Indigenous Colombians Struggle to Survive

Women in the Embera Katío community in Aguasal, Chocó Department, Colombia

Women prepare food in the Embera Katío community in Aguasal, Chocó Department, Colombia

The indigenous community of Colombia is in serious danger of extinction if their human rights continue to be ignored and violated.  Amnesty International’s new report details a startling increase in attacks against indigenous peoples across the country leaving many communities struggling for survival.

According to the National Indigenous Organization of America, 114 men, women and indigenous children were killed and thousands were forcibly displaced in 2009. Among other violations against indigenous peoples are forced disappearances, threats, physical abuse of women, the recruitment of child soldiers, and the persecution of indigenous leaders.

These injustices threaten the very existence of such communities and it is imperative that the Colombian government respond. The Minister of Colombia, Valencia Cossio, recently stated, “The report [of Amnesty International] erroneously assumed that ‘internal armed conflict’ and ‘paramilitaries’ are to blame for the violence, and they do not face the fact that indigenous communities have been displaced and killed by the FARC and emerging criminal groups. ”

However, Human Rights Watch has continued to document great tolerance by the military for paramilitary atrocities. According to Human Rights Watch, the phrase “sixth division” is a common phrase in Colombia when referring to paramilitary groups in the country. At its most wrenching, there is collaboration between the military and paramilitaries of Colombia that according to Human Rights Watch includes: