Last week’s murder of three young men of Awá indigenous heritage has again cast the spotlight on the grave threats facing Colombia’s indigenous population. According to the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC), the country’s largest such body, the Awá population suffered more than 1,200 different acts of aggression between President Iván Duque entering office in August 2018 and 12 July 2020.
On 18 August, Lumar Leonel Guanga, John Guanga and Eider Sebastián Guanga, all aged between 18 and 24, were found dead in the Ricaurte zone of Nariño in southwest Colombia. The three victims were members of the Awá community Pialapi Pueblo Biejo, which continues to be impacted by the presence of several armed groups in Nariño and the increased militarisation by security forces.
The ONIC has called on the government and the Attorney General’s office to implement urgent measures to improve security for Colombia’s different indigenous groups. Although they represent around four to five per cent of the national population, they have been disproportionately affected by ongoing violence in rural zones. For example, a recent report found that Colombia was the world’s most dangerous country for environmental activists in 2019, with indigenous people accounting for half the 64 murders in the country.
Additionally, in regions such as Nariño and Cauca, indigenous community leaders have been murdered at an alarming rate, with the United Nations among those to call for urgent measures to address the situation. The ONIC registered 97 indigenous people murdered in the first year of Duque’s government.
Nariño has seen multiple cases of violence against Awá people this year, including the murder of community leaders Wilder García in March, Rodrigo Salazar and Fabio Alfonso Guanga García, both in July.
In 2009, Colombia’s Consitutional Court announced that 34 indigenous groups in Colombia faced threats to their survival, including the Awá. More than ten years later, those threats have not been addressed and violence continues to impact Colombia’s most marginalised communities.