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.
Wedenounce 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.
REGIONAL INDIGENOUS COUNCIL OF CAUCA (CRIC)