A indigenous leader from the southwest of Colombia has received death threats from paramilitaries, reported local media Sunday.
The leader from the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca (ACIN), Feliciano Valencia, was alerted by indigenous authorities Saturday that a group of paramilitaries claiming to be the officially-demobilized AUC (United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia) made threats against his life.
Threats were also made against Luis Alfredo Acosta, a coordinator of the indigenous guard– an unarmed patrol group that includes women, children and elderly members of local indigenous groups– in northern Cauca.
As fighting between government forces and the FARC has increased in recent months, tensions have risen in Colombia’s southwest Cauca department as indigenous people have demanded all armed actors from their ancestral lands.
The Colombian government as well as paramilitary organizations have accused the indigenous people of Cauca of having links with the FARC. Late last month, a pamplet was delivered to several municipalities of Cauca allegedly from the paramiltary group, Black Eagles, warning them that a “social cleansing” of guerrilla members and any of their sympathizers would soon take place in the department.
“Grievances and insults have been made saying we [in Cauca] oppose the government, that we are guerrillas, that we oppose the development of the department and that we should abandon the territory,” said Valencia. The leader of the indigenous rights group has also received personal threats accusing him of having ties to the FARC, as well as text messages and intimidating phone calls warning him that he has one week to leave the region.
For now, Valencia has no intention of leaving the department but has retreated to the mountains to await the decisions of spiritual authorities. Though Valencia believes it should be all armed forces that leave the department, he is leaving his fate up to higher powers.
“I am traveling to the mountains to reunite with [spiritual leaders]. I’m going to do a spiritual review and they will decide if I need to remove myself from the region to protect my physical being, or what measures I should take. If they say I should ask for protection from the state then I will also accept this decision,” Valencia told Radio Caracol Saturday.
An official complaint will be made Monday against the paramilitary group while the indigenous guard keeps watch over Valencia.