Colombia indigenous rights group ONIC on Thursday decried what they consider excessive police response that left 19 wounded and four arrested during a protest in the Pacific coastal city of Buenaventura.
The violent encounter took place Wednesday evening as part of an ongoing national protest of indigenous people taking place across Colombia.
Earlier this week, ONIC announced the indefinite national protest, calling on President Juan Manuel Santos to open dialogues with indigenous community representatives to address ongoing economic injustices and human rights abuses facing Colombia’s underrepresented native populations.
According to ONIC, a group of 50 protesters marching along a road connecting Buenaventura to a port on the Pacific coast, were”stopped and threatened” by the riot police and army forces after separating from the main group. Following continued intimidation and threats, the police and National Army reportedly opened fire.
Buenaventura police commander Oscar Gomez refuted ONIC reports, telling newspaper El Pais, there were only five injuries.
A representative from ONIC head-adviser Luis Fernando Arias’s office, who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons, told Colombia Reports the national protests and road blocks will continue as long as the government ignores the demands of Colombia’s indigenous communities by refusing them increased political autonomy and basic human rights.
“The armed forces are shooting non-violent protesters marching down the highways,” said the representative. “We want to call national and international attention to denounce the national government for violating the human rights of the indigenous communities.”
ONIC also released a report Thursday, entitled “urgent actions,” detailing threats and attacks being carried out against indigenous protesters across the country.
Reports include a police confrontation near Santader de Quilichao, in the Cauca state of southern Colombia, where indigenous protesters in highway roadblocks are under attack by public forces using automatic weapons and tear gas, although casualties have yet to be reported. Also reported are anonymous threatening messages sent to protest leaders in Kankuama, as well as detentions and threats in Choco, Huila, Sucre, and Guarija.
- Indígenas denuncian exceso de fuerza policial durante marcha en Buenaventura (CM&)
- ONIC rechaza de manera categórica el exceso de la Fuerza Pública cerca de Buenaventura (ONIC press release)
- Indígenas denuncian agresiones de Fuerza Pública en vía a Buenaventura (El Pais)
- Minga Social Indígena y Popular entrega Balance Humanitario (ONIC press release)
- Interview with ONIC representative