Indigenous leaders in Colombia's Cauca department last month exchanged letters with FARC commander Rodrigo Londono AKA "Timochenko" AKA "Timoleón Jiménez" to discuss a face-to-face dialogue over guerilla aggression against native peoples. "Timochenko" wrote to indigenous leaders on May 13, appealing to them "to reach understandings that will allow us satisfactorily to advance towards our mutual goals of peace and social justice." He denied recent accusations by native leaders that the FARC is complicit in the "genocide of the indigenous" of Cauca, and broached a personal meeting. The indigenous leaders reponded on May 16 with an open letter accepting the invitation to direct dialogue, but adding: "However, our communities want to see the dialogue does represent changes to our conditions; that you stop killing, accusing and dividing us." The letter protested the FARC's accusation that the indigenous leadership are a "counterinsurgency force."
According to the letter—jointly signed by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) and the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN)—a total of 70 indigenous persons have been "assassinated" by armed actors in Cauca since 2002. Indigenous judicial authorities have established that 30 of these killings were carried out by the FARC. (IndePaz, May 21; Colombia Reports, May 20; ACIN, May 16)
The exchange was sparked by an escalation in tensions between the indigenous communities and the guerillas earlier this year. On April 29 an indigenous council sentenced two members of the FARC's "Comandante Alfonso Cano" Occidental Bloc guerrilla forces to 40 years imprisonment for the recent murder of eight people from the local communities, including Benancio Taquinas and three other traditional healers and elders. The two were among six guerillas who had been detained by the Indigenous Guard in the village of Toriobio three days earlier. CRIC leader Feliciano Valencia said the men will stay under indigenous control, and will not be delivered to official Colombian authorities. (El Nuevo Liberal, Popayán, May 19; ICT, May 7; Latin America Press, April 24)