Indigenous communities in the southwest Colombian department of Cauca find themselves in the middle of increasingly heated battles between national forces and the FARC, according to an indigenous association press release.
The Association of Indigenous Councils in North Cauca (ACIN) has stated that in the context of heightened conflict between government forces and guerrilla insurgents, both groups are “ignoring the consequences it generates in the communities…particularly those of indigenous and African descent.”
ACIN particularly criticized the government for the perceived prioritization of “military success over the lives and property of civilians,” whereby indigenous territories have become areas of “high-intensity war” at the expense of “the social responsibilities that a social and democratic state has to ensure and protect.”
The indigenous association highlighted a bombing that allegedly occurred in Tacueyo, Cauca, on March 26, which killed 15 indigenous children, and was curiously not reported by news sources. This was the same day that the government announced the success of an operation in which 15 FARC members were killed at an elite guerrilla training camp in the same area.
El Tiempo reported Tuesday that in response to government gains against them, the FARC have altered their strategy and increasingly set up camp within the vicinity of indigenous communities, taking refuge among them and even using them as human shields.
“They come and take possession [of our houses],” said one indigenous man from Jambalo, whose house had been occupied by the FARC’s 6th Front. “If you do not give them permission they say you are allied with the army,” he continued.
In recent months, troops have found guns and communication equipment in indigenous homes that house children under 10 years of age. Police say that children and pregnant women are forced by the guerrillas to gather intelligence on security forces while diverting attention so that FARC members can evade controls.