Indigenous communities in the south western department of Cauca implored all armed fighters on Tuesday to leave their territory, following the intensification of fighting between left-wing FARC guerillas and the Colombian Army that have left many civilians injured, displaced, or dead.
The leader of the Nasa indigenous community, one of the communities affected by the heavy fighting, told El Tiempo on Tuesday that, “The war is putting the lives of our commoners and the whole life plan for our community at risk, which is something that the authorities, in partnership with the Nasa community, are not willing to allow to continue.”
As a result, the spokesman went on, “The community demands the immediate eviction from areas where there is a presence of any kind of armed actors who are in the ancestral lands of the Nasa, disturbing our tranquility and harmony.”
The escalation in confrontations between government forces and a FARC column belonging to commander Jacobo Arenas began around May 1, and have primarily affected the indegenous and rural populations around the towns of Los Chorros, Tacueyo, Buenavista, San Diego, El Triunfo de Toribio, El Palo, and Caloto.
Authorities report that three civilians have been killed as a result of the fighting: Jaime Ilamo Escue, 26, in the town of Calato; Patricia Noscue, in the town of San Diego; and Luz Edith Taquinas Ipia, 18, in the town of El Triunfo.
In addition, these battles have also left another seven civilians injured, and over 180 families displaced.
The areas suffering from the FARC-Army confrontations have had a permenant guerilla presence since the 1960s. “They have always been here, you cannot deny that. The indigenous authorites have asked that they respect the people, that the do not recruit children, and that they are allowed to pass through the territory, but not to stay in it. They cannot access the schools, nor any meeting sites for the indigenous people, nor lay minefields. That was the protocol, and occassioanlly they would respect it,” Rafael Coicue, from the Association of Indigenous Councils of Norte del Cauca (Acin), explained to Semana on Monday.
However, everything changed, according to Coicue, on November 11 of 2009, when Colombia’s Ministry of Defense announced 14 new means to attack the FARC in Cauca, to which the FARC responded without restraint, “After that, they didn’t take any recommendation into account. The guerillas told us that we were in war, and everything they did was an act of war. The most affected from this are us.”