In Cauca Province of Colombia, Indigenous People Fight Back Against Government and FARC

Jul 20, 2012
11:06 pm

A few days ago, when we posted the following link on our Facebook and Twitter pages. The reaction to it was pretty immediate:

Here was an image of a indigenous people in Colombia expelling armed soldiers from their lands. It happened in the Colombia province of Cauca. There has been mounting tensions between the indigenous people of this province and the Colombian government. In addition, these same groups of people also started fighting back against FARC rebels, who has been fighting against the Colombian government. Here is the latest from Colombia Reports:

Colombian authorities said Thursday they have reached an agreement with indigenous leaders to end the tense situation in the southwestern department of Cauca, although community leaders from the area disputed this claim. According to local newspaper El Liberal, the agreement specifically stated there would be no more armed clashes between the Colombian security forces and the indigenous guard in the northern Cauca municipalities of Toribio and Caldono.

However, representatives from the Association of Indigenous Councils in Northern Cauca told Colombia Reports that no such agreement had been reached and recent local media reports regarding the agreement were false.

In the past few weeks, the two municipalities have been the scenes of fierce protests as indigenous movements tried to force the army and police out of the area, arguing the armed state presence put the community members’ lives at risk.

On Wednesday, one protester was killed near Toribio as the Colombian police retook an army outpost briefly occupied by roughly 400 indigenous protestors, although certain estimates were as high as 1,000. The occupation took place the same day President Juan Manuel Santos arrived in the town to announce "Plan Cauca," a security strategy aimed at curbing FARC-related violence in the department, a traditional guerrilla stronghold, through increased military presence and the development of social initiatives.

James Yatacue, a representative from a local indigenous organization, said Thursday representatives from the army, Colombia’s ombudsman and the indigenous community would meet to discuss further solutions to the ongoing conflict between security forces and FARC rebels.

Federico Renjifo, Colombia’s interior minister, said Thursday “an open dialogue” was being held with indigenous organizations, while pointing out “the [armed forces] will stay in all of the national territory and this cannot be a negotiable condition.” Cauca has been a FARC haven historically, due to its mixture of mountainous and swampy terrain and easy access to drug smuggling routes, and the recent surge in violence has highlighted the departments fragile security situation.

In the meantime, more and more video is coming out of the province. Here is just one clip, plus an English translation of what they reported.

This video, circulating online and on social networks, was recorded by inhabitants of Toribio. Here the indigenous community sees as the Cerro Berlin Army vacate but as it does do, it is clear that some of the forces at protesters with the intent of driving them away.

Today [July 19] the inhabitants of the municipality of northern Cauca expressed their fear of possible retaliation by the FARC since the Indigenous Guard captured four members of this group a few days ago.