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  • Crossing the border last week, a congregation of the Yukpa community was attacked by armed paramilitaries in Cucuta.

    Crossing the border last week, a congregation of the Yukpa community was attacked by armed paramilitaries in Cucuta. | Photo: EFE

Published 21 May 2018

At least two people have so far gone missing from the caravans of some 320 Indigenous people traveling along the Colombian border.

The Jesuit Refugee Service of Colombia is requesting protection for a Venezuelan Indigenous group from paramilitary groups which the government of Juan Manuel Santos last week warned are moving into Indigenous areas. 

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Colombia Cautions Indigenous Groups as Paramilitaries Close In

While crossing the border last week, a congregation of the Yukpa community was attacked by armed paramilitaries in Cucuta. At least two members have also gone missing from the caravans of some 320 Indigenous people traveling along the Colombian border.

"We are investigating the causes of the departure of 100 Indigenous; we also seek to corroborate if it is true that three of them are missing," said Felipe Muñoz, manager of the Frontiers organization.

"We appreciate the work and the assurances the Colombian state and humanitarian agencies have offered, however, we believe their assurances are not enough and according to the standards of protection."

Froniters has requested the state initiate the Contingency Plan for Intra-Urban Displacement, which allows for special protection of ethnic groups and could assist with the adjustment of the binational Indigenous community.

Last week, Colombian authorities sent a representative from the Ombudsman's Office to warn the native mountain communities of roaming paramilitaries en route to their location.

Armed groups were seen traveling towards the Kogui, Malayo, Arhuaco, and Kankuamos in the Sierra Nevada. According to Minister Carlos Alfonso Negret Mosquera, in the event of an emergency, the challenging terrain would make it almost impossible for national police to arrive in time.

Just days later, Mosquera reported conflicts between two drug gangs, the 'Clan del Golfo' and 'La Empresa,' over prime drug-trafficking territory on the Island of San Andres.

The Institute of Studies for Peace Development, a Colombian non-governmental organization, reports that in 2017 alone an estimated 170 social leaders were gunned down. However, official statistics are considerably lower.

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