The Colombian government is behind the creation of new regional
indigenous organization OPIC to divide indigenous people and increase
support for its ‘Democratic Security’ policy, indigenous leaders say.
The OPIC was founded in March in Popayan, the capital of the Cauca department, during an official ceremony in which Interior Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio took part. The organization, in contrary to the traditional organizations that insist on neutrality, openly supported the Democratic Security policy of the Uribe administration.
According to Cauca indigenous leader Daniel Piñacue, the new indigenous group was created by the government to receive more indigenous support for the administration’s policies, causing “a big problem within the communities.”
In an interview with newspaper El Tiempo, Aída Quilcue, the indigenous leader whose husband was shot dead by army soldiers earlier this year, says there is a clear government influence seen in the new organization. “It has been created by the government as an indigenous organization, but it is not one. Within the legal and constitutional structure, it should consist of certain structures and conform to traditional indigenous authorities, which it does not in this case.”
According to Quilcue, the OPIC was created as part of “a strategy to break the unity of the Cauca indigenous.”
Deputy Interior Minister Vivana Manrique denies the indigenous allegations and stresses the government does not recognize the OPIC as a valid talking partner when dealing with Cauca indigenous issues.