EL ESPECTADOR, March 7, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The indigenous Awá people are the victims of murders, forced displacement and recruitment of children by the drug traffickers and the guerrillas at the border between Colombia and Ecuador, complained the Ombudsmen of the People of both countries.

The two agencies presented a “binational early alert” for the purpose of preventing more violations of rights and for the protection” of nearly 29,000 indigenous people in the community where they live at the border, according to a communication.

According to statistics from the Awá people, in 2022 they were the victims of 22 homicides, two massacres (the killing of three or more people), seven disappearances, ten events of massive displacement, five land mine accidents, and other violent actions. Besides that, seven children have been recruited every month.

It’s the ELN guerrillas, the FARC Dissidents that turned away from the Peace Agreement of 2016, and drug trafficking gangs that dispute the region for “the coca economy, the illegal mining, the illegal lumbering, and other illegal economies,” said the Ombudsman of Colombia, Carlos Camargo, during the presentation of the report in Bogotá.

The armed organizations take advantage of the porous frontier of 600 kilometers with “gaps in government presence,” ideal for “hiding troops and war materials,” he added.

In spite of the fact that the great majority of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) laid down their arms, the violence persists in Colombia and it has left more than nine million victims in a half century.

With the historic agreement “there was a rest between the quotation marks”, but later on “the groups outside the law got organized to generate more violence” and “a ferocious repression, worse than that imposed by the then-rebels of the FARC,” said Noel Amilcar, an Awá leader.

And the violence falls on the original peoples who have traditionally been opposed to the drug business.

This community also suffers from the “lack of attention by the government in health care, education, housing, access to potable water, and Internet,” said César Córdova, the Ombudsman of Ecuador.

The leftist administration of Gustavo Petro is promoting negotiations with the armed groups with a view to de-activating the prolonged internal war.

Since he took power on August 7, 14 Awá indigenous people have been killed, and more than 10,000 have been victims of confinement and forced displacement, according to the Ombudsman’s Office.

“The situation of the Awá people is a situation of extreme risk,” insisted Juliette De Rivero, a representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at the event.

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