Protesters rejected government claims that an indigenous leader arrested in southwest Colombia on Friday is a guerrilla.
Riot police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse indigenous protesters in the southwestern Colombian municipality of Santander de Quilichao who had blocked off roads in uproar over the arrest of Manuel Antonio Bautista Pequi, leader of a local “indigenous guard.” Prosecutors have claimed Bautista has links to FARC — an assertion vehemently denied by other indigenous leaders.
“We fully support Manuel Antonio Bautista Pequi and [say] that if he can be accused of anything, it is of defending and fighting for the political, social and cultural rights of indigenous peoples acting in defense of life and territory,” read a press release from the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC).
According to ONIC, the government is also in breach of an agreement to not act on a string of arrest warrants against indigenous leaders involved in protest movements.
“Protest and free expression, which are constitutional rights, are criminalized by agents of the State,” the ONIC statement continued.
Indigenous organizations in Cauca have said that Pequi was identified as a guerrilla fighter under the alias of “Tuqui,” who was previously reported as killed in combat.