(March 14, 2019) — There is a crisis happening right now in Cauca, Colombia. The Colombian Armed Forces have attacked a “minga” in the village of Cairo, municipality of Cajibío – twice in two days – and are still present and threatening more assaults. The minga is a collective consultation called by indigenous, Afro-Colombian, and farming communities and organizations, including FENSUAGRO, the agricultural workers union with whom Alliance for Global Justice works. Participants are demanding to meet with Colombia’s President Ivan Duque, who has so far not responded.
The minga has been called to advocate for land rights and an end to political violence and displacement. The minga is happening throughout Cauca, with tense encounters also occurring in other townships.
ACTION: Click HERE to send an email to Colombian President Iván Duque to demand that he end the violence against the minga and go to Cauca to hear their valid concerns for peace, land, and safety!
Up till now, attacks by the military have been with non-lethal weapons. But confrontations like this have too often escalated to live fire resulting in civilian casualties. For instance, on October 5, 2016 in Tumaco, Nariño, Colombian Armed Forces attacked a peaceful protest, leaving eight persons dead and between 20 and 50 persons wounded.
On March 13, 2019, around 5:45pm, ESMAD (Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron) attacked a crowd gathered in Cajibío while they listened to speeches and presentations. According to eyewitnesses, ESMAD fired tear gas directly into the crowd, even though the crowd was not engaged in any violent or illegal activity. The following day, around 5:30pm, the same thing happened again leaving several people wounded.
The region of Cauca, Valle de Cauca, and Nariño hosts one of Colombia’s two largest military concentrations. The troops have been visited repeatedly by the top commanders of the Pentagon’s Southern Command, and receive US funding, training, and advice.
How bad is the situation in Colombia, and specifically in Cauca since the peace accord was finalized? Cauca has been the department most affected by subsequent political violence and displacement. Last year, according to Indepaz and the Marcha Patriótica, there were 226 social movement leaders and human rights defenders assassinated in Colombia.
The largest number was in Cauca, with 48. In adjacent Valle de Cauca and Nariño, there were another 19 and 13 respectively. The overall total is up from 159 in 2017, and 97 in 2016. During the first 100 days of President Duque’s term (beginning August 7, 2018), 120 social movement leaders and human rights defenders were killed.
Duque belongs to the far-right Democratic Center Party, whose members, including former President Álvaro Uribe, are known for their extensive ties with paramilitary death squads. According to the office of Colombia’s Ombudsman (People’s Defender), between the beginning of November 2018 and the end of January 2019, 164 social movement leaders and human rights defenders have been murdered, almost 2 persons per day.
Imminent Threat to Indigenous and Rural Consultations in Colombia
The Colombian Armed Forces are surrounding indigenous and rural popular consultations (mingas) in the Department of Cauca. Twice in 24 hours they have attacked the minga in the municipality of Cajibío, with tear gas fired directly into the crowd. There is a real possibility this could escalate to live ammunition resulting in more casualties. The conveners of the minga are insisting that Colombian President Iván Duque come meet with them and hear their demands for land rights and an end to political violence.
Las Fuerzas Armadas de Colombia están amenazando a la minga de indígenas y campesinos en el Departamento de Cuaca. Dos veces en 24 horas han agredido a la minga en Cajibío con gas lacrimógeno disparado directamente a la multitud. Hay una posibilidad grave que la situación pueda escalar con el uso de munición real por parte de ESMAD (Escuadrón Movil Antidisturbios) resultando en más víctimas. Los convocantes de la minga estan insistiendo en que el presidente Iván Duque venga para reunir con ellos para escuchar sus demandas para derechos a tierra y un fin a la violencia política.
Following is an English translation of the Spanish letter you will send:
I am writing in support of the demands of the participants in the minga in Cauca, and to request that you meet with them to listen to their legitimate complaints with respect to their rights to land, to not to be displaced or victimized by political violence. More, as an internationalist and defender of Human Rights, I demand that the Colombian government act immediately to put an end to the threats and assaults by ESMAD [Colombian anti-disturbances squadron] against the Minga in Cajibío and throughout Cauca. The world is watching!
This email will be delivered to three recipients: President Ivan Duque, the Senior President of Colombia, and the Colombia Home Defense Agency.
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