Indigenous Peoples Push Back Against Both Colombian Security Forces and Guerrillas

Tired of the violence that has plagued their lands for decades, the indigenous population of the town of Toribio, Colombia, has taken matters into its own hands.

An indigenous leader in Colombia has urged the security forces and Colombia’s largest rebel group, Farc, to take their fight elsewhere.

The indigenous leader of the town of Toribio, Marcos Yules, said the civilian population was tired of bearing the brunt of the fighting.

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On Monday, about 1,000 members of the Nasa, Guambiano and Paez tribes destroyed trenches built by the police to defend their police station.

They said the presence of the security forces was attracting rebel attacks.

“We do not understand how strengthening the security forces would defend the population,” Mr Yules said.

“To the contrary, the strengthening of the security forces increases the fighting,” he added.

An indigenous commission also marched to Farc camps in the mountains surrounding Toribio to demand the rebels leave the indigenous ancestral lands.

“One thousand of us went to see the guerrillas, to tell them to leave, that we don’t need them, that we want them to leave us alone,” Feliciano Valencia of the Cauca Indigenous Committee said.

Mr Valencia said they had given the rebels a two-week deadline: “If they don’t pack up their camps, we’ll pack them up for them,” he said.

The story cuts at the heart of one of the bigger tragedies of sustained guerrilla warfare in Latin America in the late-20th and early-20th century: many civilian populations, including in this case these indigenous communities, are caught in the middle of an increasingly militarized area and confronted with increasing violence from both sides. Hopefully the people of Toribio are able to convince the FARC and Colombian military to leave and allow them to return to living their lives without facing any reprisals.

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About Colin M. Snider

I have a Ph.D. in history, specializing in Latin American History and Comparative Indigenous History. My dissertation focused on Brazil. Beyond Latin America generally, I'm particularly interested in class identities, military politics, human rights, labor, education, music, and nation. I can be found on Twitter at @ColinMSnider.
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