Indigenous people in Colombia’s southwestern Cauca department said Tuesday the army as well as ELN and FARC guerrilla movements must leave their territory, various media reported.
“The population has not been consulted. This is a fight between armed groups. We suggest that they fight where there is no population,” said Marcos Yules, the indigenous governor of the Toribio municipality in Cauca to radio station RCN.
An indigenous commission in Cauca said it would march towards FARC camps in the area to seek an end to the violence that has wounded dozens and displaced hundreds in the municipalities Argelia, Jambolo and Toribio in the past few days.
The commission also asked the Colombian armed forces to exit the region, arguing the increase in military presence put civilian lives at greater risk.
“It is an armed encounter between them. We do not understand how a strengthening of the public force would defend the population. The contrary, the strengthening of the state force is to defend them against [the FARC] and increase the fighting,” said Yules to RCN.
On Tuesday morning residents in the area destroyed trenches belonging to the army and police in Toribio. Jorge Nieto, a local police commander, told radio station Caracol that security forces allowed the action in order to avoid a confrontation with the community.
The war-weary Cauca department has been the scene of several protests in the past month. In mid-June thousands of residents marched to the “Tres Cruces” army base to demand its dismantling, claiming it put them deeper in the crossfire of the armed conflict.