Indigenous Protesters Under Attack in Colombia! Call State Department Today!

Since October 12th, indigenous and other social organizations in southwestern Colombia, have been protesting the militarization of their lands, the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and the failure of the government of President Alvaro Uribe to comply with agreements relating to indigenous land, education, and healthcare. See their demands here.  Over 12,000 indigenous activists and other social justice activists congregated on the Territory of Peace and Coexistence in La Maria Piendamo, in Cauca, resisting the hostile and massive presence of state security forces who were ordered to remove them. 


Rather than respond to their calls for negotiation, over the last eight days violence has broken out between elite police units and the assembled communities. These unfolding developments come just days after two other Nasa Indians-- Nicolas Valencia Lemus and Celestino Rivera -- were assassinated by unidentified gunmen just a few hours before the start of the mobilization. The National Organization of Colombia's Indigenous (ONIC) report that in the past two weeks at least 19 indigenous leaders have been killed across the country. This only adds to the alarming human rights situation in indigenous communities in Colombia. ONIC reports that between 2002 and 2006, 1,226 indigenous people have been killed, 300 have been disappeared and 1,660 have been jailed.

On Friday, 16 Indigenous people were wounded with long range weapons.  Four of these people were not taking part in the protest, but simply going about their daily activities when shot by sniper fire from the Colombian armed forces.  These bring the total of wounded in Cauca to more than 100; 1 dead and an attempt at raping a minor.  Making matters worse is the spread of the violence to other regions where the marches are also taking place.  In the nearby Valle del Cauca, 12 Indigenous people were shot including 2 children. 

Of utmost concern are the army's current actions in Cauca.  The army is going deeper into indigenous territory and ransacking homes, burning health centers and shooting at civilians.  This pattern of military activity is similar to that used in past massacres. 

We remain extremely concerned about the situation and need you to call on the State Department to make a statement condemning the violence and outlining the steps they are taking to assure that U.S. military aid is not used to violate human rights.  If you need more information for your calls or want current updates on the situation visit http://www.tradeandwar.blogspot.com/

According to U.S. legislation the Colombian military has to ensure that the Colombian Armed Forces are not violating the land and property rights of Colombia's Indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities, and that the Colombian Armed Forces are implementing procedures to distinguish between civilians, including displaced persons, and combatants in their operations.

Please call Susan Sanford, Colombia Desk Officer at the State Department at (202) 647-3142.   Here is a script of a sample message:

"I am calling today to bring to your attention the violent tactics the Colombian army and anti-riot police are using against Indigenous protesters.  The worst of this violence is taking place in southwestern Colombia, the department of Cauca.  I want to urge you and your colleagues to make a public statement condemning the use of violence by the Colombian military and the anti riot police and outline in that statement the steps you are taking to ensure that human rights conditions for U.S. military assistance are being enforced. I also encourage you to call on the Colombian government to deal with the protesters through dialogue and in a peaceful manner."

Please let us know what you hear back!