Military tension over human rights cases Murder in Curvaradó
Oct 142008

Thousands of indigenous activists gathered yesterday for a protest in northern Cauca department, part of a nationwide day of indigenous mobilizations to commemorate what we in the United States call “Columbus Day.”

By several accounts, as the protests – and accompanying road blockages – entered a second day, the Colombian government has begun responding violently.

The worst case appears to be in La María, in the municipality of Piendamó, in Cauca department. Information received so far has been sketchy, but the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council (CRIC) reports that Colombian security forces have fired into a crowd, wounding as many as twenty-five people, some very seriously.

It is unclear what is going on, but our inbox is filling up with alerts. A main source of information, the website of the Indigenous Cabildos of Northern Cauca (ACIN), has been down – and reportedly blocked – since late this morning.

We are monitoring the websites of the CRIC, the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC), and the Colombia Indymedia page.

Meanwhile El Tiempo, Colombia’s largest newspaper, has nothing about the events in Cauca. Instead, its website is featuring soccer news on its front page, along with an article exhorting readers to wash their hands before eating, and an article about a man in Florida who tried to pay for his food with marijuana.

Update 7:20 PM: El Tiempo is now running an EFE story giving a figure of 30 wounded.

Updates 11:30 AM 10/15: The situation looks pretty bad. “Violent assault on indigenous people in La María – Piendamó,” reads a bulletin posted this morning to the CRIC website:

On October 15 at 5:30 AM, the Army, Police and ESMAD (the National Police’s feared Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron) are violently evicting the indigenous comuneros who had been peacefully waiting in La María for the government to meet with them.

The security forces entered shooting with long-range weapons, and there are already three people seriously wounded. The military forces have already entered the territory of dialogue and negotiation.

It is urgently requested that international organizations work to slow this violence. And that the indigenous communities reinforce the personnel who are being attacked.

It is urgent, compañeros, so far there are 39 wounded since yesterday, one dead and more arriving at the health posts, there is fear for disappeared people, since there are armed civilians surrounding La María.

There is official knowledge on the part of the High Council of the CRIC, the the ESMAD killed, with a machete, an indigenous comunero and left his body on the side of the bridge … also an ambulance carrying several of those afected has been kept from arriving at the health post. The indigenous people are bing chased through the nearby coffee fields by the security forces who are using rifles. This constitutes a SERIOUS HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW VIOLATION.

12 Responses to “What is happening in Cauca? (Updated 11:45 10/15)”

  1. boz Says:

    From my post the day after Raul Reyes was killed:
    You know what I love about Latin America? Colombia has killed a top FARC leader, Venezuela has threatened war against Colombia, and El Tiempo still has the local soccer scores running at the top of their webpage on Sunday afternoon. It’s about priorities.

    Pablo Escobar could rise from the dead and it wouldn’t be the top story if World Cup qualifiers were going on.

  2. Jaime Bustos Says:

    The problem with colombian press, (well aside from hiring low level skilled journalists), and by extension Colombia, is that they have introspected their role as a US colony in a very serious way. In Semana magazine you can watch English videos, of Obama and Mccain on a debate or The Simpsons clips without even Spanish captions. Also what happened with Britney Spears’ latest lover is more important than parapolitics. They think they are running the Wall Street Stock Trade, and are knowledgeable of all the niceties of how to make the world out of the financial crisis.

    But not a word about massacres, not a world about protests, not a word about indigenous people dying by government bullets not a word about starving children. After all, they claim Colombians are the happiest people in the world. :(

  3. Kyle Says:

    Semana kind of has the story:

    http://www.semana.com/noticias-noticias/enfrentamientos-cauca-dejan-27-indigenas-dos-policias-heridos/116597.aspx

    I have always thought of Semana as the best news mag/paper that Colombia has but they dropped the ball on this brief.
    El Tiempo kind of has it.

    http://www.eltiempo.com/colombia/occidente/2008-10-14/un-indigena-muerto-y-mas-de-30-heridos-en-enfrentamientos-entre-indigenas-y-policias-en-colombia_4601377-1

    Again El Tiempo says nothing. Describes well what the indigenous have supposedly done on their side of the equation. But for one dead and over 30 injured indigenous, all they have to say about the Police is that they “used tear has” and that “protesters of various [indigenous] communities and police confronted each other with rocks and sticks.” I doubt the Police showed up with “rocks and sticks” leaving us nothing but “tear gas.” It is extremely rare that people die from tear gas (but can happen) and 30 people are injured. Added to the text of the denunciations from the indigenous organizations (not mentioned in either story), we have some poor journalism (including by editors and bosses) right now. Hopefully in a couple days we know what is going on right now. We should know now, but it doesn’t seem to be too good of a story for the news outlets (when it’s huge news).

  4. Kyle Says:

    Side note:

    http://www.eltiempo.com/colombia/justicia/2008-10-14/por-parapolitica-90-meses-de-prision-y-3200-millones-de-multa-para-ex-congresista-carlos-clavijo_4601578-1

  5. Sergio Méndez Says:

    Boz:

    Well, the way I see it, is more likely Pablo Escobar raises from the dead, rather than Colombia classifies to the world cup :D

  6. o-lu Says:

    100% de acuerdo con el comentario de Jaime Bustos.

  7. Chris Says:

    “the Colombian governemt has begun responding violently…”

    or

    the Colombian government began to disperse the protesters who were illegally blocking the Pan-American highway…

    I guess it’s really how you look at it, correct?

    ESMAD is a pretty solid riot force, I have first-hand experience, and they’re properly trained. I have doubts as to the veracity of the reporting coming from the pro-Indian groups.

    My understanding is that there will be a lot more clashes today. ESMAD has orders to clear the highway… which in my point of view are legit orders because there is a large segment of people (truckers) who are hurting as a result of these protests.

    And while I am at it… I’ll stir-up some controversy here by pointing out that… the indian groups are sometimes directed by FARC sympathizers…

  8. Jaime Bustos Says:

    Chris to be fair you don’t know whether the assertions you are making are true and neither do I. The fact that your wife is colombian (and judging by your viewpoint, a follower of the current regime) helps little to your grasping of the colombian reality.

  9. Stuart Says:

    Chris,
    Article on upsidedownworld.org :
    “On Saturday, the Council of Chiefs of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, CRIC, received a call from the office of Cauca’s governor, informing them of intelligence reports that provide evidence that the Teófilo Forero column of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, intended to assassinate the well-known indigenous leader and member of the CRIC’s council of Chiefs, Feliciano Valencia. On Friday, the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN, received a faxed letter from FARC, warning of a campaign of extermination against alleged government collaborators within the indigenous cabildos of Toribio and Jambaló.

    It is no coincidence that while government officials repeatedly accuse the indigenous leadership of being manipulated by FARC guerillas in their protests and mobilizations, FARC is quick to return the favor, unilaterally targeting so-called sapos, or collaborators, from within the indigenous communities. For the indigenous communities, the results are tragically the same, despite years of declaring their autonomy from all armed actors in the conflict.”

    http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/1527/1/

  10. Kyle Says:

    Orders to clear the road are legit, yes, but how it is done is the concern. Secondly, I will add to the FARC notion that the Nasa/Paez have not had the best history/relationship with the FARC in recent years, like the last 7 or 8 at least.

  11. Kyle Says:

    This just in:

    http://www.eltiempo.com/colombia/occidente/2008-10-15/autoridades-recuperan-el-control-de-la-via-panamericana-que-estaba-bloqueada-por-miles-de-indigenas_4602004-1

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