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  • An musical group accompanies an Indigenous people's march in Valle del Cauca, Colombia, April 5, 2019.

    An musical group accompanies an Indigenous people's march in Valle del Cauca, Colombia, April 5, 2019. | Photo: Twitter / @CRIC_Cauca

Published 5 April 2019

Indigenous leaders warn that "Colombia has been kidnapped" by political and economic elites.

Colombia's National Union of Higher Education Students (UNEES) began Thursday demonstrations in several cities in support of the "Minga for Defending Life, Territory, Democracy, Justice and Peace," a collective action which the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) has been leading at the Cauca valley since March 10.

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A member of the UNEES explained that the Minga is no longer just an Indigenous action performed at the Cauca region but a citizen's protest across the country.

"We are carrying out demonstrations because we are against how the Colombian state has treated social protest, that is, by militarizing territories and killing our comrades," the UNEES student said on Twitter and asked President Ivan Duque to deliver real solutions for Indigenous and peasant communities.

During a debate at the Senate, Defense Minister Guillermo Botero indicated the government did not rule out the possibility that police act with "forcefulness" to contain the new wave of citizen protests.

"The National Minga for Life walks the country altogether. In each step our heart beats with more force."

Regarding such threat, the CRIC spokesman Jose Pete warned that a violent use of state security forces could provoke "the worst massacre" ever seen in the country's history.

"If the Defense Minister attacks the civilian population it would be the worst massacre in Colombia because the demonstrators have no weapons," Pete told EFE and added that it seems that security forces "want to continue the war."

Nevertheless, for a month ago, the Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron (ESMAD) has already been cracking down on social unrest at the Cauca region.

President Duque administration's stance also aroused the concern of the Colombian Association of Anthropology (ACA), which rejected how the Indigenous protest is been depicted.

"We reject the stigmatization of Minga and the use of violent forms of repression," ACA said in an open letter, adding that "racist stereotypes show ignorance about a long history of cultural, political and territorial claims, whose achievements stem from enormous collective efforts and high human costs."

In rejection of the mainstream news stating that "the Indians have kidnapped the Cauca valley," the CRIC warned Friday that the misrepresentation of the Minga is showing "xenophobia, hatred and contempt against indigenous peoples."

"Those who have kidnapped Colombia and the Cauca Valle since the Spanish conquest... are rulers, elites, and business associations," the CRIC press release denounced and explained that the Colombian state violates peace agreements and kills social leaders in order to grab resources-rich territories.

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