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COLOMBIA
Massive indigenous march for peace
10/31/2008
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Some 45,000 indigenous citizens mobilize to end internal war and respect for their territories.

Every 53 hours an indigenous is killed in Colombia in the internal war that has raged in the country for more than four decades, according to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, the country´s largest indigenous organization. Of the 45 million Colombians, 1.6 million are indigenous – 102 ethnicities, 18 of which are in danger of dying out.

Some 45,000 indigenous Colombians marched in the southwestern Colombian department of Cauca toward the city of Cali on Oct. 12 – the date marking the arrival of Christopher Columbus to the Americas in 1492 — demanding an end to the internal war and respect for their territories. More than a quarter of Colombia´s indigenous population lacks collective lands recognized by the state.

The march was met by police and military repression in its first week. On Oct. 17, security forces opened fire on the demonstrators, killing three protesters and wounding hundreds more. Members of the Guambiana, Nasa, Yanacona, Totoró, Coconuco and Eperara-Siapirara ethnicities were present.

In a statement, the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca said that "the abuse of force reached the point of shooting at the indigenous population´s humanity with bullets."

Even though President Álvaro Uribe admitted that the police did shoot at the protesters, he said that no indigenous were killed by the shots, but instead by nonconventional explosives.

The government said that the march had been infiltrated by guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Colombia´s largest guerrilla group.

The indigenous protesters arrived in Cali on Oct. 28, where they demanded to meet with Uribe, and one of their principal demands is that the president apologize for calling the demonstrators terrorists. But the meeting never materialized.

The protesters are also demanding that the government sign the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that was approved in September of last year, and that it repeal laws that endanger indigenous cultures.
—Latinamerica Press.


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