Since Oct. 12, indigenous and other social organizations in southwestern Colombia have been protesting the militarization of their lands, the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and the failure of the government of President Alvaro Uribe to comply with agreements relating to indigenous land, education, and healthcare. [Minga de Resistencia Social y Comunitaria, ONIC, Oct. 14] Over 12,000 indigenous activists and other social justice activists are congregated on the Territory of Peace and Coexistence in La Maria Piendamo, in Cauca, resisting the hostile and massive presence of state security forces who have been ordered to remove them. On Oct. 13, the communities participating in the indigenous protest blocked a portion of the Pan American Highway in Cauca, in an act of civil disobedience meant to force the government to meet with them to discuss their demands.
Rather than respond to their calls for negotiation, over the last four days violence has broken out between elite police units and the assembled communities, with at least two people killed and over 50 indigenous activists severely wounded—mostly by bullets, one possibly fatally—in the ensuing clashes. These unfolding developments come just days after two other Nasa Indians—Nicolas Valencia Lemus and Celestino Rivera—were assassinated by unidentified gunmen over the weekend, just a few hours before the start of the mobilization. The National Organization of Colombia’s Indigenous (ONIC) report that in the past two weeks at least 19 indigenous leaders have been killed across the country. This only adds to the alarming human rights situation in indigenous communities in Colombia. ONIC reports that between 2002 and 2006, 1,226 indigenous people have been killed, 300 have been disappeared and 1,660 have been jailed.
From Witness for Peace, Oct. 16