Following FARC attacks on three towns in his department over the weekend, Guillermo Gonzalez, governor of Colombia’s Cauca department, told reporters on Monday that local indigenous communities were aiding narco-traffickers in the cultivation of drugs.
“The indigenous areas of the country have been sites where marijuana and coca are cultivated,” the governor stated. “Some people in these communities have direct relationships with narco-traffickers.”
Later in the day, Colombian president Alvaro Uribe echoed the same sentiments in a strongly worded warning to the indigenous communities that he says are interfering with the capture of narco-traffickers hiding on their reservations.
“We have had resistance from an indigenous reservation during the capture of narco-traffickers. That cannot be allowed,” the president said. “We want to remind them that no part of the territory of the homeland is excluded from the penal code, no place can be excluded from government forces, and no place in the homeland can be converted into a little republic of delinquents.”
Indigenous authorities expressed indignation at the government’s claims. Luis Arias, director of the National Indigenous Organization (ONIC), denied the government’s accusations, and countered that aboriginal populations in Colombia are under constant threat from government forces and armed conflict. He said that 24 indigenous community members were killed in Cauca alone in a period of less than three months last year.
Bolstering Arias’ contentions was a report from Amnesty International, also released on Monday, which said that Colombia’s indigenous populations are at risk of disappearing, due to the rise in attacks against them.
The report says that indigenous groups are being killed and threatened, with 114 murders of indigenous people last year, and are being “obliged to participate in the armed conflict.”
Violent actions such as armed attacks, assassinations, massacres, forced recruitment, confinements, sexual abuses and forced displacements mean that many indigenous communities are “fighting for their survival,” according to an Amnesty investigator quoted in El Espectador.
Amnesty places blame for these injustices against all armed parties in Colombia, including guerillas, paramilitaries and the Colombian armed forces.
Amnesty asked that the government assume its obligations to protect indigenous communities, investigate crimes against them, and punish those responsible.