Three Indigenous People Murdered in Colombia
News from Colombia |
on: Friday, 27 February 2009
Three indigenous people have been assassinated in separate attacks around Colombia during February. The perpetrators are unknown though one killing, that of Reinaldo Martinez on February 7th, took place in the paramilitary stronghold of Uraba near Colombia's northwest border with Panama.
Mr Martinez, a member of the Tule indigenous group who lived on the 'Caiman' reserve between the towns of Turbo and Necocli, was travelling back to the reserve with his nephew after visiting the nearby community of Totumo. When the two were stopped by armed men on motorbikes, Mr Martinez's nephew ran away and though he was shot at by the men he escaped. His uncle, says the Indigenous Organisation of Antioquia, was then made to lie on the ground and was repeatedly stabbed and cut with knives and machetes before being shot twice.
The same day another indigenous person was murdered near the town of Andes in Antioquia department. Alvaro Gonzalez Baquiaza was shot dead at some time between 7 and 8pm as he returned to his home of the 'Cristiania' reserve and his body left by the side of the road.
Just over two weeks later, on February 24th, Alba Yaneth Garcia, an indigenous woman who lived in the 'Nuestra Senora Candelaria de La Montana' reserve in the department of Caldas was killed by unidentified men who arrived at her home in the village of El Rub. According to initial reports from the region Ms Garcia was attacked in her home but then attempted to flee despite being badly wounded. She died around 100 meters from her house. In October paramilitaries with links to the Colombian Army carried out a massacre in the same reserve as reported on by JFC here.
Colombia is home to around 1.4 million indigenous people and, according to the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC), as well as other sources, they have been the victims of widespread and systematic human rights violations. In December 2008 ONIC went as to far as to accuse the Colombian regime of engaging in a policy of 'ethnocide' and pointed out that as well as the constant abuses, indigenous people are excluded, to a large extent, from receiving health and education provision, have their ancestral territories stolen and are the victims of constant stigmatisation whereby senior government officials and military commanders accuse them of working with the guerrilla insurgency.
According to the ONIC at least 1,244 indigenous people have been murdered since President Alvaro Uribe came to power in 2002 and many others attacked, kidnapped or forcibly disappeared. The organisation also points out that Colombia was recently one of very few countries in the world not to vote in favour of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during a UN General Assembly debate.
In September last year a large coalition of civil society organisations in the United States sent an open letter to the US State Department in which they expressed their profound concern that 18 of Colombia's indigenous groups faced extinction if urgent measures were not taken to safeguard them. The full letter can be read here.
For previous stories on this site about abuses against indigenous people see:
Oct 2008 Paramilitary Massacre in Colombia
Aug 2008 25 Children Die of Hunger
July 2008 Army Abusing Indigenous Groups in Choco
June 2008 Indigenous Leader Assassinated