TANKS USED AGAINST INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES IN EL JAPIO, COLOMBIA
REGIONAL INDIGENOUS COUNCIL OF CAUCA
MORE THAN 500 TROOPS AND TANKS ATTACK DEFENSELESS COMMUNITIES IN EL JAPIO,
Using the argument of not initiating talks with the indigenous communities until
they have left the 15 land holdings that they have liberated in El Japio, Cauca,
National Government has given the order that the communities must be forcibly
cleared off the land. The police have, since the 8 November, been firing tear
gas and indiscriminately firing their guns at the indigenous people who are
resisting peacefully in the midst of the state violence, and refusing to give up
possession of the land holdings in El Japio. The community inform us that so
far, four of their number have been wounded and many more arrested.
On the 12 October 2005, indigenous communities in Cauca began a project named “Freedom for Mother Earth” aimed at forcing the government to comply with various long standing yet so far unfulfilled commitments, especially problems of land ownership.
Those land holdings affected by the Freedom for Mother Earth project are all over 100 hectares in size. An example is El Japio, a farm of 4,000 hectares owned by an absentee landlord. The communities are shocked that the government is so keen to defend the interests of large landowners, using at least 500 troops and 10 tanks to remove the community, while at the same time national government has been completely indifferent to the forced displacement of over 3 million Colombians by the paramilitaries, who are now using this captured land for banana and African Palm plantations or handing it over for exploitation by mining and oil companies.
Indigenous communities are asking themselves how it is possible that the same government that is currently attacking peaceful processes of land reform in El Japio, have allowed the derecognition of land titles belonging to Afrocolombian communities in Jiguamiando and Curvarado. In this case, the
communities were forcibly expelled by the paramilitaries, and the land occupied by Palm oil plantations. National government then immediately refused to recognise ownership of the land by the Afrocolombian communities. That is to say, the communities were expelled violently from there land by the paramilitaries, which was then expropriated “legally” by the government. The simple question is why the government does not react with tanks and troops when the paramilitaries occupy land, on the contrary, the government is currently holding talks with these groups, and refuse to recognise the claims for truth, justice and reparation for the millions of Colombians who have suffered the scourge of paramilitary violence.
The indigenous communities have also denounced the threats against other projects, such as the assassination attempt against Antonio Quilindo, governor of the indigenous reservation of Quintana, who was shot by unknown men in a white jeep, and the warnings that paramilitaries are preparing to
invade the region of Naya.
The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) reject the state of war that the national government has unleashed against the indigenous communities of El Japio and others involved in the Freedom for Mother Earth project . We denounce the slander against these communities, which attempts to link them with guerrilla forces, and we request the immediate presence of National and International watch-dogs and human rights organisations, in order to avoid the further use of force by the government, and to achieve the necessary solutions in conformity with the needs and initiatives of indigenous people.
Please send message of protest (sample message below) to the following Colombian authorities:
President Alvaro Uribe Velez: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vice President Francisco Santos: email@example.com
Colombian Embassy in the UK: firstname.lastname@example.org
With a copy to CRIC at email@example.com
I am writing to express my outrage at the reaction of your government to the
peaceful processes of land reform being carried out by indigenous
communities in El Japio, Cauca. I urge the Colombian security forces to stop
all attacks against these unarmed and peaceful communities and to
immediately release all those indigenous people arrested and detained during
the police and army operation.
I further urge your government to comply with agreement s made with
indigenous communities about land reform, and to do all in your power to
protect rural communities from attack by the paramilitaries and the large
land owners that have displaced 3 million Colombians from their land during
the last years.
¡Tanquetas contra los indígenas en El Japio!