Colombia: indigenous protesters march on Cali

Some 30,000 indigenous protesters arrived in the Colombian city of Cali Oct. 25, where President Álvaro Uribe pledges to meet with their leaders this weekend for a dialogue on land conflicts and investigations into 1,240 indigenous Colombians who have been killed in the six years he has been in power.

Having marched 100 kilometers from Piendamó, Cauca, the protesters set up camp at Cali’s University of Valle, where the meeting with Uribe is scheduled to take place. “Today we will rest, take our food, and prepare the agenda” for the meeting, said Feliciano Valencia of the Indigenous Regional Council of Cauca (CRIC) and the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC).

ONIC says land rights will top the agenda, asserting that 445,000 indigenous Colombians—27% of the total indigenous population of 1.3 million—”do not possess collective territory recognized by the state.” ONIC intends to challenge the status of some 2 million hectares.

The government says that of 115 million hectares of Colombia’s national territory, indigenous peoples, constituting little more than 2% of the population, already have 30 million. ONIC responds that 80% of these lands are jungle (selva) or barren alpine plains (páramo) unfit for agriculture. (Semana, Oct. 25)

See our last posts on Colombia and the struggle in Cauca.