The army is deciding how to respond to thousands of Colombian indigenous people who are protesting near the Venezuelan border after three of their leaders were arrested for alleged ties to the ELN guerrilla group.
General Jaime Reyes told Caracol Radio that military officials will meet Monday to discuss the situation and determine what measures to take to indigenous protests in Arauca, a department on the border of Venezuela.
Indigenous groups in Arauca have been protesting since Thursday against the arrest of three indigenous officials and four other locals who the army believes to have ties with the rebel group ELN, La F.M. reported Monday.
Protesters, said to number in the thousands, have blocked off the route from Arauca to Arauquita and surrounding areas causing financial losses for Arauca said General Reyes. The commander of the 18th Brigade also remarked that passenger, goods, and oil transport are also being affected.
“We will be here until we liberate our people and the military stops falsely accusing us of connections with ELN,” said a representative of the Association of Councils and Traditional Authorities of Arauca to La F.M.
The representative who wished to remain anonymous also said, “We also want a commission to monitor the situation of indigenous people in conflict and oil exploration zones, and investigate the use of natives in war polices in the context of the conflict in the country.”
A round-table discussion with indigenous leaders and the Ministry of the Interior took place on Sunday. Indigenous officials raised at least 16 conditions that need to be met for the protests to end reported Caracol.
Reyes told Caracol Sunday that he struck a deal with protest organizers to allow movement of vehicles with food and perishable as well as ambulances into the area.