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COLOMBIA
Armed groups target indigenous, Afro-descendants
6/3/2009
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Communities living in natural-resource rich zones at the greatest risk.

Colombia´s armed conflict continues to affect thousands of its citizens, particularly the civilian population, with a high number of victims in the indigenous, campesino and Afro-Colombian population, according to Amnesty International´s Report 2009, which looked at incidents from July 2007 to July 2008.

"Civilians were the main victims of the conflict, with indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants and campesinos most at risk; many lived in areas of economic and strategic interest to the warring parties," said the organization in its report. "All parties to the conflict – the security forces, paramilitaries and guerrilla groups – were responsible for widespread and systematic human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law."

According to Amnesty International, members of these communities are habitually targeted "in an effort to force them to flee so that the area can be opened up for large-scale economic development."

"Those communities that campaign against such development are accused of being ‘subversive’ – an accusation which is often followed by paramilitary attacks," the report said.

In an October 2008 report entitled "‘Leave us in peace!’ Targeting civilians in the Internal Armed Conflict," Amnesty International said indigenous and Afro-Colombians have a higher chance of being displaced by the conflict because they live in areas rich in biodiversity, minerals and oil, where there is a high amount of military activity.

These civilians are in an already precarious situation, suffering discrimination and marginalization. They are also the victims of attacks by guerrilla groups, who accuse them of siding with the Colombian military. In February, 27 members of the Awa people were killed in the southwestern department of Nariño by members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Colombia´s largest rebel group, who accused them of collaborating with the army.

According to the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, every 53 hours an indigenous Colombian is killed as a result of the internal war. There are 1.6 million indigenous Colombians out of a population of 45 million people. There are 102 ethnicities, and 18 are face being completely wiped out.

At the recent Continental Indigenous Summit in Puno, Peru, a leader of the Colombian indigenous organization said they would form a 100,000-member guard of indigenous people to protect their communities from being caught in the crossfire of the conflict.
—Latinamerica Press.


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