Colombia: Choc贸 indigenous leaders assassinated

The president of the Indigenous Organization of Chocó (OICH), Ernelio Pacheco Tunay, was assassinated Sept. 12 at the Embera Dobida indigenous pueblo of Bacal, Alto Baudó municipality, in Colombia's Pacific coastal department of Chocó. Pacheco was detained by armed men while traveling in a boat along the Río Nauca; his body was found nearby several hours later. The following day, Miguel Becheche Zarco, president of the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of Alto Baudo (ACIAB), was similarly taken by armed men while traveling along the same river; his body was found near the community of La Playita. Local indigenous leaders are pressing authorities for action, and protest that no investigators from the Fiscalía, Colombia's attorney general, have yet arrived in Alto Baudó. The municipality is the scene of ongoing conflict between the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Urabeños paramilitary group. Both groups have threatened indigenous leaders for demanding their right to non-involvement in the conflict. On Sept. 16, an ELN communique said the two indigenous leaders had been detained by their fighters under "due process" (sic) and confessed under "interrogation" to being government informants, an implicit admission of responsibility in their deaths. (Radio Caracol, RCN Radio, Sept. 16; communique from indigenous organizations, online at, Sept. 15; El Colombiano, El Espectador, Sept. 14)