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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-28-08 07:28 PM
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COLOMBIA: Indigenous Groups in Danger of Disappearing
COLOMBIA: Indigenous Groups in Danger of Disappearing
By Constanza Vieira

BOGOTA, Jul 28 (IPS) - The Permanent Peoples Tribunal warned in its final statement on Colombia of "the imminent danger of physical and cultural extinction faced by 28 indigenous groups," adding that 18 of the communities have less than 10 members, "and are suspended between life and death."

The 28 groups in question are the Nukak, Shiripu, Wipibi, Amora, Guayabero, Taiwano, Macaguaje, Pisamira, Muinane, Judpa, Yauna, Bara, Ocaina, Dujos, Piaroa, Carabayo, Nonuya, Matap, Cacua, Kawiyar, Tutuyo, Tariano, Yagua, Carapan, Chiricoa, Achagua, Carijona and Masiguare, who live in different parts of this civil war-torn country.

"Their disappearance from the face of the earth would constitute, in the 21st century, not only a disgrace for the Colombian state and for humanity as a whole, but genocide and a crime against humanity because of action or failure to act by the institutions of the state in order to help these peoples who are on the verge of disappearing," says the ermanent Peoples Tribunal (PPT) statement, issued last week.

Of Colombias 43 million people, 1.4 million are indigenous, according to the latest census, from 2005, which counted 87 different native groups, although Colombia's National Indigenous Organisation (ONIC) identifies 102 distinct communities. The difference is accounted for by the fact that the census grouped linguistic families as a single ethnic group.

The PPT, which investigates and tries human rights violations around the world, is the successor to the Russell Tribunal, which in the 1960s investigated war crimes committed during the 1965-1975 Vietnam War, and in the 1970s investigated crimes against humanity committed by U.S.-backed dictatorships in Latin America.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-28-08 07:42 PM
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1. Background on history of current struggle:
From the original article, followed by another source:

In its previous statements, produced by 17 national and international hearings and six specialised hearings prior to last weeks final session, the PPT had stopped short of describing the plight of indigenous people in Colombia as genocide.

But the final verdict states that in this South American country, which has basically been in the grip of civil war since 1946, indigenous groups and the labour movement are the targets of genocide, which was also committed against the Patriotic Union, a leftist party that emerged in 1985 from a peace agreement with the leftist guerrillas but was completely wiped out by death squads.


Jaime Pardo Leal, the
leader of the Patriotic
Union, killed by the
Colombian military

The Human Rights Crisis
Whilst the declared role of the paramilitaries was to combat the guerrillas, their growing involvement in the drugs trade and their unwillingness to actually engage the FARC on the battlefield in fact meant that their primary military objective became civilians. Those suspected of sympathising with the guerrillas or who opposed the interests of the paramilitaries, or the politicians or businesses behind them, were the principal objectives.

In the 1980s and 1990s the human rights situation in Colombia became one of the most critical in the world: Thousands of members of the political opposition were murdered, thousands of trade unionists were assassinated, and hundreds of journalists, student leaders, human rights defenders, indigenous activists and progressive lawyers were killed. And whilst it was the paramilitaries who physically carried out the majority of the killings, there were countless cases of the army or police perpetrating assassinations themselves. The collaboration between the AUC and the security forces became widespread and, in some areas, the two acted together openly. To give just one example, the army and paramilitaries jointly exterminated the entire Patriotic Union political party - a broad leftwing party supported by the trade unions - by selectively assassinating over 5000 of their activists.

But widespread use of assassinations was not the only violation of human rights that occurred. Thousands of people were forcibly disappeared, torture and death threats became common and the paramilitaries perpetrated massacres almost on a daily basis from the mid-1990s onwards - particularly against members of communities deemed pro-guerrilla or anti-government. Huge numbers of people have also been imprisoned and many hundreds of political prisoners still languish in Colombia's jails.

Forced displacement too became a common occurrence as millions were forced from their homes and lands by the paramilitaries who then stole the land and, in many cases, the natural resources which lay beneath it. Today, with 3.6 million Colombians having fled in this way, the country has the second highest displaced population in the world.

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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jul-28-08 09:54 PM
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2. Kidnapped by Hunger, Held Prisoner by Poverty
July 28, 2008

Kidnapped by Hunger, Held Prisoner by Poverty
The Spectacle and the Movement in Colombia

Sunday, July 20th was Colombian Independence day, and hundreds of thousands of Colombians in 60 countries went out into the streets to call for the liberation of those kidnapped in Colombias fifty-year-long war. In Pasto, the capital of the border province of Nario, an elderly woman said she was present at the demonstration to plea for the liberation of all people being held against their will by all parties. One of the singers on the stage in the citys main plaza where about two thousand people had gathered, took the opportunity to call for the liberation of those kidnapped by hunger, those held prisoner by poverty, the street children, and those held prisoners by ignorance.

But neither the sentiments of the singer, nor those of the elderly woman with whom I talked, were echoed in Colombias mainstream media. In the Independence Day event, as broadcast live over most stations, especially the large open air concert in Bogot featuring the likes of Shakira, Carlos Vives and Dr. Krapula, the media chose to focus only on the kidnapped victims of the FARC. Meanwhile, the paramilitaries, which have theoretically been disbanded, still operate in large areas of the country and continue to be responsible for between 60 and 80 percent of political deaths and disappearances.

Most Colombians recognize multiple players in this war: the Colombian and U.S. governments; the oligarchy, whose greed has made Colombia, along with Brazil, a rival for last place in terms of distribution of wealth (65% of Colombians live in poverty); the paramilitaries, sometimes employed by local oligarchs, and other times soldiers operating out of uniform; and finally, on the other side, the leftist guerrillas who make up two separate armies, the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

I went to Popayn specifically to visit the offices of the Regional Indigenous Center of Cauca (CRIC) in hopes that someone there could help unravel some of the complexities of Colombian society and politics. Leonardo Perafn had spoken highly of CRIC, calling it the organization at the core of Colombias most vital social movement. In his office in Bogota Leonardo had pulled up images of CRIC members and their supporters, armed only symbolically with batons that show their status as guardians of the tribes, confronting a black wall of police in riot gear sporting shields and helicopters which shot live ammunition.

There were several wounded and one killed in this demonstration, he told me, clicking through images of the wounded and one picture of a hand holding bullets. These are some of the bullets that were being shot from the helicopters, Leonardo explained.

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