Colombia’s Wayuu people endured the worst terror committed against them since 2000, when paramilitaries belonging to the AUC‘s Northern Bloc, commanded by the now extradited ‘Jorge 40’ came to instill terror. Ever since, the Wayuu have permanently been submitted to all kinds of forced displacement.
Different forms of forced displacement by any of the armed forces, both legal and illegal, have confronted us, the people of Wayuu; an indigenous people of warriors, living in quite a barren and in some parts completely desert-like area.
Wayuu traditionally are forced to move because of climatic conditions. Especially when times of drought force the people to move their animals to areas where they can get water stored in wells.
is exactly this so-called “nomadism” that the Colombian government uses
to justify the neglect of its responsibility to act when it comes to
taking care of the displaced population, which in our country the Government is
obliged to by law.
The Wayuu displacement never stopped, not even during the so-called ceasefire when the current government negotiated the demobilization of the paramilitaries in Santa Fe de Ralito.
It was in this period that the most murders, threats and forced disappearances were committed against the Wayuu, resulting in more displacement, this time to an area that is divided by the border between Colombia and Venezuela.
There’s knowledge about the massive displacement that took place mostly in 2003 and 2004, but little to nothing is known about the Wayuu communities that, after having been confronted by the murder of family members, felt obliged to completely move or to move gradually. Moreover, little to none is known about the damage done by the displacement, the murders and the dishonor committed on their territory, and how an ancient culture bit by bit is threatened incalculably.
Forced displacement of the Wayuu, and why not say so of the indigenous people of this country, like paramilitarism in Colombia, never ceased to exist. On the contrary, the dynamics of this epidemic — in Guajira in particular — show how it rears its head not just on Wayuu territory, but in Colombia as a whole, and what calls the most attention of the media, institutions and international agencies: the cross-border displacement.
It’s worth mentioning that the situation for the Wayuu in neighbor country Venezuela also isn’t easy. We, the Wayuu, are a binational people. Better said, our ancestral land, over 15,00 square kilometers, is divided by the border of the two countries. Colombia and Venezuela have agreements that, for example, the Wayuu have dual nationality. However, in the case of forced displacement because of Colombia’s internal conflict, the inconvenience of attending the emergencies in Venezuela are demonstrated when a Wayuu, carrying a Venezuelan passport, as a citizen is unable to seek refuge or asylum in his own country. This, like many other incidents, mostly related to abuse committed by the Venezuelan National Guard or because of its ignorance of the Wayuu’s situation, are clear violations of human rights.
Since 2008, the Sutsuin Jiyeyu Wayuu (Wayuu Women Force) has received information of displacement within Wayuu territory forced by illegal armed groups who arrived to operate from the peripheral area of the border town Maicao, again threatening, harassing, forcefully disappearing and murdering members of the communities of La Majayura and Carraipía.
These displacements occurred simultaneously with the appearance of several pamphlets of the paramilitary Gaitanista Self Defense Force, announcing social cleansing in different neighborhoods of the border town.
Legislation in Colombia until recently said that internally displaced people only have a year to explain they were forced to leave their lands or territories, disregarding the internally displaced that were forced to leave their homes years before the 2004 law. With new rulings by the high courts of this country, canceling this time limit, it now has become necessary to prepare an immediate diagnosis that is able to estimate the dramatic tragedy that the people of Wayuu have been facing and continuously face.
Author Karmen Ramírez Boscán is member of the Wayuu Women Force and publishes on several Wayuu websites.