Things That Matter

The Colombian Government Has Neglected The Indigenous Community And They Are Mobilizing To Demand Action

Indigenous Colombians have given far-right President Iván Duque notice that they will “take” the presidential palace if he doesn’t take time to meet with indigenous leaders. Indigenous Colombians are calling for the government to recommit to decades-old government agreements with indigenous nations. Indigenous representative Herney Flor said that more than 30,000 indigenous peoples are prepared to travel to Bogotá in a caravan to ‘take’ the palace by Saturday, according to Colombia Reports. The pressure against Duque has been mounting as the indigenous people continuously witness the government breach their agreements to protect the native nations. This latest wave of mass anti-government protests against Duque has been catalyzed by the violent murder of Cristina Bautista, the indigenous governor of Cauca in October.

“This is the last warning,” Flor alerted President Duque, according to Colombia Reports.

Credit: @UNDERGROUND_RT / TWITTER

Herney Flor is on the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, which represents a collection of Indigenous nations in the Cauca region, which has experienced spikes in violence from rebel groups during the last few months. The Nasa people have endured the assassination of their governor, Cristina Bautista, along with four other Nasa members who were guarding their community. The guard is made up of volunteers who consider themselves more as peace officers than a police force. They are not armed. During a routine security check, the peace officers stopped a car as it was entering the community. They would learn that the leader of a rebel group and two other rebels were armed and prepared to wreak havoc. The guards raised an alarm that alerted the entire community, which is when, presumably, governor Cristina Bautista arrived to see what was the matter. The rebel group opened fire and killed Bautista and four of the Nasa peace officers, along with injuring six others. Two months prior, two more Nasa peace officers were assassinated when rebel groups opened fire on their bus.

The Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) faction rebel groups are believed to be behind the attacks. The FARC paramilitary rose to power during the Cold War period to physically force a Marxist agenda. The United Nations estimates that FARC was responsible for 12 percent of all civilian deaths during that period. In 2016, FARC leaders signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government and agreed to lay down arms. However, not every FARC rebel agreed and some broke off to form factions that would go on to violently clash with indigenous people as they try to expand their territory.

The United Nations has urged Duque to do more to protect indigenous nations.

Credit: @ANTICONQUISTA / TWITTER

During his 16 months in office, Duque’s approval rating has dropped to 24 percent, the worst in Colombia’s history. The bulk of Colombians are protesting Duque’s “paquetazo” or “the package” that would create a tax reform not dissimilar from Trump’s–lessen taxes on the rich, and limit government benefits to the middle and lower class, effectively widening the wealth gap in Colombia. After Bautista’s death, indigenous people joined the protests in early November. As folks joined protests in the streets with their own frustrations, ranging from the government’s legalization of shark hunting to its weakened stance on climate change, everyone became unified in the singular experience of Duque’s violent response to their peaceful protests. 

Many indigenous people marched in or just outside their own communities, but nothing like what they are threatening now: a full mobilization of indigenous peoples to take over the capital. “We ask you to fulfill the commitments, the agreements that have been signed many years ago, because if not we will leave in a caravan next week,” Flor said, according to Colombia Reports, adding, “This is the last warning and the last demand we make.”

Over the last two years, more than 750 indigenous leaders and activists have been killed, according to INDEPAZ.

Credit: @ESCOBARMORA3 / TWITTER

The indigenous peace officers have been regularly attending the protests that have drawn hundreds of thousands of Colombians into the streets, to counter the violence of militarized police with their unarmed intentions for peace. As they arrived, recognizable by their large wooden staffs painted with the colors that represent their nation, thousands applauded them. Others happily threw makeshift white confetti from their high-story windows to rain down on them.”They’re killing indigenous leaders – we want peace,” Indigenous Guard member Jose Asemeo Capiz told Al Jazeera during the country’s third mass protest last week.

Jamileth Mulcueguege was marching with an enormous indigenous flag when she told Al Jazeera, “We came to march for our rights to education, health and the environment that the government is destroying. If we unite and stay strong, the government will listen. It’s all about the strength of the people.”

READ: Dilan Cruz Becomes A Symbol Of Colombia’s Protest Movement After He Was Shot Dead By Police

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This Indigenous Village In Mexico Trains Their Children As Soldiers To Combat Gang Violence

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This Indigenous Village In Mexico Trains Their Children As Soldiers To Combat Gang Violence

via Getty Images

In the town of Ayahualtempa, Mexico, in the state of Guerrero, reporters see a shocking image whenever they visit. Children armed with guns, trained to defend themselves. The disturbing scene is meant to be shocking. The village of Ayahualtempa is under constant attack. A prominent heroin “corridor”, they are the victims of violence and carnage at the hands of gangsters and the cartel.

In order to gain the Mexican government’s attention, the Ayahualtempa villagers dress their children up as soldiers. Then, they invite the media in.

Ayahualtempa
via Getty Images

When reporters arrive, the children of Ayahualtempa dutifully line up and put on a performance. They march, they show how they would shoot a gun from one knee, or from flat on their bellies. They tell reporters that their mock-violent performance is “so the president sees us and helps us,” as a 12-year-old child named Valentín told the Associated Press.

Because the Mexican government doesn’t protect Ayahualtempa, the display of child soldiers is a form of protest for the small indigenous village. The people of this remote region of Guerrero want protection from the National Guard, and financial help for widows and orphans who have been made so from organized crime.

The villagers don’t trust local authorities, and for good reason. Guerrera is the Mexican state in which 43 teaching students were abducted and killed in an event that is known as the “Iguala mass kidnapping”. Authorities arrested 80 suspects in connection to the event. 44 of them were police officers, working in conjunction with a network of cartels.

Although the demonstrations function largely as a publicity stunt, violence is very much a part of these children’s lives.

via Getty Images

Parents train their children to walk to school with loaded guns, ready to defend themselves against violent gangsters.

The attention-grabbing antics have, to some extent, worked. On one occasion, the government donated some housing material. On another, benefactors gave the community’s orphans and widows scholarships and houses. But as soon as the periodic media storms die down, the federal government continues pretending Ayahualtempa doesn’t exist.

The hypocrisy of the government’s response is frustrating to many. “We’ve normalized that these children don’t eat, are illiterate, are farm workers. We’re used to the Indians dying young, but, ‘How dare they arm them!’” said local human rights activist Abel Barrera to the AP, with a heavy dose of sarcasm.

As for now, until the government moves to protect the community, they say they will continue their demonstrations. “They see that the issue of the children is effective for making people take notice and they think: If that’s what works, we’ll have to keep doing it,” said Barrera.

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At Least 17 Dead And Hundreds Injured Following Massive Protests Across Colombia

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At Least 17 Dead And Hundreds Injured Following Massive Protests Across Colombia

A massive protest movement that swept across Colombia seems to have paid off – at least in the short term – as President Ivan Duque says that he will withdrawal the controversial tax plan that sent angry protesters into the streets. However, the protests claimed at least 17 victims who died during the unrest and hundreds more were injured.

Now that the president has withdrawn the controverial bill, many are wondering what’s next and will they have to take to the streets once again.

Massive protests claimed the lives of at least 17 people and hundreds more were injured across Colombia.

Unions and other groups kicked off marches on Wednesday to demand the government of President Ivan Duque withdraw a controversial tax plan that they say unfairly targets the most vulnerable Colombians.

Isolated vandalism, clashes between police and protesters and road blockades occurred in several cities on Saturday, and riot police were deployed in the capital.

Rights organization Human Rights Watch said it had received reports of possible police abuse in Cali, and local human rights groups alleged up to 17 deaths occurred.

After a week of protests, the government has shelved the controversial plan.

Faced with the unrest, the government of President Ivan Duque on Sunday ordered the proposal be withdrawn from Congress where it was being debated. In a televised statement, he said his government would work to produce new proposals and seek consensus with other parties and organizations.

President Duque, in his statement, acknowledged “it is a moment for the protection of the most vulnerable, an invitation to build and not to hate and destroy”.

“It is a moment for all of us to work together without paltriness,” he added. “A path of consensus, of clear perceptions. And it gives us the opportunity to say clearly that there will be no increase in VAT for goods and services.”

The tax reform had been heavily criticized for punishing the middle classes at a time of economic crisis brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The government introduced the bill on April 15 as a means of financing public spending. The aim was to generate $6.3 billion between 2022 and 2031 to reignite the fourth largest economy in Latin America.

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