Colombia: indigenous communities targeted in war —again

Indigenous peoples are again caught in the middle as the Colombian army launches a major offensive against the FARC guerillas in the southern Andean department of Cauca. At dawn on Feb. 20, guerillas from the FARC’s Sixth Front attacked the center of the Nasa and Guambiano indigenous town of Jambaló, after it was occupied by the army and National Police. However, residential houses and the town’s hospital suffered severe damage, while the local National Police headquarters was relatively unscathed. Some half the population of Jambaló’s urban center fled, taking refuge in outlying hamlets (veredas) and the neighboring municipality of Silvia. (Semana, Bogotá, Feb. 22)

On Feb. 23, similar scenes were reported from Caldono and Cajibío municipalities. Police Gen. Orlando Páez Barón said the FARC had infiltrated militiamen into the municipalities to prepare disruption of the upcoming March 14 local elections, and to protect drug crop plantations. (El Tiempo, Bogotá, Feb. 24; El Colombiano, Medellín, Feb. 23)

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  1. Amnesty sees threat to Colombia’s indigenous peoples
    In a new report, “The Struggle for Survival and Dignity: Human Rights Abuses Against Indigenous Peoples in Colombia,” Amnesty International calls for immediate international action to ensure the survival of native cultures in Colombia. The organization says guerrilla groups, state security forces and paramilitaries are responsible for grave human rights abuses against indigenous peoples, including killings, forced disappearances and kidnappings, sexual abuse of women, recruitment of child soldiers, persecution of indigenous leaders and forced displacement of communities from land that is rich in economic potential.

    According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), the survival of 32 different indigenous peoples in Colombia is at grave risk as a result of the armed conflict, the impacts of large-scale economic projects, and a lack of state support. According to ONIC, at least 114 indigenous women, men and children were killed, many others threatened and thousands driven from their land in 2009 alone. (Amnesty International, Feb. 23)

    ONIC issued a similar warning to the international community in 2008.