Colombia: indigenous elder assassinated in Cauca

Lisandro Tenorio Troche, a traditional elder and healer of the Nasa indigenous people in Colombia's southwestern department of Cauca, was shot dead by two gunmen on a motorcycle Aug. 12 at vereda (hamlet) Pílamo in resguardo (indigenous reserve) López Adentro, Caloto municipality. Community leaders said they believe the assassins weref rom the FARC rebels, who had threatened Tenorio and his family in recent days. The Nasa communities have in recent weeks stepped up their campaign to demand that all armed actors—government troops, paramilitaries and guerillas alike—respect their constitutionally protected autonomy and refrain from operating on their lands.

In addition to staging an occupation of an army post, the Nasa sent a delegation to nearby FARC camps to tell the guerillas they had two weeks to leave their territory. The Nasa community also put three of its own members who had joined the rebels on trial. The three were sentenced to a public whipping according to traditional Nasa law. (BBC News, Aug. 13 El Espectador, Bogotá, Aug. 12)

The same day as the assassination, indigenous leaders in Cauca announced that they are suspending talks with the government about ongoing violence on their territories, demanding the presence of President Juan Manuel Santos.

Nasa leaders abandoned talks with Interior Minister Federico Renjifo, who publicly blamed the indigenous leaders of frustrating a process to reconcile their communities and authorities. Renjifo told reporters: "Two week ago a commission of vice-ministers came here. At that moment they said there had to be ministers, and the minister of defense, the mining minister and I have been here at least three times. We had agreed to begin rounds of talks, and now they say they don't want to begin them, but to present [their arguments] before the president, in [indigenous reserve] La Maria, in a public meeting."

According to indigenous leader Feliciano Valencia, the Nasa demanded the presence of the president because of a lack of progress made with the government commission headed by Renjifo in the city of Popayan. "We have had three or four meetings," Valencia was quoted as saying by newspaper La Vanguardia Liberal. "We don't see progress in the core debates and the community is demanding is demanding results." (Colombia Reports, Aug. 13)