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Awá in the crossfire
2/18/2009
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FARC guerrilla tortures and murders native Awá for allegedly collaborating with the army.

Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, are to blame for the massacre of 27 indigenous Awá in southwestern Colombia in early February, two major indigenous organizations recently said.

In a join statement, the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, known as ONIC, and the Awá People Indigenous Unity group said that on Feb. 4, armed men dressed like the FARC captured 120 people — men, women and children — and they dragged them to the El Hojal ravine in the El Bravo community where they were seen killing some people with knives.

According to community members, 17 people died in the attack, which was an apparent reprisal for the community´s “collaboration” with the army.

Two days later, the FARC allegedly killed another 10 native Awá who escaped the first murder, the two indigenous groups said.

In a communiqué published Feb. 17 by news agency Anncol, the FARC admitted the killings of eight Awá, but said they were carried out independent of the “race, religion, ethnicity” of the victims who “accepted money and put themselves at the service of the army in an area that is the object of a military operation.”

The indigenous organizations said that in the last decade, there have been four massacres, on Awá lands, 200 people killed.

ONIC´s president, Luis Andrade, told local press that “the FARC´s strategy is to use the indigenous as human shields. If they escape, they believe that they are hiding some tie to the army, so they kill them.”

In their statement, the indigenous groups denounced “the growing militarization of our lands” under President Álvaro Uribe´s so-called “democratic security” plan, which has had a devastating affect on the communities.

The United Nations office in Colombia expressed its worry for the Awá people, “whose living conditions have deteriorated as a result of the violence in their area.”

The Awá, who number around 30,000, are demanding autonomy both geographically and politically, an end to landmines in their area and not to be dragged into a war which is not theirs.

In 2007, Awá communities from Colombia and across the border in Ecuador decided to join forces to defend their rights.
—Latinamerica Press.


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