According to the National Institute of Legal Medicine in this country, in the last two years 162 native people have been killed. They kill them in the streets, in the doorways of their houses, in meetings with friends and family and in their own homes. They kill them because “they get in the way”, because they do not accept “certain orders” … Everything happens in the face of indifference from “the whites” and under the passive gaze of the authorities and from a government that “does nothing about anything”.
Virginia Moreno Molina
At five o’clock in the evening on 26th September 2019, 24-year-old Marlon Ferney Pacho, a secretary to the council of the Talaga reservation, in the department of Cauca, was murdered. He was in his home when four unknown armed men took him from his bedroom and shot him repeatedly.
A week later, on the first of December, Segundo Nestor Sevillano, aged 30, was in a place of business with family and friends when a man came in and, without saying a word, shot him twice in the head causing his immediate death. He belonged to the Awa de Planadas Telembi Indian Reservation in the town of Samaniego.
These are only two examples of murders that have gone unpunished. It is as if death and impunity have almost become normal again.
Luis Fernando Arias, chief advisor of the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC), stated that “In Colombia, one indigenous person is murdered every 72 hours”.
Alarming figures that keep growing.
Of the 284 indigenous peoples that existed during the Hispanic empire, in this country 115 indigenous peoples still exist. According to the National Institute of Legal Medicine, those that have the largest number are the Wayú, (380,460), the Zenú (307,091) and the Nasa (243,176).
This amounts to 1.9 million people, some 4.4% of the total population. Only nine of these peoples are located in Cauca, among them the Nasa Asa community (243,176 indigenous people), which have the greatest representation among the people.
This is how Armando Valbuena Wouriyu tells it, who says that indigenous history has always been punished by displacement and murder in the communities.
Valbuena was born in the department of Guajira, Colombia, specifically in Karapushu, near Castillete, which is part of the Uaiu nation’s age-old territory.
Armando belongs to the Eirruku clan and between 1999 and 2003 he was president of the National Indigenous Organisation of Colombia (ONIC) and has been a union leader.
They have imprisoned, tortured and threatened him on many occasions, and he is currently under protective measures. Furthermore, members of his family have also been threatened.
Having closely followed the indigenous situation in Colombia, The Prisma decided to look for a closer perspective who could talk about this genocide. Therefore, I spoke to Armando Valbuena, who explained his experience, the conflict, and the authors and causes of this.
What are the historical reasons why indigenous communities have been attacked or displaced?
Along the entire Pacific coast, live five ancient peoples: Gunadule, Wounan, Embera, Eprarasiapidara and Awa. There are also African descendants and farmers, and a rather poor urban population. The republic has free trade agreements with the Pacific ocean, and these are commercial relationships with China and other countries.
The Pacific coast goes from Panama to Ecuador, and there is Buenaventura port, where 70% of the economy enters. They also want to create new ports, military camps, roads and, possibly, an inter-ocean canal.
There also exist genetic banks of flora, wanted by pharmaceutical companies.
Then, Republican actions are known for: paramilitary advances, the presence of the Ministry of Defence, land legalisation institution corruption, dispossession of lands, displacement, plundering everything, massacres, assassination of leaders, confinement and systematic genocide. In short: social and ethnic cleansing. The same thing is happening in the Amazon, Orinoquia and the Caribbean coast.
Where do most indigenous murders happen?
Most happen in the Pacific, Amazon and Orinoquia.
Is Cauca the region most affected by this genocide?
Genocide in the Nasa people is the most notorious. It is where spiritual guides, male and female leaders, and indigenous guards were killed more systematically and under the gaze of the Ministry of Defence which occupied those lands.
What are the causes of crime and human rights violations?
Land dispossession, gold mining in the Pacific, Amazon and Andes, felling trees, libertarian intellect with autonomy from the indigenous people…
It is the government that allows and participates in the creation, function and protection of the paramilitary, and those paramilitary groups carry out the dirty business of territorial dispossession. Afterwards, the actions of public servants related to the possession and judicial arm, and silence from the government.
These illicit actions are for mining, cattle ranching, agriculture, hydroelectricity, ports, felling trees, etc.
Who causes or are the authors of these crimes?
It is the State system of corruption that has created moral and aesthetic corruption that does not allow public officials to fulfil their duties to the citizens. We have spent decades reporting this situation to the government.
To what agencies, national and international, have these reports been made?
They have been made to police inspectors, judges, courts, Constitutional Court, Supreme Court of Justice. After this long journey, they reached the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the International Criminal Court etc.
All the institutions of the OAS and UN know them. These reports were made by ONIC and all the institutions of the indigenous people and the national and international human rights organisations.
What issues are these reports related to?
Human rights violations.
Has there been any kind of favourable resolution from the Attorney General?
The cases of the Nile Massacre, where three Arhuacos were murdered in 1991 and which was going to be part of the National Constituent Assembly (which was resolved in 2019) and the Rubiera massacre have been resolved. Nevertheless, you never reach the intellectual authors.
What has the government done about this situation?
Nothing at all.
President Iván Duque deployed 2,500 police officers to Cauca in November. However, you are all refusing to let the army enter your territories. In that case, how can they defend you?
What President Duque said is false, as for more than a decade 7 of the 8 Ministry of Defence institutions have been occupying these territorial spaces. We continue defending ourselves with the indigenous guard.
Apart from the murders, what other forms of violence are used against the indigenous people?
There is genocide, massacres and selective murders.
Is there a specific pattern when they want you to shut up and move out?
First, the paramilitary arrive, then the institutions from the Ministry of Defence arrive. Then, public officials in charge of land titling and also regional judicial power will act.
Created State terrorism then begins with: dispossession, displacement, murder of leaders and confinement. And the dismantling of the villages begins.
There are people who say that the Government and the State are involved in this. Is it true?
Law 161 of 1871 and decree 623 of 1922 are examples of the coercive rules, of executive power and legislative power. Now what is done are systematic criminal actions, of the most serious of all crimes: genocide.
Some social organisations state that this situation has been aggravated from the signature of the 2016 Peace Agreements which resulted in the demobilisation of the FARC. If so, what are the reasons for this?
The signing of the agreement became legislative act 01 of 2017. Therefore, the 530 compromises that they obtained were State policies, which are: the International Development Agreement of civil and political rights, the international agreement of economic, social and cultural rights, environmental rights with cultural objection. And this is how it is established in the ethnic chapter of this legislative act.
This situation has worsened because FARC “left” the occupied lands and the Ministry of Defence did too. This means that those who are present there are the paramilitary forces, who are involved in the wood, mining and agricultural industry businesses.
In Colombia, there have been very strong protests with complaints against the current government. The indigenous people decided to join in these demonstrations. Why?
Faced with breaching agreements in two centuries, we participated in the demonstrations and invited the Colombians so that they would know that it is possible to recover their dignity, get out of this slavery and take a stance on intellect.
Do you feel that there has been repression on these marches from the State and other groups?
Yes. In the most recent mobilisations, they have criminally investigated more than 1,500 people, they have murdered leaders in the streets, they killed FARC leaders, indigenous people, black people and peasants, students and workers.
(Translated by Donna Davison. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos supplied and authorized for publication by the Comisión Étnica Para la Paz y la Defensa De los Derechos Territoriales