Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The indigenous of Colombia

The extent of the devastation wrought on indigenous communities in Colombia was recently highlighted by this United Nations Refugee Agency report.
[UNHCR Briefing Notes, "Colombia: Indigenous groups badly affected by conflict," December 9, 2005]

A few excerpts:
The armed conflict in Colombia is badly affecting the country's one million indigenous people and UNHCR is concerned that entire communities could disappear after being forced to flee their traditional territories.

According to a recent report of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC, more than 19,000 indigenous men, women and children were forced to flee their homes and territories since the start of this year.

There are over two million internally displaced persons in Colombia and while forced displacement is always a very difficult experience, it is doubly catastrophic for indigenous communities. Indigenous culture is closely linked to the land and displacement often leads to the total collapse of traditional authority and cultural patterns. Like many other displaced people, indigenous families often end up in big urban centres where they face huge difficulties making a new life in an alien environment.

This tragedy remains largely invisible. Indigenous lands tend to be in remote and strategically important areas where irregular armed groups are heavily present. Crimes and human rights abuses against indigenous people often go unreported and stay unpunished. According to ONIC, more than 1,600 indigenous people were murdered in the past twenty years - 60 per cent of them during the past five years.

Thought the report does not mention any agent of the "Crimes and human rights abuses" other than the faceless "armed conflict," we can safely attribute much of the credit to Washington and the President's commitment to democracy promotion.


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