Indigenous woman activist murdered in southern Colombia

The secretary of an Awa indigenous council was murdered on 13 October in Nariño, southern Colombia, the latest act of violence against the country’s indigenous population.

Lilia Patricia García was shot dead while walking along a road linking the village of Buenavista in the Barbacoas zone with the education institute Los Telembies, which was founded for child victims of forced displacement. Colombia’s main indigenous organisation, the ONIC, said Lilia was shot from behind by an unidentified attacker. It added that armed groups are highly active in the area, with incidents having previously occurred on the same road.

Lilia, who was 43 years old, worked as secretary of the Awa council of the Watsalpí reserve and was married to the governor there. The family had suffered previous tragedy: the couple’s 15-year-old son was murdered in 2015 after resisting paramilitaries’ attempt to forcibly recruit him. The family was displaced from their home as a result.

In a statement condeming Lilia’s murder, the ONIC said that 99 per cent of the Watsalpí community is forcibly displaced due to violence and ‘without guarantees of security, protection, healthcare, decent housing, education, food [and] facing ongoing threats from various armed groups’.

The ONIC also said authorities were failing to protect indigenous populations: ‘We hold responsible the Colombian state and President Iván Duque for the different murders being committed in our territories’. According to the ONIC, since Duque took office in August last year more than 100 indigenous leaders and activists have been killed in Colombia.