The exmagistrate of Spain’s central criminal court and former adviser to the International Criminal Court, Baltasar Garzon, is willing to act as mediator between the government and indigenous groups in southwestern Colombia, who have been protesting security force and guerrilla presence in the region.
Violence in the Cauca department in recent weeks has forced an estimated 600 residents from their homes and prompted a visit from President Juan Manuel Santos last Wednesday to discuss “Plan Cauca,” a security strategy aimed at curbing violence.
Garzon met for two hours with indigenous leaders in Miranda, Cauca to hear their proposals for peace. The former judge was accompanied by representatives from the nonprofit Mission to Support the Peace Process, MAPP.
Indigenous leader James Terracue said they hoped Garzon would take their proposal for an autonomous territory to the government.
Indigenous groups in the region have been protesting the presence of armed actors in the area since earlier this month, culminating in the occupation of a military base by some 400 members of an indigenous community last Wednesday.
This is not the first protest the war-weary Cauca department has experienced in recent months. In mid-June, thousands of residents marched to the “Tres Cruces” army base, claiming its presence put them in the crossfire of the armed conflict. Historically Cauca has been a FARC stronghold, due to its mixture of mountainous and swampy terrain and easy access to drug smuggling routes.