At 4 AM on Dec. 16, indigenous leader Edwin Legarda Vázquez was killed by the Colombian army as he was driving a pickup truck belonging to the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), in which his partner, Aida Quilcué often traveled in. CRIC leader Quilcué gained national stature for her role in the indigenous rights campaign that mobilized thousands throughout Colombia this fall.
The Defense Ministry has admitted that Legarda was killed by soldiers, who shot 17 bullets into the car. While the government says he failed to stop at a checkpoint, indigenous organizations say the killing was politically motivated. Hilario Sánchez, the indigenous mayor of the town of Totoró, where the injured Legarda was first taken, said “there is no indication of the existence of a military checkpoint in that area,” and the pickup truck “was shot at from all sides.” (The Dominion, Canada, Dec. 17; IPS, Dec. 16)
The killing comes on the 17th anniversary of one of the massacre at El Nilo estate in northern Cauca department, where some 60 hooded gunmen opened fire on an meeting of indigenous activists engaged in a land occupation. (Upside Down World, Dec. 17)
On the day of the assassination, indigenous leaders from Cauca were attending an Andean indigenous summit in La Paz, Bolivia, where they reported on the campaign of “extermination” being waged by the Colombian state.
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