Last Updated: Monday, 30 May 2016, 14:07 GMT

Colombia: A separation movement on the island of San Andres (1995-2000), and current situation of the "raizal" community

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 30 January 2001
Citation / Document Symbol COL36416.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Colombia: A separation movement on the island of San Andres (1995-2000), and current situation of the "raizal" community, 30 January 2001, COL36416.E, available at: [accessed 31 May 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

No references to a separatist movement in the Caribbean island of San Andrés could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Further to COL33293.E of 24 January 2000 and COL33541.E of 17 January 2000, various sources refer to concerns from raizales or members of the native black population of the San Andres archipelago, and from varoius government and non-government institutions, mostly referring to pressure on the resources and environment of the archipelago, and on the cultural identity of the native population, due to immigration from the Colombian mainland.

Negotiations between islanders and the national government have continued since the unrest reported in COL33292.E: in December 2000 a delegation of the "Native Organization of the Archipelago Sustainable Development" met with President Andres Pastrana (Opiniones 20 Dec. 2000). The delegation was headed by Felix Palacio Stephens, and included Thomas Livingston Velez, Sandra Howard and Carlos Jose Archbold; at the meeting with President Pastrana, the San Andres representation included deputy Walid Waked and Ricardo Taylor (ibid.). The delegation reportedly was optimistic after the meeting, in which the President promised to reinstate a subsidy of fuel for generating electricity in the archipelago (ibid.). The group also was to discuss concerns over different proposals for an islands' statute being negotiated (ibid. 19 Dec. 2000), but available reports do not specify whether any conclusions or agreements were reached on these proposals. Spokespersons for this committee of prominent islanders (notables) had already met with President Pastrana in August during a forum on foreign trade, and by the end of September it was reported that a delegation would meet again with the President (ibid. 29 Sept. 2000). The September 2000 report lists a number of other members of the committee.

Tensions between authorities and members of the raizal community reportedly flared up again at the end of July 2000 after police attempted to remove a commercial kiosk set up on public beach land, after an appeal by its owners was dismissed by the courts (ibid. 1 Aug. 2000). To defuse the situation, where hundreds of people had reportedly occupied the area to prevent the removal and erected roadblocks on two roads, the governor suspended the removal order and set up a working group involving spokespersons of the community to deal with issues raised during the standoff (ibid.).

An October 2000 opinion article by a person described as having over 30 years of experience in the social and economic issues of the archipelago indicates that the archipelago is facing a serious leadership and social problem, stating that the economy is in trouble and "no one wants to be governor" (nadie quiere ser gobernador) (ibid. 27 Oct. 2000). The article adds that everyone gets "at each other's throat over anything" (viven sacándose los ojos por todo lo imaginable), including raizales and pañas, catholics and baptists, sanandresanos and providencianos, store owners and hoteliers, and blacks and whites (ibid.).

The jurisprudence published by the Colombian Ministry of Justice shows that the constitutionality of legislation devised to protect the environment and cultural identity of San Andres, specifically Decree No. 2762 of 1991 and Law No. 47 of 1993, have been challenged on constitutional grounds before the Constitutional Court. Some of the objections to the law relate to the restriction of the right of mainland Colombians to migrate, settle and work in the islands of the San Andres archipelago. However, the Constitutional Court of Colombia determined on 11 November 1993 and on 2 February 1999 respectively, that these laws were constitutional and enforceable (Constitutional Court 11 Nov. 1993; Ministry of Justice 8 June 1999). The text of the 1993 sentence of the court refers to a variety of reports and information gathered in its fact-finding efforts or provided by local groups and national institutions, which refer to serious concerns about the islands' viability in the context of an extremely high density of population and a number of environmental problems, such as deterioration of coral reefs and mangroves, and limited supply of drinking water (Constitutional Court 11 Nov. 1993). The sentence also refers to the increasing number of mainland Colombians who find themselves without work in San Andres and thus are at risk of running into conflict with the law (ibid.). The court concluded that the protective legislation is in agreement with the Constitution and is justified to preserve the survival of the islands' communities and the islands themselves (ibid.).

The island groups that submitted information to the Constitutional Court include the local chapter of the Natural Resources and Environment Agency of Colombia, the New Reef Foundation, the Presidents of the Community Action Boards of San Andres, and the Son of the Soil Movement (ibid.).

The Constitutional Court refers to the Son of the Soil movement as a legally registered organization (persona jurídica) and names Mr. Guillermo Francis Manuel as a coordinator (ibid.). A Mexican organization advocating indigenous rights publish in their websites a document reportedly distributed by Mr. Enrique Pusey Bent, president of Sons of the Soil Movement – SOS (Red de Informacion 14 Nov. 2000). The publication states that while Colombian law provides significant provisions for the raizal people, the office created in 1991 to control migration to the island has not worked because it is controlled by the elected governor of the archipelago, where currently a majority of voters are not raizal and oppose any control on migration to the islands (ibid.). The publication states that the raizal people have among their demands: an end to "colonization" and a resettlement of a majority of colonos to their place of origin; an official recognition of the archipelago as "raizal territory," with restitution of a majority of the land that raizales lost to mainlanders; "full participation" of the raizal people in all decisions that affect the archipelago; and a review and renegotiation, with raizal participation, of the international treaties and agreements that grant fishing rights to foreigners (ibid.).

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination provides in its 17 November 1998 report on Colombia a discussion of the situation of the raizal communities of the San Andres archipelago (See Section III: The Afro-Colombian Population or Black Communities of Colombia), including their distinction from other black communities of Colombia, social and economic aspects, and the level of progress made by the government in addressing various concerns and commitments.

The Research Directorate was unable to communicate with sources in San Andres Island, particularly the SOS and news sources, within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Constitutional Court of Colombia, Bogota. 11 November 1993. Sentencia No. C-530/93. [Accessed 26 Jan. 2001]

Ministry of Justice, Bogota. 8 June 1999. Resumen Sentencia No. C-053/99. [Accessed 26 Jan. 2001]

Programa Opiniones [San Andres]. 20 December 2000. "Regresó optimista comisión de isleños." [Accessed 24 Jan. 2001]

_____. 19 December 2001. "Isleños se reunen con el Presidente Pastrana." [Accessed 24 Jan. 2001]

_____. 27 October 2000. Dr. Raul Jaramillo Panesso. "Como vamos, se pierde el archipiélago." [Accessed 26 Jan. 2001]

_____. 29 September 2000. "Comisión de isleños dialogará con Pastrana sobre estatuto raizal." [Accessed 24 Jan. 2001]

_____. 1 August 2000. "Suspenden desalojo y cede tensión con raizales." [Accessed 26 Jan. 2001]

Red de Informacion para Organizaciones Indigenas de Mexico, Mexico City. Boletines de la Agencia Internacional de Prensa India, Region Noroeste. 14 November 2000. No. 189. [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 17 November 1998. Ninth Periodic Report of States Parties Due in 1998: Colombia. (CERD/C/332/Add.1) [Accessed 29 Jan. 2001]

Additional Sources Consulted

El Espectador [Bogota]. Searchable archives. 1996-2000.

IRB Databases.

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 1995-2000.

Latin American Regional Reports: Andean Group [London]. 1995-2000.

Latin American Weekly Report [London]. 1999-2000.

Radio Caracol [Bogota]. Searchable archives. May 1997-Sept. 2000.

World News Connection (WNC).

Internet Websites and search engines, including:

Amnesty International

Andean Commission of Jurists

El Espectador (1996-2000)

Human Rights Watch

United Nations (1997-2000)

Programa Opiniones [San Andres]. News archive, Aug. 2000-26 Jan. 2001.


This list is not exhaustive. Country-specific publications available at the Resource Centre are not included.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

Search Refworld