The closing festival of the Primer Encuentro de Culturas Andinas in the southern Colombian city of Pasto was suspended Aug. 27 “as a gesture of solidarity” following the massacre of 12 members of the Awá indigenous group in the region. The Encuentro brought together more than 1,000 representatives of indigenous peoples from seven Andean nations, as well as Mexico, Guatemala and the US.
The day before the closing festival was scheduled, a group of ski-masked and uniformed gunmen invaded the Awá resguardo (reservation) of Gran Rosario, between the villages of Barbacoas and Tumaco in the eastern lowlands of Nariño department. Without speaking a word, the gunmen targeted various inhabitants of the resguardo and opened fire. Among those killed were several children, including one only eight months old.
The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) issued a statement deploring the massacre, demanding an investigation and asking for international solidarity. The Colombia government has offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the perpetrators. No group has claimed responsibility, or been named by the authorities as responsible for the atrocity. The Awá have been targeted before by the FARC guerillas. However, one of those killed, Tulia García, had recently denounced to the authorities the May 23 assassination of his wife, Gonzalo Rodríguez, saying “it appeared” the slaying was carried out by “presumed members of the army.”
The Awá number about 15,000, living in 21 resguardos in the departments of Nariño and Putumayo. Of the 102 surviving indigenous ethnicities in Colombia, the Awá are numbered among those at the greatest risk of extinction. (EFE, Aug. 27)
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