Colombia’s national indigenous organization called on all indigenous peoples to protest after the government of President Ivan Duque suspended talks with indigenous protesters in the southwest.
Indigenous rights organization ONIC called for a national mobilization on Wednesday in support of the indigenous people from northern Cauca, who have calling on Duque to talk about chronic state neglect and violence for weeks, but without result.
“We are making this call due to the context of dismantling of peoples’ rights, for the imminent risk in which peace is, the counter-reform that is in congress against the poor, but also for the care and defense of life and territory,” said ONIC chief Luis Fernando Arias.
We cannot stand idle in the face of this massacre of the social and popular indigenous movement in Colombia… We invite on Colombian society to mobile.
ONIC’s Elder Councillor Luis Fernando Arias
ONIC said that its call for action has received the support of more than 326 social organisations and 30 congressmen.
Afro-descendant Colombians and farmer communities also joined the protest in solidarity.
Despite the escalation of indigenous protest to a national level, Duque on Thursday doubled down and reiterated his refusal to travel to the war-torn Cauca and talk to the indigenous organizations.
The president said he would not talk until after the indigenous end their protests and clear the Pan-american Highway that has been blocked for weeks, causing major economic damage.
Why Colombia’s indigenous are protesting
- The state has failed to comply with more than 1,300 agreements made with native Colombians
- Indigenous have been excluded from Duque’s National Development Plan
- Colombia refused to sign a UN resolution granting rights to rural workers
- Indigenous leaders are systematically assassinated
- Constitutional sovereignty is ignored
- The constitutional right to be consulted about development plans is ignored
- A peace process with former FARC guerrillas is barely implemented in indigenous territories
Meanwhile, Colombia’s defense minister made the unsubstantiated claim that the peaceful indigenous protesters were receiving support of guerrilla groups, who carried out a wave of attacks throughout Colombia this week.
Far-right supporters of the government echoed the minister’s accusations and called on Duque “not to give in to the aggressors.”
Indigenous groups have traditionally been among the most marginalized sectors of Colombian society. Dozens of indigenous leaders have been assassinated by paramilitary and guerrilla groups during the peace process between the government and now-demobilized FARC guerrillas that have long been opposed by the president and his followers.