Sources within the indigenous movement in Colombia’s southwestern Cauca department claimed one person was killed and 23 people wounded as the army retook a base that was occupied by protesters Tuesday, various media reported Wednesday.
Special forces seized control of the army base at around 5AM Wednesday morning, according to Ricardo Augusto Alarcon, police commander in the Cauca department.
The police confirmed on Wednesday afternoon one protester had been killed under “unclear circumstances” during the morning raid.
On July 17, around 1,000 protesters armed with sticks briefly took control of the “Berlin” army base, located in the war-torn Toribio municipality. The protesters said army presence in the area threatened the lives of the community members, after violent clashes between the military and FARC guerillas had forced nearly 600 residents from their homes in recent weeks.
Carlos Andres Alfonso, a legal representative of Northern Cauca’s Indigenous Association (Acin), said the police action had led to at least three serious injuries, while newspaper El Espectador reported one civilian’s wounds were caused by small arms fire.
“The police launched tear gas in an indiscriminate manner with the intent of removing us from our own territory,” Alfonso said.
Juan Carlos Pinzon, Colombia’s defense minister, defended the armed forces, saying they had “the right to defend themselves […] if the indigenous initiate an aggression.”
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos denounced the takeover of the base via Twitter Wednesday, saying, “I do not want to see a single indigenous in the military bases. This is the order of yesterday.” The tweet was followed by another in support of the troops that read, “Make no mistake. We will not allow attacks on those who defend us. Everything has a limit.”