On Wednesday, Colombia’s Indigenous organizations represented in the Permanent Roundtable of National Concertation (MPC) demanded that President Ivan Duque set a policy to prevent the murders and persecutions that paramilitary groups perpetrate against their communities.
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“Although the Colombian State and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a Peace Agreement in 2016, the territorial disputes of the gangs continue to destroy our communities,” the MPC condemned, recalling that these gangs use the occupied lands for drug trafficking and illegal mining activities.
So far this year, 49 Indigenous leaders have been murdered in Colombia. To protect their communities, the MPC urged the Duque administration to sanction the illegal occupation of Indigenous territories and implement the Collective Precautionary Measures granted to them by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
"We defend the right to live in harmony and care for our territories for their conservation, especially amidst soil degradation prompted by indiscriminate logging, illegal mining, and drug-planting activities," the MPC concluded.
According to governmental data, Colombia lost 171,685 hectares of forest in 2020 because of these illegal activities. The Amazon and Andean regions were the most affected, having lost 109,302 and 28,984 hectares of woodland respectively.
Colombia is also the country with the highest number of murders of environmental defenders. According to the latest Global Witness report, this country reported 65 deaths of environmentalists in 2020. About a third of these murders correspond to Indigenous or Afro-descendant people.
Despite this, the U.S. Rainforest Trust organization presented the ICCF Teddy Roosevelt International Conservation Award to Duque on Wednesday for his “leadership in preserving and caring for the environment."