“We keep getting killed”: Colombian indigenous minga*

Colombian indigenous minga (M Estupiñan)

COLOMBIA-

By Miguel Estupiñán

Native communities of Northern Cauca claim for lands, democracy and peace. An estimate number of 9,000 of them arrived to the capital city of Colombia on October 18th seeking to establish a dialogue with president Iván Duque.

They went a long way from the South-Western side of the country to Bogotá, amidst the solidarity of large sectors of the society, but also of the stigmatization on the side of many politics-associated sectors. Hundreds of people went out to the steets and walkable bridges on Sunday to greet the native communities during their walk through the motorway that connects the neighbouring borough of Soacha with the capital. Days before this, José Félix Lafaurie, president of the Colombian Federation of Granaderos and representative of Uribism, had associated the march with ilegal armed groups. Ironically, with precisely those groups which are killing the native communities, and the terror felt towards these armed groups is being used by some opponents to the minga to try to discredit the natives’ claims. Another strategy is using the excuse of the coronavirus. “Nothing justifies putting our health at stake”, said president Iván Duque today, highlighting the risks that large groups of people could pose in a week of national strike, refusing to meet with the spokepersons of the movement.

Hermes Pete Vivas, senior counselor of the Northen Cauca Regional Council, one of the abovementioned spokepersons, stands against the apathy expected from native communities in the middle of the worsening of a pandemic more serious that that of the coronavirus-related one: the ethnocide of which they are the victims. “A mask has been forced over our mouths to prevent us from speaking up, but we will not abide; we will continue taking the word of agreement in respect to the views of our authorities; we are being killed both phisically and culturally.”

His words bring back the memory of Cristina Bautista, pentecostal leader and indigenous authority, murdered in Toribío in October 2019. “If we remain quiet, we get killed; if we sepak up, we also get killed. We will speak up, then,” said Cristina at the burring of two native guards who had been murdered a few days before she herself was made the victim of a bullet shot by one of the armed groups fighting over the control of the Nasa ancestral lands: the Dagoberto Ramos division, one of the dissenting sector of the FARC extinct guerrilla.

As explained by Insight Crime, “ ‘cripy’ marijuana has become a criminal booty of paramount importance for the Cauca groups. However, the native communities have opposed the ilegal crops in their reservation, and have undertaken various seizures of marijuana in the region”. This has lead them to become te main target of the

The day before being killed, Cristina Bautista warned that the quandary is shared by afrodescendants and villagers of Chocó, and of other regions of the country. This is a national phenomenon. He explained that the presence of ilegal armed groups has resulted in the intensification of child recruitment and a damaging influence over the organizative movements. “This is our home. You are not welcome,” she said to the leader of the armed groups before quoting the Eclesiastes: “there is nothing new under the sun.” She claimed fot justice and foresaid, with confidence, that no ultimate lawlessness will exist, giving her audience a message of unity, particularly in favor of childhood (the new indigenous generations, called to take the lead amidst persecution): “if you harm one of us, you will hear from all of us.”

A first minga march took over the streets of Bogotá on October 19th. The sum of indigenous people from different ethnic groups, of afrodescendants and of villagers from different regions of the country has housed students, workers and professionals; it joined arms and legs to the walk and spread through NQS avenue (vehicular artery of the city), then turned to Street 26 to point to the city centre: the Bolívar park, seeking to meet the president. The evening fell without the Nariño Palace gates’ opening, without any welcome from the president towards the movement. One of the signs carried by the walkers read: “we keep getting killed.”


* This term refers to the pacific organisation of native communities to claim for their rights that consists mainly in marching and seeking for dialogue with politicians.

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