Colombia: Indigenous people, vanguard of anger against the president

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Driven by violence, the indigenous peoples of Colombia rallied to Bogota. But President Ivan Duque did not deign to receive them. And they now want to be the spearhead of popular discontent, expressed Wednesday by a national strike.

The indigenous movement in the southwest of the country, with the support of Afro-Colombian communities, gave its largest show of force in a decade on Monday.

The minga – the name of a collective action in the Quechua language – brought together some 7,000 Indigenous people, protected by masks against the coronavirus, a few meters from the presidential palace and the parliament.

We are being killed on our land. We are pillaged in our territories, denounced Hermes Pete, 38, one of the leaders of the Indigenous Regional Council of Cauca (Cric), in Bolivar Square, the heart of Bogota.

Indigenous people deplore the assassinations of 313 of their own in two years of a right-wing government, which fails to stem violence in remote rural areas of Colombia like the Cauca.

Between January and August, 100 Indigenous people were killed, according to the forensic medicine department.

Coming from territories disputed by armed groups financed by drug trafficking, the demonstrators resounded drums and flutes in the streets of the capital, waving their wiphalas, the multicolored flag of the Andean peoples.

They left on October 10 from Cauca, located more than 400 km from the capital, on foot and in chivas (traditional coaches).

The Aboriginals intended to dialogue directly with the Head of State. But Ivan Duque preferred to send a delegation to meet them in the provinces. Then he avoided meeting them on their arrival, denouncing their ultimatums and their agglomerations people in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Faced with the rebuff, the Aboriginals organized a symbolic trial denouncing the responsibility, according to them, of the government in the violation of their fundamental rights. They condemned the violence and demanded the application of the peace agreement signed in 2016 with the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which was to bring peace to their ancestral lands.

We are accompanied by afros, peasants, social associations, homeless people who joined us on the way (…) It is no longer a minga from the southwest, but a national minga, rejoiced the representative of the Jack.

During the march to Bolivar Square, Jhoe Sauca, another member of the organization, smiled at the applause coming from the sidewalks and bridges. This 36-year-old indigenous leader believes that the breach between Indigenous people and the city with its students and workers begins to close.

Nearby, Luis Bonilla, spokesperson for Afro-Colombians, said he did not remember such support from the population of the capital during four demonstrations he had previously participated in in Bogota. We have in common that we are abandoned by the state, explains this young man of 26 years.

The indigenous peoples of Colombia are divided into 115 nations, representing 4.4% of the country's 50 million inhabitants. But they are recognized as a very organized force capable of supporting a protest at length.

They are the most economically neglected fringe of society and face rampant racism, according to experts.

In 2019, poverty affected 35.7% of Colombians, a figure that climbs to 59.6% among Indigenous people, beyond Afro (43.9%), according to official statistics. With the pandemic, their situation has only worsened.

The government, which was able, in five months of confinement against the spread of the virus, to resume its breathing after the massive demonstrations of 2019, is facing a resumption of mobilization.

There are always indigenous demonstrations, delegations that come to Bogota, but this time it is much more important because it is not only an indigenous mobilization (…) There are other sectors added to it. , urban, told AFP Alhena Caicedo, anthropologist from the University of the Andes.

Although the government is highlighting its investment plan for Indigenous people, amounting to $ 2.6 billion until 2022, these communities denounce multiple failings and a lack of understanding.

How do they not understand that the war is back on our lands?, indignant Hermes Pete.

After Wednesday's mobilization, the natives will decide whether to stay in Bogota or return to their land.

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