More than 350 Indigenous People Declare a Permanent Assembly

(Translated by Elaine Fuller, a CSN volunteer translator)

Source: Observatorio pacífico y territorio

April 22, 2014


CAMAICA, Cabildo Mayor Indigena (Indigenous High Council) of Carmen de Atrato, representing twelve indigenous communities and ASOKATIO, La Asociación de Cabildos Indigenas (Association of Indigenous Councils) of Carmen de Atrato, representing four communities, along with two communities of the Cabildo Mayor of Quibdó, altogether representing more than 350 indigenous people within these municipalities, in exercise of our governing autonomy and in conformity with standard regulations and the Colombian Constitution, have declared a Permanent Assembly to denounce before national and international guarantors of human rights the continued violation of our human rights and the government’s abandonment of our communities as a consequence of the internal armed conflict in which Colombia lives.

For many decades our communities have been forgotten and abandoned by the governing municipal, departmental and national institutions in spite of the fact that countless laws, decrees, decisions and judgments exist in support of protection for our people. But these are all dead letters. This situation obliged us to turn to political action to demand fulfillment and respect of our rights. Our action called on governing institutions at all levels to debate the problems that we suffer and to sign commitments for dealing with our demands. This also remains a dead letter.

Meanwhile, violation of our human rights has not ceased. Since the 1980s we have resisted attacks of a war that is not ours; we have been victims of armed conflict within Colombia where threats, public denouncements of people, stigmatization, displacements, hostage taking, burning of vehicles, planting of anti-personnel mines, confinement, restrictions in freedom of movement, forced disappearances, physical and psychological abuse, rape, use of human shields in our communities and much else have been constant almost every day in spite of all the talk of a peace process. All the groups of armed conflict, be they legal or illegal, cause these violations, which we have denounced on repeated occasions. However, the response of the state has been zero and as a result of it all, what we have only gained threats to our leaders from the armed illegal groups.

To better communicate our position we cite some relevant cases: The indigenous communities of Consuelo, Quebrado Bonita, and Consuelo Parte Baja within the indigenous territory of Doce-Quebrada Bordollón suffered massive displacement in 2000 and 2001. Their statement is registered with the advocate institutions on human rights in Colombia and internationally, as well as with the municipal attorney of Carmen de Atrato, and the Union for Attention and Reparations to Victims of the Armed Conflict (Unidad de Atención y Reparación Integral a las Victimas del Conflicto Armado). Only after twelve years, on 16/10/13, did this last mentioned organization come to acknowledge the condition of displacement victims through Resolution #2013-260368. However, even then, they did not come up with a plan of return. Meanwhile throughout these years, none of the aforementioned violations have ceased although they have been repeatedly denounced.

On 6/10/13 a member of the Consuela Parte Bajo community was captured and hooded by an unknown armed group who planned, after torture and abuse, to execute him. Luckily, he had the good fortune to be able to run for his life and escape. On that day, apparently, they were expecting that a leader of this community, who was on their blacklist, would be out on the road. Upon seeing this other person show up, they decided to kill him.

In the case of the Rio la Playa community agents of armed conflict have caused countless violations of human rights such as public denouncements, stigmatization, intimidation, hostage taking and the declaration of a “red zone and place of permanent refuge for the insurgency and a corridor for drug trafficking.” This declaration, made by Army Battalion Alfonso Manosalva Flórez, attached to Brigade 15, was accepted and refined by municipal and departmental governing bodies. In spite of everything, the community’s inhabitants are actively resisting. It is not a secret to anyone that around the indigenous territory there exist illicit cultivations and that the insurgents not only pass through indigenous territory, but also are in all parts of Colombia.

The community of Mambual has also been one of the hardest hit by armed conflict. On the 6th of March, 2012, a woman was raped by a soldier of the Alfonso Manosalva Flórez Battalion who later intimidated and threatened her to the effect that if she reported him, they would take out her family and leaders of the community who had made a denunciation at the office of Carmen de Atrato’s town clerk; they also made threats against the five community leaders. As if that weren’t enough, between 2006 and 2011, the community of Oveja also suffered a huge displacement as the primary motive for the disappearance of a young 17-year-old member of the community. Currently, there are two families in the community with 16 inhabitants who made their own decision to voluntarily return without escort or guarantees from the State; they preferred returning and dying on their home territory than dying or seeing their children die from hunger in the city. No matter what part of Colombia where refugees are found in, many families have made the decision not to return to their indigenous territory because they had no guarantees from the State of a safe return to their homes.

On May 18, 2013, the community of Matecaña also suffered a large displacement through threats made by leaders of the FARC. Today the community has returned thanks to being accompanied by the mayor of Carmen de Atrato and the Unidad de Atención y Reparación Integral a las Victimas del Conflicto Armado. However, we don’t view this return with much future without guarantees from appropriate authorities in victims’ affairs within the national or departmental governments.

In the indigenous community of Dieciocho people have also suffered a number of rights violations caused by agents of armed conflict such as a large-scale displacement in 2001, the planting of antipersonnel mines, public denunciations against people, stigmatization and hostage taking. The result was that on February 12, 2012, a child was shot in the right arm. Because of this and the lack of any institutional support, the family moved themselves to Medellin.

Faced with all these human rights violations and given the lack of response from state institutions, in March of 2013, the whole community moved to Medellin. In November of the same year, victimized families united in Antioquia where they had taken refuge. They agreed to return to their place of origin on condition that there would be reparations as part of the plan of return. This community continues to be displaced.

The community of Cristalina belongs to this same indigenous territory. Its inhabitants have been forgotten by the institutions of the State; currently there are families who were forced into displacement in Urrao, Antioquia since August 8, 2013. In 2006 a member of the community was killed by an armed group of police from Betulia, Antioquia who then put forward a “false positive” purporting to demonstrate that the victim had been an extortionist in service to the guerilla fighters.

The community of La Puria was displaced to the city of Medellin for more than six years and just now on June 28 of this year will return with the accompaniment of the mayor of Medellin and the Union of Antioquia Victims. However, there have been situations in which certain leaders of the Union have been affected by the same threats as those made against the leaders of the community after the events of October 6, 2013. The community of Noventa is also a community hit hard by the armed conflict. It has suffered twice from massive displacements, one in 2004 and one in 2013. Until now there is no plan for return. Besides this, there is a leader of the community threatened by fighters of the ELN; he is accused of belonging to the information network of the army.


On the night of April 16, 2014 at 10:30 pm in Dieciocho, just at the bridge over the ravine known as The Night, unknown persons fired several shots — some into the air and two hitting the house of a community family located along side the highway. Fortunately, there were no victims in spite of the fact that a family had been asleep inside the house. Upon hearing the shots the whole community panicked: children, women and men fled their houses to seek refuge in the community dairy farm and, until now, they are all still confined there. In spite of the fact that the Dieciocho community has moved to Medellin from their place of origin under conditions of displacement, there continue to be threats against leaders of the community. Although they have made complaints, there has been no institutional response.

Now there have been threats not only against community leaders, but general threats against indigenous leaders from Carmen de Atrato and Quibdó by illegal armed groups from Urabeño and Águilas Negras carrying out military objectives. From our leaders who have raised their voices to demand respect and the fulfillment of our rights, we have unverified information that these groups are financed by some multinational businesses and merchant associations who are active on the route from Quibdó that leads to Highway 7. Their objective is to get rid of our leaders who they consider to be obstacles to the development of business in Chocó. This has generated fear and agitation in all communities of these municipalities.

In spite of the fact that we do not have sufficient proof of these groups’ identities, some situations in the zone help us to understand who they are. For example, unknown people on motorcycles without license tags are constantly passing through and are sometimes identified as belonging to the Urabeños and other times to the Águilas Negras. They inquire about our leaders and also carry out general threats against all leaders of the zone of communities between Quibdó and Carmen de Atrato.

This situation has lead to the suspension of many daily activities such as the academic workday of the Tobias Queragama Institute of Indigenous Education, classes in the schools, the use of private motorcycles and vehicles to carry out duties and commitments. Many of our young people who were studying in the city of Quibdó have had to discontinue studies and, if this were not enough, daily activities such as artisanal mining, fishing, hunting, planting and harvesting of crops are also stalled. In other words, our communities find themselves confined; justification that every day we are vigilant and counting on the luck of our municipal leaders and guardians on the community board of Carmen de Atrato, CAMAICA, as well as the authorities of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Carmen de Atrato, ASOKATIO, and the communities of CAMIZOCA. Among these are men and women who have arrived to show solidarity and join forces with us while our communities are mostly drifting under the care of grandfathers and grandmothers.

In the face of these situations, we express solidarity and unity against the suffering of our brothers in Dieciocho and for them we have convened the permanent assembly of Carmen de Atrato beginning today, April 17, 2014. We count on the attendance of 350 indigenous people from twelve communities, namely Noventa and Playa Bonita of the Cabildo Mayor of CAMIZOCA; Matecaña, Dieciocho, Rio Playa, Mambual, Toldas, and Consuelo from the Cabildo Mayor of CAMAICA; and Consuelo Parte Baja, Quebrada Bonita, Bajo Rio Grande and Puria belonging to the Asociación de Cabildos ASOKATIO. We hope that during the following days there may be more indigenous people joining this great work.

Let us make clear to the Chocoana and Carmeleña societies, to business people and all other sectors that they should not see us as terrorists because we oppose policies of the State that affect our interests and rights. Rather, we call on them to show solidarity for our cause because it is also theirs. We recognize that the severe war of the last decade in this municipality caused by the incursion of paramilitaries, guerilla fighters and the resulting confrontations with police forces is what many of us are still living with. This has led to the forced displacements that many families continue to endure without the option of returning to their lands.

We do not want to resort to political actions of protest; we do not consider it necessary if the governing bodies in the Chocó and all other institutions come together voluntarily and listen to our concerns and problems. But, given past circumstances when institutions delegated functions to subordinates with no decision making power, we warn that we will, if necessary, take alternative means to call attention to our situation from those with full decision making power.

We strongly reject claims and qualifications that non-indigenous sectors have launched in which the incident of April 16, 2014 in Dieciocho is presented as an assembly to ask for food rations. We are a people with dignity; we are not beggars, nor are we bandits or delinquents or terrorists. We do not understand the strength of security that the Alfonso Manosalva Flórez Battalion has over the route from Quibdó to highway seven. We doubt very much if a 15-minute car ride from Dieciocho past an army base is what caused the events of April 16.

Our Demands
Our demands to the legal and illegal agents of armed conflict are respect for our lives, our identity and our dignity. We are people of goodwill and peace; we dream and yearn for peace in Colombia. We are not armed groups, nor will we become so; our best armaments are our demands to the Colombian State: the fulfillment and respect of our rights.
To the following national and international guarantors of human rights, we demand that they join in the arbitration for a solution to these problems and call on them to debate in permanent assembly all the problems suffered by those living along the route between Quibdó and Carmen de Atrato: the Defensoría del Pueblo Regional (Defense of Regional Peoples), Ministerio de Proteccion Social (Ministry of Social Protection), Ministerio de Agricultura y Desarrollo Rural (Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development), Instituto Colombiano de Desarrollo Rural – INCODER (Colombian Institute of Rural Development), Unidad de Victimas Nacional y Regional (Union of National and Regional Victims), Departamento de Prosperidad Social (Department of Social Welfare), Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje — SENA (National Apprenticeship Service), Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar Nacional y Regional – ICBF (Colombian National and Regional Institute of Family Wellbeing), Programs Presidencial Para los Pueblos Indigenas de Colombia (Presidential Program for Indigenous Peoples of Colombia), Organizacion Indigena de Colombia – ONIC (The Indigenous Organization of Colombia), Alcalde del Carmen de Atrato y Quibdo (the mayor of Carmen de Atrato and Quibdó), Governación del Choco (governing body of the Chocó), Mesa de Concertacion Nacional para los Pueblos Indigenas (Bureau of National Consensus for Indigenous Peoples), Ministerio de Educacion Nacional (National Ministry of Education), Secretaria de Educacion Departamental, EPS Caprecom y Barrio Unidos (EPS Caprecom and United Neighborhoods), Representantes de Gremios de Comerciantes y Conductores (representatives of business groups and drivers, Consorcio LAX 051 (the consortium LAX051), Ministerio del Interior y de Justicia (the ministry of the Departments of the Interior and of Justice), Brigada del Ejercito Nacional del Batallon Alfonso Manosalva Florez y del Batallon Nutibara de Antioquia (the national army brigades of the AMF Battalion and the Nutibara Battalion of Antioquia), Asociacion de Cabildos Indigenas OREWA (Association of Indigenous Councils), Federacion OREQA, Alto Comisionado para los Refugiados-ACNUR (High Commission for Regugees), and the Organizacion de las Naciones Unidas – ONU (United Nations).

To the Unidad de Victimas Regional Chocó (Victims’ Unit in Chocó), la Asociación OREWA (Association of Indigenous Councils), the office of the mayor of Carmen de Atrato y Quibdo, Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar Territorial Choco (Colombian Institute for Family Wellbeing in the Chocó), the diocese of Quibdó and the government of Chocó, we demand your attention to and management of humanitarian assistance to the 15 indigenous communities of Carmen del Atrato present to date in this permanent assembly. All these communities have been victimized and now, with the recent situation of generalized threats, everyone in this municipality is an inmate.
The Victims’ Unit of Chocó urgently and immediately summons the committee of transitional justice to define the process of return for this community and to include the direct participation of the mayor of Quibdó, the mayor of Carmen de Atrato and the government of Chocó as well as qualified institutions with decision making power.

Given in the indigenous community of Dieciocho on the 17th of April in 2014 by the Cabildo Mayor Indigena del Carmen de Atrato – CAMAICA, Cabildo Mayor Indigena del Quibdó – CAMIZOCA, Asociacion de Cabildos Indigenas del Carmen de Arato — ASOKATIO

(This translation may be reprinted as long as its content remains unaltered and the source, author and translator are cited.)

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