Cali, Colombia, Dec 10 (EFE).- Nearly 3,000 indigenous protesters riding on colorful buses known as “chivas” arrived here Friday from their rural indigenous communities in southwestern Colombia to denounce a rise in death threats, homicides and massacres, particularly in rural areas of Cauca Department.
Riding in a caravan that stretched more than a kilometer, the indigenous “minga” (collective protest) unfolded peacefully on the streets of Cali, Colombia’s third-largest city, where demonstrators from 11 indigenous communities waved the flags of their ethnic groups and played festive music but also called attention to the violence affecting their territories.
Members of different armed groups – Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) dissidents, guerrilla fighters who did not demobilize under a 2016 peace deal; right-wing paramilitaries; and ELN leftist rebels – are forcing indigenous people off of their land, issuing death threats and committing homicides and massacres in their territories, a human rights leader from the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, Giovanny Yule, told Efe.
According to the most recent figures from the Bogota-based Institute for Peace and Development Studies (Indepaz), 53 indigenous human rights defenders and social leaders have been killed in Colombia in 2021.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Andean nation, for its part, has verified 67 killings of rights defenders, 13 of whom were indigenous persons or Afro-Colombians, and is in the process of verifying nine other homicides.
Yule said people in indigenous territories, including children, have been mercilessly targeted, adding that the demonstrators had also traveled to Cali to “propose humanitarian dialogues for the establishment of a minimum level of respect for human rights.”
“All the territories came out to march for the defense of life, against the killings of leaders, young people, women,” Yanina Cantero, a female member of an indigenous security force, told Efe.
A minga also was held in May of this year in Cali. Part of a broader nationwide anti-government protests, that demonstration was marred by violent incidents that left several people dead.
Tensions ran particularly high then in the affluent Cali neighborhood of Ciudad Jardin, where some civilians fired gunshots at indigenous demonstrators after denouncing robberies and building invasions.
Friday’s events by contrast were mostly peaceful, with the exception of a few incidents involving hooded youths who were not associated with the minga and had joined the march to jeer Cali’s security secretary, Carlos Soler, who was on the scene to monitor the demonstration first-hand. EFE