Colombia: threatened indigenous group leader slain

Two gunmen described as sicarios (hired assassins) killed Juan Álvaro Pai, a traditional governor of the Awá indigenous people, in an incursion into the resguardo (reserve) Inda Guacaray, in Colombia’s southern Nariño department, Nov. 30. The gunmen arrived in the resguardo on a motorcycle, immediately made for Pai’s home, and upon finding him fired six bullets into his body. Víctor Gallo, mayor of local Tumaco municipality, demanded that the Fiscalía (public prosecutor) and National Police open an urgent investigation, protesting the atmosphere of “impunity” that allows aggression against the Awá. In early July, Awá held a public demonstration, blocking the Pan-American Highway for a week, to protest the violence directed against their communities by various armed actors in Colombia’s civil war. 

Gallo said the Awá, whose traditional lands are bisected by the border with Ecuador, “are tired of the violent ones who fill our lives with pain and blood,” naming guerillas, paramilitaries and narco-gangs as carrying out reprisals against the indigenous communities. According to the UN, at least 1,000 Awá have been displaced by violence since 2005. (EFE, Radio Caracol, Nov. 30)

Please support our fund drive.