Spanish ex-magistrate Baltasar Garzon denied reports that he will mediate between the government and indigenous groups in southwestern Colombia, saying Monday that he only attended talks between the two groups “to listen” and give his “point of view.”
Local media reported Monday that Garzon, who worked in Spain’s central criminal court and recently met for two hours with indigenous leaders, would step in to resolve their disputes with the government in the southwestern Colombian department of Cauca, where they have been protesting the presence of security and guerrilla forces in the region.
“I’m no spokesman, nor am I a mediator for anyone,” the exmagistrate said. While the possibility of his posing as a mediator had been raised during the talks, “not much has come of it,” he said.
Garzon would not comment more on the meeting, but said the government needed to open a dialogue with indigenous groups. “I don’t know if there will be one or not,” the Spanish ex-official said. “I don’t represent Colombia’s government.”
Cauca, which has long been a stronghold for leftist guerrilla group the FARC, experienced a rash of incidents recently that highlighted the dire security situation in the troubled department. On Wednesday, some 400 members of an indigenous community occupied a military communications base near the embattled town of Toribio, called Colombia’s Baghdad by local media, to protest increased military presence in the region. This occured on the same day that President Juan Manuel Santos visited the town to announce a new security strategy aimed at tackling FARC presence in Cauca.