Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos said that by the end of his four-year term around $547 million will have been invested in protecting the rights of the indigenous people in the northern Sierra Nevada region.
At a meeting on Wednesday with the leaders of the Arhuaco, Kogi, Wiwa and Kankuamo tribes that inhabit the region, the president “drew up a plan of action to continue with this process and dialogue with these communities and to help them solve their problems, and to protect the Sierra Nevada, to protect ancestral rights, and to protect these communities.”
Santos said that his government’s investment in the protection of indigenous rights would be more than any other government in the history of the country.
The meeting, which lasted around four hours, saw the president and his officials consulting with tribe leaders on the country’s National Development Plan for the first time. “It was a very interesting and productive meeting where we reviewed all that has been happening in these communities, commitments that have been met and those which still have to be met,” said the President.
The government has 96 commitments to the indigenous people, of which 24 have been completed, 51 are in progress and 21 are under analysis due to difficulties.
The meeting also covered the issue of prior consultation where the indigenous people sought clarification and protocol on communities holding consultation processes on new laws.
Santos praised the communities of the Sierra Nevada and “their continued support and appreciation of what we have been doing and their continued interest in dialogue. The support of these communities says it all – the peace process is moving forward,” said the President.
The news comes soon after seven United States congressmen expressed “great concern” over the security situation of Colombian indigenous leaders and land rights activists.