Indigenous leaders from the southwest of Colombia suspended talks with the government about ongoing violence on their territories Sunday, demanding the presence of president Juan Manuel Santos.
The leaders representing the Nasa, an indigenous people from the north of the Cauca department, abandoned talks with Interior Minister Federico Renjifo, who blamed the indigenous of frustrating a process to reconcile authorities and the Nasa.
“Two week ago a commission of vice-ministers came here. At that moment they said there had to be ministers and the minister of defense, the mining minister and me have been here at least three times. We had agreed to begin rounds of talks and now they say they don’t want to begin them, but was to present [their arguments] before the president, in [indigenous reserve] La Maria, in a public meeting,” the Minister told reporters.
According to indigenous leader Feliciano Valencia, the indigenous demand the interference of the president because of a lack of progress made with the government commission headed by Renjifo in the city of Popayan.
“We have had three or four meetings. We don’t see progress in the core debates and the community is demanding is demanding results,” Valencia was quoted as saying by newspaper La Vanguardia Liberal.
U.N. representative Todd Howland, present at the meetings as an observer, told press that the two parties need to recover trust before being able to make progress.
The talks between the indigenous and the government began after the Nasa forced members of Colombia’s armed forces from their post and independently punished alleged guerrillas of the FARC. The indigenous uprising followed after years of heavy combat between the army and guerrillas on indigenous territory.