Things That Matter

Five Tribal Leaders Have Been Assassinated Across Colombia And The Government Blames FARC Rebels

President Iván Duque traveled to Colombia’s southwest in the wake of what he called the “assassination” of five indigenous leaders. According to the Associated Press, leaders of the Tacueyo reservation were killed this week when they were ambushed by gunmen that belong to a faction of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (also known as FARC). 

The leaders’ armored SUV was attacked by a small group of defectors with hand grenades and guns who do not support the now-defunct FARC’s peace treaty with the government. The gunmen continued to shoot even as ambulances arrived to help the wounded. Duque condemned the act of violence that injured six and killed five, including Cristina Bautista, the spiritual leader of the semi-autonomous reservation and the top authority. 

The Nasa indigenous guard try to thwart the assassination.

The Nasa indigenous group resides in the Cauca province of southwest Colombia. When the Nasa indigenous guard attempted to stop a car for a routine check, a group of dissidents including a leader demanded to pass through. After a standoff, the guard alarmed other locals to gather. The rebels opened fire and used hand grenades to attack the indigenous leaders. 

The Nasa are semi-autonomous and administer, patrol, and govern their own region. The guard consists of volunteers and does not consider themselves a police force, according to BBC. They are unarmed mediators who carry wooden staffs. 

Indigenous leaders believe Duque’s visit is too little, too late.

Since Colombia’s 2016 peace accord, dozens of indigenous and social leaders have been assassinated. Militant dissidents have used violent methods to take control over former rebel territories and drug routes. 

In the Cauca state, one of the country’s most lucrative and fast-growing regions for cocaine production, 14 tribal members have been killed. 

“Our only weapon is our unity and spirituality,” Luis Acosta, national coordinator of the indigenous guards, told Associated Press. “[The dissidents] don’t allow us to control our territories because we reject the logic of war.”

Colombian indigenous communities have consistently decried the government’s complacency in what they say is a “genocide” where they have become collateral damage in ongoing conflicts between leftist rebels, state security forces, and right-wing paramilitaries. 

Colombia’s government launches a military offensive to detain the dissidents.

The government launched an initial investigation that suggested the act was in retaliation to the capture of three Farc defectors by indigenous locals. 

“Clearly, here we have a longstanding threat of drug trafficking groups, and of dissidents, who want to intimidate the population,” Duque told reporters, according to The Guardian.  “I hope to make some important announcements about operational capacity in the region and the capacity we will have to face these threats.” 

However, many felt Duque was just paying lip service. 

“The region where this massacre took place is a first-tier zone for violence, and the defense sector surely knows this but the response to repeated calls for help from indigenous communities has been far from adequate,” Adam Isacson, a security analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America, told reporters.

Opposition politicians accuse the government of genocide.

“What is underway in Colombia is an indigenous genocide, and it will not stop if international justice does not appear,” Senator Gustavo Petro tweeted. 

While the 2016 peace accord was meant to end a civil war that displaced 7 million Colombians and killed 260,000, violence has become the status quo for the Cauca province. A residual power vacuum leftover by Farc appears to have causedconflicts over territory, drug routes, land rights, and resources where indigenous people are often targets.

 Just last month, Karina García a mayoral candidate and three others on the campaign were murdered. Since 2016, according to Colombia’s human rights ombudsman, 486 activists and human rights defenders have been murdered. 

“The government says the right things, but doesn’t do anything,” said Eduin Marcelo Capaz, an indigenous human rights coordinator said. “Duque will say whatever he has to to cover up his government’s ineffectiveness and disinterest in protecting us.”

United Nations and the Organization of American States urge Colombia’s government to end violence against indigenous groups.  

Last April, the UN and OAS urged Duque to avoid violence in the Cauca province as tensions escalated between indigenous folk and dissidents. 

“Dialogue is fundamental to attend to social demands and is the only solution that contains violence, alongside a focus on human rights, the strengthening of democracies and the rule of law,” the office of the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights urged. 

Only time will tell if Colombia’s promise to protect its indigenous folk is real because so far it hasn’t been. 

“People are being left unprotected by their government in an area that is being disputed among several armed and criminal groups,” Isacson said. “Colombia must prioritize protecting these communities, working with their leaderships, to prevent another horrible tragedy.”

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Brooklyn Abuela Murdered By Serial Killer Who Targeted Elderly People Who Lived in His Housing Project

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Brooklyn Abuela Murdered By Serial Killer Who Targeted Elderly People Who Lived in His Housing Project

Photo via GoFundme

The families of three Brooklyn elderly women who were slain by their neighbor are struggling to come to grips with what happened.

In early January, 78-year old Juanita Caballero was found dead in her public housing unit, strangled to death with the cord of a telephone.

To the residents of the Carter G. Woodson senior housing project, Caballero’s death didn’t seem like a coincidence. It was the third suspicious death that had occured in the complex since 2015.

In 2015, an 82-year-old woman named Myrtle McKinney was found dead in her apartment. At first, authorities assumed that she died of natural causes. It was only when her autopsy report turned up a stab wound in her neck that they suspected foul play.

83-year-old Jacolia James body was found in her apartment in 2019 by her grandson. It was immediately evident that James did not die of natural causes. Authorities revealed that she had “injuries to her face and neck which were highly suspicious”. It was later determined that the elderly woman was strangled and stomped to death.

Through a combination of forensic evidence and witness accounts, police identified 66-year-old Kevin Gavin as the person responsible for the three murders.

Gavin was a fellow resident of the Carter G. Woodson housing project. He was known around the complex as someone who you could depend on to do you a favor.

“I am confident the defendant took advantage of his relationship with these women, was allowed into their homes, and did unspeakable acts of violence against them,” said Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez during a press conference.

In other words, Kevin Gavin e gained the trust of these elderly women by acting the part of the friendly neighbor–helping them out around their homes and running errands for them. But in the end, he murdered them in cold blood.

At the moment, police believe that disputes over money was the motive for his killings.

Whatever the motive, the families of these three women are distraught.

“All who knew my mother would know she didn’t deserve to have her life ended in such a horrific way,” said Juanita Caballero’s son, Peter, on a GoFundMe page he created to help with the funeral costs.

Peter Caballero also expressed frustration at the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) for not taking action to prevent further deaths sooner.

After the death of Jacolia James in 2019, the NYCHA installed four security cameras in the building’s lobby last year. But plans for an extra 65 security cameras throughout the building were nixed due to budget constraints.

According to the Cabellero’s family attorney, Gavin’s criminal record should have also prevented him from being a resident of the community in the first place.

“You’re not allowed to live in an NYCHA building with a criminal record,” said the Caballero’s lawyer to the New York Post. “He should never have been in the building, irrespective of the clear lack of security.”

“NYCHA failed our families. They failed the McKinney family. They failed the James family. They failed my mother. They had time to do something,” said Juanita’s other son, Steven Caballero to NY1. “I don’t know what it’s going to take for them to put these cameras in the building.”

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A Wealthy Couple Cheated Indigenous Peoples In Canada Out Of COVID Vaccines

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A Wealthy Couple Cheated Indigenous Peoples In Canada Out Of COVID Vaccines

Cases of COVID-19 are drastically devastating Indigenous communities across the globe. In Western Canada, this truth is quite alarming particularly because of how the rates have vastly risen in these communities. In fact, according to Canada Public Health and Indigenous Services data, “The rate of reported cases of COVID-19 in First Nations living on reserve is currently 40% higher than the rate in the general Canadian population.” Even more shocking, “The COVID-19 case fatality rate among First Nations living on reserve is about one-third of the case fatality rate in the general Canadian population.”

Still, despite all of this a wealthy Canadian couple had the temerity to lie about their residency and occupation. All in an attempt to receive doses of the COVID-19 vaccine meant for First Nation residents.

A businessman and his actress wife chartered a private plane to Beaver Creek to get vaccinated.

Rodney Baker, 55, and his wife Ekaterina Baker, 32, flew out to the community in Whitehorse last week. Whitehorse consists of approximately 100 people, most of whom belong to the White River First Nation. Upon arrival, the Bakers allegedly told members of the mobile vaccination clinic that they were employees of the local motel. Once they received their shots they flew back to Whitehorse on their private plane. 

The community became suspicious of the couple and someone eventually reported them to Yukon authorities. Investigating officers were able to track the couple down at the Whitehouse airport according to Yukon’s Minister of Community Services John Streicker.

The Bakers are now facing two charges under Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act.

The charges include failure to self-isolate and failure to abide by a travel declaration. Yukon, where White River First Nation is located, has had a low number of cases per capita compared to the rest of Canada. Anyone who enters the area is supposed to requires anyone entering the territory to quarantine for 14 days. 

According to VICE, “The maximum possible penalty under the act is $500 plus a $75 surcharge per charge—meaning a maximum of $1,150 each—and/or up to six months in jail.”

News of the couple’s actions has led to Rodney Baker’s resignation as CEO of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation. According to VICE, “Baker’s former position netted him $10.6 million in salary and compensation in 2019.”

In a statement about the incident, White River Chief Angela Demit said that she was “deeply concerned by the actions of individuals who put our Elders and vulnerable people at risk to jump the line for selfish purposes.” Demit went onto underline the fact that the First Nation community was selected for priority vaccination because of “its high concentration of elderly people, limited access to healthcare, and remote location.”

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer has described the Bakers’ “deception” as extremely selfish. 

“It’s the height of selfishness,” Dr. Brendan Hanley said about their behavior.

In a statement about the incident, White River First Nation said in a press release that “White River First Nation is particularly concerned with the callous nature of these actions…as they were in blatant disregard of the rules which keep our community safe during this unprecedented global pandemic.” They also called the penalties that the couple will face insufficient.

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