Ongoing Assault against Indigenous People in Cauca department

News from Colombia | on: Tuesday, 8 January 2008

In a series of attacks perpetrated since mid-November the Colombian security forces have wounded and detained numerous indigenous people in the southern Colombian department of Cauca. The attacks follow on from public pronouncements by senior politicians and military commanders that the indigenous people in the region are supporters of the FARC guerrilla group. At least two people have been killed in the ongoing attacks by the army and police.

During the last month the Justice for Colombia office has received numerous reports direct from the region documenting exactly what has been happening in Cauca. Here we give a brief overview of some of the incidents:

January 8th: Indigenous agriculture specialist, Arquimedes Nene (of the Totoguampa indigenous group), is detained by the security forces in the city of Popayan. His current whereabouts are unknown.

January 7th: Troops of the 8th 'Batalla de Pichincha' Infantry Battalion along with Special Forces of the 3rd Brigade of the Colombian Army enter the indigenous community of San Julian in Toribio municipality and threaten to kill residents – whom they claim are clandestine guerrilla supporters. The soldiers also destroy property and physically attack people. The two indigenous leaders in the community, Misael Gembuel Pavi and Mauricio Mestizo Rivera, are severely beaten and told that they will be murdered if they do not stop assisting local FARC guerrilla units. There is no evidence that the indigenous people are collaborating with the guerrillas.

January 6th: Police officers in the town of Silvia detain senior indigenous leader Jorge Eliecer Sanchez and his driver Victor Dario Fernandez. Both men are taken to the police station in the same town where they are brutally beaten.

January 5th: Soldiers take away three indigenous people, Jose Albeiro Yonda, Joaquin Guetio and Juvenal Guetio, in the municipality of Silvia. Their fate is unknown.

December 6th: Security forces attack a group of indigenous people at 'La Perla' farm in the municipality of Silvia. Five members of the indigenous guard – an unarmed force of indigenous people that protects the indigenous communities – are detained and taken to the central park of the town of Silvia. In the park the five detained men, Miguel Angel Pena, Yamid Hernando Pechene, Rafael Antonio Cuene, Carlos Andres Calambas and Sandra Patricia Campo, are brutally beaten before being released.

December 4th: ESMAD riot police and soldiers from an unidentified unit of the Colombian Army attack a group of indigenous people meeting at the 'Las Piramides' farm in the Lomitas area of Santander de Quilichao municipality. Gas and live rounds are fired at the meeting of people from the indigenous reserves of 'Conception', 'Guadalito' and 'Pueblo Nuevo Ceral'.

December 4th: Three unknown assassins dressed all in black and wearing masks, murder Anibal Dagua in front of his wife and children. Mr Dagua was a teacher in the 'Antonio Ulcue' School in the 'Miranda' indigenous reserve.

December 3rd: Two white vans containing police intelligence officers and a masked civilian woman arrive at the 'La Maria' farm in the municipality of Piendamo. They detain two indigenous people, Luis Felipe Yalanda and 16-year-old James Uyuene Tenebuel, whom they accuse of being guerrilla sympathisers. Both are taken away to the city of Popayan. Their current whereabouts are unknown.

December 2nd: Five unidentified men, two of them armed, enter the office of the indigenous authority in the town of Morales where they begin to threaten people. They read a list of names of indigenous people from the region who they are looking for. The names are Lisbet Orozco, Santiago Pajoy, Francisco Zambrano, Juan Antonio Velasco, Rober Guacheta, Irmo Ordonez and Yolanda Guacheta all of whom are now believed to be in grave danger.

November 29th: At 12.30 ESMAD riot police and soldiers from an unidentified unit of the Colombian Army attack a large group of indigenous people at the 'Emperatiz' farm in Caloto municipality. Gas is fired into the civilians and two men in civilian clothes who accompany the security forces open fire with live ammunition. Over 20 indigenous people are wounded, four to the extent that they require hospitalisation: Rodrigo Pito (35, from the hamlet of Chocho in the Huellas Caloto reserve), Antonio Conda (22, from the hamlet of Altamira also in the Huellas Caloto reserve), Lorenzo Largo Dagua (18, from the hamlet of Gallinazas in the Tacueyó reserve) and Delio Quitumbo (27, from the hamlet of La Palma in the Toribío reserve). Mr Largo, who was shot in the stomach and chest, later dies of his injuries.

November 28th: In an attack by security forces against members of the 'Munchique los Tigres' indigenous reserve, four indigenous men are wounded – three of them after being shot in the back. The victims are 20-year-old Floresmiro Ulcué, 21-year-old Álvaro Ulcué, 36-year-old Rodrigo Menza and Iván Alexander Díaz Tróchez.

November 26th: President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia visits Popayan, the capital of Cauca department, where he holds a public meeting with the Governor of the region Juan Jose Chaux. During the meeting the Governor publicly states that the protests being held by indigenous people in Cauca are being directed by the FARC guerrilla group and that they are therefore illegitimate.

November 23rd: 16-year-old indigenous teenager Alberney Guejia from the 'Huellas' indigenous reserve is shot in the eye with a rubber bullet by police officers on the Caloto to Palo road – he loses his vision in that eye.

November 15th: Military commanders in Cauca department publicly state that indigenous people in the region are actively working with the FARC guerrilla group and that they will respond militarily to indigenous communities.

November 13th: At 11.40am in the town of Santander de Quilichao, Marino Ulcue, the indigenous governor of the Canoas reserve, was forced into a black jeep with darkened windows by three men with automatic weapons. He was taken to an abandoned house nearby and interrogated for over five hours before being released with the threat that he would be killed if indigenous people in the region did not stop their protest activities.

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