In the beginning of the twenty-first century, a whole new generation of Colombians lived through what the ninetieth-century generation lived during the first years of the twentieth century: A loss of national territory. The ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of 2012 establishing a new Caribbean border between Colombia y Nicaragua, was a nostalgic tremor to the territorial losses of the Colombian government, which was not only due to the loss of Panama but for the Mosquitos coast, including its islands and keys. This loss was not only a tremor but a complete shaking for the inhabitants of the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina and more accurately for the raizal ethnic community.
This population –which lived on the islands even before the founding of the Republic of Colombia–, has Afro-Caribbean traits, is Protestant and has a native English language, recognized as “Raizals” by the Constitution of 1991, saw how the ruling of the ICJ was a new challenge to their rights as a territory. This reset a conflicting relationship with the Colombian government, which dates back to the “Colombianization” processes of the Archipelago, since the touristic-commercial free-port model intensification of the middle of the twentieth-century and the period of independence movement promotion from this population, provoking the follow-up and control of all suspicious activities from the Colombian authorities. This reactivation was linked to the marginalization with the defense carried out by the Colombian legal team of the existence and rights of the raizal community.
The research project entitled, “The incidence of raizals of the Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia, and Santa Catalina in the Colombian foreign policy: cooptation, cooperation and confrontation after the ruling of The Hague of 2012-2017” begins with an initial concern and is that the literature over what happened after the ruling of The Hague does not shed light to this conflict nor the raizal community as agents in the conflict, but simply as passive actors, over who a great injustice was unloaded upon. Again, the incapability of the Colombian government left this ethnic group as victims of their territory.
Therefore, they proposed that the raizals are not a passive actor and on the contrary they had a bearing on the Colombian foreign policy in regards to the territorial dispute between Colombia and Nicaragua after the ruling of 2012, boosting the relationship with the government which is characterized by fluctuating between confrontation, cooptation, and cooperation.
The research project considered the studies on ethnicity in foreign policy. The literature on the issue is diverse and does not have a unanimous approach. From this variety, they rebuilt the parts to understand the case. They took into account that ethnicity is understood as “a group which is exclusively identified with respect to a whole collective group in the national territory, which assumes the role of victim within a territory from a majority group and that has a differentiation and assertion speech of its differences through an agenda of self-determination and autonomy for its ancestral right to a territory.”
From this definition, the relationship forms between the government and this ethnic group are explained, which are the results of the foreign policy: confrontation, which explains the international action of the ethnic group, its confrontational speech toward the government and its sovereignty through threats to national identity and self-determination flags. Cooptation which comes from the government and tries to revert this situation attracting critical voices to policy structuration for the benefit of the ethnic group, besides coopting the action of the group through indirect support or participation. And lastly, cooperation is a mutual exercise where there is strategic convergence between the interests of both, a filtered agenda which is shared and allows supporting the government. These three explain the results of the foreign policy in which the raizals participated after the ruling of The Hague.
After the decision of The Hague, the Colombian government has carried out foreign policy moves; some will be shown as to note the incidence over the raizal community, which influenced the agenda through the three aforementioned relationship forms.
Confrontation was notorious with visits of raizals to Nicaragua –in which they met with President Daniel Ortega– and their brother community Bluefields, where they signed a memorandum of agreement which included a point referring to the elimination of barriers for communication between them. From there stemmed the legal petition from what is known as the Raizal team to eliminate visas to the Creole community of Nicaragua to visit the islands in 2017.
Cooptation was noted in the appointment of raizals and islanders close to the raizal cause in diplomatic positions: Fady Ortiz, a critic of the actions of the Colombian government, was named Ambassador to the Netherlands to work in La Hague issues; the conformation of the Raizal team to show greater inclusion of the ethnic factor after the new legal demand of Nicaragua in 2016. With this, the government tried to reduce the pressure exerted by raizals, who strongly claimed in face of the announcement of non-appearance to the ICJ, which changed at last moment and where the raizals also pressured, and the non-participation of the owners of the territory and excluding them from the strategies.
Lastly, cooperation was noted in the countersuit that Colombia made in the ICJ to Nicaragua, based on the inputs gathered from the Raizal team and which claims that Nicaragua is ignoring the ancestral fishing rights and the care of the environment. These were joint efforts and the strategy was a set of claims from the raizal community and interest from the Colombian government to protect the territory.
Therefore, the research project shows the capacity of the ethnic group by influencing the process backed by its mobilization capability, for its assertion agenda and not for the inclusion agenda of the government. The process continues, but now the ethnic card is on the table and the raizal issue is important. The results of this strategy change will be seen later, but it is clear that the raizal community had had an active and important role in the Colombian foreign policy after the The Hague ruling.
Consejo Editorial: Fredy Chaparro Sanabria Director Unimedios, Nelly Mendivelso Rodríguez Oficina de Prensa, Liseth Sayago Cortes Oficina de Realización Audiovisual, Carlos Raigoso Camelo, Oficina de Producción Radiofónica, Ramiro Chacón Martinez Oficina de Proyectos Estratégicos.
Editora: Liliana Matos
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