Bogota, Colombia – 1000’s of Indigenous protesters have converged on Tercer Milenio Park within the coronary heart of the Colombian capital, with music taking part in and smoke from campfires wafting by way of the air.
Members of the so-called “Minga” – a collective motion of Indigenous peoples – have organised protests in Bogota many occasions earlier than, however that is their first demonstration throughout the administration of left-wing President Gustavo Petro.
This week, they travelled with a easy – albeit urgent – demand: finish an ongoing wave of violence that has disproportionately affected Indigenous individuals in Colombia, whose communities stretch throughout practically each area, from Narino to Amazonia.
Forward of the primary protest march on Wednesday, demonstrator Viviana Guerrera stated whereas she supported Petro in final 12 months’s elections, she felt “extraordinarily dissatisfied” by a scarcity of progress in curbing violence in her dwelling area of Cauca, which has lengthy been a focal point of conflict.
“Each authorities must be held accountable,” Guerrera, a member of the Nasa Indigenous group, informed Al Jazeera from the park, the place organisers on Tuesday estimated that greater than 12,000 individuals had already gathered.
“This authorities isn’t any exception.”
Petro, who took workplace in August 2022, has promised to pursue what he calls “complete peace” in a rustic that’s nonetheless grappling with the results of practically six many years of inner armed battle.
His plan, which includes each army motion and direct negotiations with legal armed teams, has to this point yielded combined outcomes.
A six-month ceasefire with the biggest remaining insurgent group in Colombia, the Nationwide Liberation Military (ELN), which was celebrated as a political victory in August, has to this point held.
However a lot of casual ceasefires with different armed teams this 12 months have since collapsed, and violence in rural areas has largely continued unabated.
The International Witness advocacy group just lately designated Colombia as probably the most harmful nation on the earth for land defenders and environmental activists final 12 months – and a disproportionate variety of these focused leaders come from Indigenous communities.
In response to statistics from the United Nations Workplace for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), greater than 37,000 individuals throughout the nation had been affected by violence between January and September of this 12 months.
Greater than 43,000 others additionally had been displaced by threats from armed teams or open preventing, the UN company discovered. Colombian human rights watchdog Indepaz places the displacement determine at greater than twice that.
Nevertheless, each organisations agree that Indigenous communities make up roughly half of all these displaced or affected by the violence, regardless of representing simply 3.5 % of the inhabitants.
The Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC), one of many teams that organised the Minga, has referred to as for an “Indigenous, social and in style battle” in opposition to what it described as a “fixed violation of human rights” and the killings of Indigenous and social leaders.
“We have now come to work, in a grand meeting, to assist this authorities in ‘complete peace’ and type a pact to cease struggle and bloodshed,” Joe Sauco, a senior consultant of the CRIC, stated throughout a information convention on Tuesday.
“We wish to assist a means out of this tragic state of affairs that rejects violence.”
The temper in Tercer Milenio Park has been festive, with youngsters working by way of the realm.
Members of Colombia’s Indigenous Guard, an unarmed safety pressure that always confronts armed teams working close to Indigenous communities, additionally stood watch on the predominant entrance in the midst of downtown Bogota on Tuesday.
The march on Wednesday is about to coincide with road demonstrations referred to as by Petro in assist of a lot of his reform payments, which have largely stalled in Congress. Some leaders on the Minga publicly referred to as for assist for the president’s administration.
However Eduardo Rojas, who travelled 14 hours by bus from Amazonia to take part within the rally, denounced what he stated had been false guarantees from Petro.
“We elected this authorities,” he informed Al Jazeera, referring to the overwhelming assist Petro’s presidential marketing campaign loved amongst Indigenous voters. “However what we had been bought, and the fact of what we received, are two very various things.”
Rojas stated his group within the area of central Amazonia has seen little progress in halting assaults from legal armed teams, which he stated forcibly recruit members and commit extortion and sexual violence.
Nonetheless, he stated the Minga’s reception within the capital this 12 months was completely different from previous editions. “I’ve attended dozens of Mingas since my first as a younger man in 1971,” he stated. “And we had been usually perceived as invaders by the nationwide authorities.
“As at all times, this time we’ve are available in peace. I really feel that this authorities is aware of that.”
‘Logistical and social problem’
Elizabeth Dickinson, a senior Andes analyst on the Worldwide Disaster Group think-tank, stated the frustrations expressed by Rojas are removed from unusual amongst Indigenous individuals in Colombia.
She attributed it, partly, to a scarcity of communication between the federal authorities and civil society. “The best way that ‘complete peace’ has been rolled out has been very high down,” Dickinson informed Al Jazeera.
“And in some methods this hasn’t had a lot direct influence on rural communities. Implementing safety programmes in these areas can be an enormous logistical and social problem.”
Dickinson additionally stated that there have been missteps. “It was a strategic mistake for the federal government to grant broad ceasefires earlier this 12 months with out critical concessions from armed teams,” she stated.
“And legal organisations took benefit of this by digging in and fortifying their presence reasonably than disarming.”
Nonetheless, for Rojas, this week’s march is an opportunity to focus public consideration in Colombia on the violence confronted by Indigenous communities. “The federal government should ship what it promised,” he stated. “And I’ll preserve attending Mingas till they do.”