Indigenous people camping in Bogota park demand shelter during pandemic

Bogota, Aug 12 (efe-epa).- More than a hundred indigenous people displaced by the armed conflict in their territory remain in a makeshift camp in the Tercer Milenio park in downtown Bogota, waiting for the mayor’s office to provide them with permanent accommodation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The families arrived in the city eight months ago, fleeing clashes between illegal groups in the departments of Risaralda and Choco, but once the health emergency began, they were left out in the open and without income.

“At the beginning of January they gave us a roof and food for 90 days. When this contract ended, the Embera families, who have no job, ran out of money to pay for their roof,” Eduardo Mamundie, secretary of the Embera-Chami indigenous community, told EFE.

He said that, due to the coronavirus crisis, the little income that they earned had run out and the aid provided by the Mayor’s Office of Bogota was not enough.

However, the Secretary of Government of Bogota, Luis Ernesto Gomez, affirmed Wednesday that indigenous families, who earned a living off the sale of handicrafts, have received comprehensive support from the Mayor’s Office.

“With the start of the pandemic, their income and living situation worsened because the sale of handicrafts and other activities in the city was insufficient,” the official added.

Gomez stressed that since March during the epidemic the Mayor’s Office has supported 237 Emberas families through “permanent dialog” and has offered them solutions to their needs with a disbursement of 744 million pesos ($198,000)

This money, according to the local administration, has been used on various things, including food kits, cash transfers, reparation for victims and social support.

“They are all receiving the same support. We have made monetary transfers to all of them. They are offered individual leasing, shelter possibilities and markets (for basic products),” he explained.

Gomez said that the Mayor’s Office has had to intervene seven times in the illegal occupations of these families in public spaces and that on each occasion the indigenous people have been relocated to shelters paid for by the government.

For the municipal government secretary, there are several families that despite the aid received “expose children and the entire city of Bogota to coronavirus infections.”

“We are at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. Crowds in public spaces pose risks of contagion and there are at least seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the community that is today in the Tercer Milenio area, cases of people that they know,” Gomez stressed.

The Mayor’s Office offered these people to move to the Corferias field hospital, a center set up to care for patients with low medical complexity, so that they can be “put in isolation and not put the rest of the public at risk.”

“The people who are in the Tercer Milenio park have refused to carry out tests. They have refused to relocate in the shelters paid for by the district and have rejected the possibility of receiving timely medical attention,” Gomez said.

However, for the indigenous leader Mamundie these options are not permanent and do not guarantee them permanent accommodation, which is what they demand, since they do not want to continue living in uncertainty.

“Where do we go next? We will be in the same situation as what we are now. We are not rejecting (the proposal), we just want to have a safe shelter,” said an Embera spokesperson regarding the possibility of being transferred for 14 days or a month to another place. EFE-EPA


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