The United Nations’ refugee agency (UNHCR) expressed their concern
Tuesday about increasing violence against the Wayuu and other
indigenous communities in the north east of Colombia.
According to the UNHCR, the Wayuu suffer “of a rise in selective murders, death threats, intimidation and
extortion, as well as of the increased presence of re-organized illegal
armed groups in the region.”
According to newspaper El Tiempo, the refugee agency “asks the authorities to take the necessary measures to protect the indigenous from violence and forced displacement.”
The UNHCR reports 86 Wayuu have fled to Venezuela in recent weeks after armed men burned down their houses and threatened to kill their leader. “It is possible that more people have crossed the border in search of protection and not made their presence known, because
they fear retaliation by their persecutors,” the refugee agency says.
“The newcomers also say a larger group of people, also fleeing the
attacks, are still inside Colombia and hiding in the desert in an
attempt to find safety,” the UNHCR adds.
The Wayuu territory stretches from Colombia’s La Guaijra department to the Venezuelan state of Zulia.
The Wayuu have suffered an increase of violence from re-emerging paramilitary groups who are seeking control over the area that is rich of salt and important for the drug trade to Venezuela and the Caribbean. Wayuu spokesmen earlier denounced the murder on several of their leaders.