... .....There have been a number of other big stories making headlines in Colombia the last several days, pushing the coverage of the Minga to a second, third and even fourth tier in terms of the commercial news agenda. The ongoing crisis caused by the financial schemes known as "Pyramids" continues to generate the most attention, followed since Friday morning by the natural disaster unfolding as a result of the eruption of the Nevado del Huila volcano. Latest reports say that at least ten people were killed and another 150 remain trapped as of Sunday morning as a result of the avalanche and mudslide caused by the melting of the snow after the eruption. The departments affected by the eruption include Huila, Tolima and Cauca, in particular the indigenous territory of Tierradentro.Face of one of the indigenous guards that provide security for the march.


Yet despite the limited commercial media coverage of the important events related to the protests and meetings this weekend, it is quite apparent that the Minga has developed a life of its own, and is not dependent anymore on getting the attention of these corporate information channels. The representation of the Minga on the major news channels has been problematic from the start. The evidence is clear: The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC, has been documenting every news piece that has come out on just about every media outlet since October 11th, so anybody interested can check for themselves. The public, unfortunately, remains extremely uninformed about the historic developments that are unfolding before them. Today, there are many alternatives! The massive presence of independent media at all these events - video cameras documenting the marches and rallies, photographers clicking away at the dramatic militance of the protesters, community radio producers gathering natural sound, speeches, and interviews for their respective outlets - are presenting a comprehensive alternative narrative - the people's narrative - that undoubtedly is having an impact on how the Minga is playing out with public opinion. It has resulted in tremendous solidarity from abroad, and unprecedented collaboration and participation from ordinary people here in Colombia since the Minga began. Despite the false accusations of the government, despite the racist underpinnings of the media coverage, and the almost deliberate mis-information that has accompanied it, the people have come out in small towns and large cities to welcome the mingueros, and join with them in solidarity. No doubt there is still profound opposition to the Minga from a certain, very powerful and intolerant sector of Colombian society. I am not naive to think that the indigenous movement has reached everybody with equal amounts of empathy and solidarity. If you read the comments section on the websites of El Tiempo and El Espectador, for example, the vitriolic hate speech comes across loud and clear. But undoubtedly there is widespread support from a broad cross section of the Colombian population who have simply had enough of the Uribe propaganda machine.