Colombia: indigenous protester killed as army retakes base

One person was killed and 23 wounded as Colombia’s army retook a base that had hours earlier been occupied by protesters in Cauca department July 17, local indigenous authorities said. Special forces troops were sent in to clear the 1,000 protesters armed with sticks who briefly took control of the “Berlin” army base, located in war-torn Toribio municipality. Photos showed Nasa indigenous protesters armed with sticks physically ejecting soldiers from the base. National Police backed up the army troops to evict the protesters, firing tear gas. Nasa indigenous authorities said army troops also opened fire. Defense Minister Carlos Pinzón, while not confirming the death, said the troops had “the right to defend themselves…if the indigenous initiate an aggression.” President Juan Manuel Santos denounced the takeover of the base via Twitter, saying, “I do not want to see a single indigenous in the military bases.” And: “Make no mistake. We will not allow attacks on those who defend us. Everything has a limit.”

Toribio’s indigenous authorities say the army presence in the area threatened the lives of the community members, after violent clashes between the military and FARC guerillas had forced nearly 600 residents from their homes in recent weeks. The Association of Indigenous Cabildos of North Cauca (ACIN) had set a deadline of midnight July 16 for all “armed actors” to vacate the 14 indigenous reserves in Cauca department. (Colombia Reports, July 18; BBC News, EFE, July 17)

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