The Suffering of the Awa Continues: Landmines Kill Five Indigenous

July 24th, 2007

The Suffering of the Awa Continues: Landmines Kill Five Indigenous
Translation Julie Hart

During 14-15 July 2007, five indigenous Awa died due to antipersonnel landmines. The Colombian Army is carrying out military operations against the FARC guerilla in the Awa territory. This has intensified the conflict leaving five indigenous persons dead and causing various communities to displace within their own territory. A transcription of the communication sent from the CAMAWARI Organization (Council of Awa Elders of Ricaurte) follows.

16 of July 2007

The CAMAWARI is once again suffering as a result of the war in Colombia. Since 30 of June 2007, a military operation against the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) has been taking place in the CAMAWARI territory. This operation has thrown the community into mourning and obligates us to share publicly what is occurring. The CAMAWARI has expressed its rejection of conflict and has said on multiple occasions that the fight for the human rights of our indigenous people is a fight without weapons. Experience has taught us that the armed conflict primarily hurts the civilian population, and not the members of the armed groups.

On the14th of July, Juan Dionicio Ortiz Vazquez, the ex Governor of the Vegas Chagui Chimbuza Reservation, and Ademelio Pai Taicus of the Guadual Community, lost their lives to antipersonnel landmines as they walked to their fields in the countryside.

On the15th of July, Arcenio Canticus was killed when he stepped on an antipersonnel landmine while working on his land. On learning of their father’s accident, his two sons, 8-year-old Andres Canticus and 12-year-old German Canticus, approached their father’s body and also lost their lives due to antipersonnel landmines.

The Canticus family had suffered from forced displacement in 2006. They waited six months, without success, in the town of Ricaurte for assistance from the state in meeting their basic needs. Finally, they decided to return to their land, a decision that today we regret deeply.

In response to this situation, CAMAWARI has organized two Permanent Assemblies in the Reservations of Vega Chagui Chimbuza and Magui, hoping to avoid future incidents such as these. We request that the Colombian Government provide humanitarian intervention to assist the communities in the Permanent Assembly. We need food, pots, blankets, and toilets. In addition, we ask for the respect of sites where these communities reside and work. This group includes nearly 600 persons which represents nearly one percent of the Awa CAMAWARI population of Colombia.