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  • An aerial view of Barbacoa, Nariño, where Alejandro Pascal Pai and his wife were attacked.

    An aerial view of Barbacoa, Nariño, where Alejandro Pascal Pai and his wife were attacked. | Photo: EFE

Published 30 December 2018
Opinion

Activists and organizations originally reported that the governor Alejandro Pascal Pai had been killed by unidentified people.

The recently elected Indigenous Awa governor of the Pingullo Sardinero community, Alejandro Pascal Pai, was attacked on Saturday night along with his wife shortly after being elected amid tensions between criminal groups.

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Pascal Pai and his wife were attacked in the Barbacoas municipality in Nariño, western Colombia. Because of the confusion, the lack of communication and the remoteness of the community, local activists and organizations reported that the governor had died during the attack.

On Sunday, the governor of Nariño, Camilo Romero, said that Pascal Pai and his wife were alive, albeit seriously injured, and waiting for medical aid.

“I just spoke with the Awa leader Rider Pai. He tells me that the elected governor of Pingullo Sardinero is alive, although seriously injured. The humanitarian commission is two hours away from him. An ambulance has been called for him and his wife,” tweeted Romero on Sunday afternoon.

The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) condemned the attempted murder on Sunday and demanded a verification commission in the area. Hours later, they tweeted that the elected governor was alive but seriously injured, as well as his wife.

“The governor is seriously injured, according to the information we have now. We’re hoping we can bring a humanitarian mission to assist them in the nearest hospital. The information we have is that the commission is one hour from reaching them and verify what happened,” said the Indigenous Senator Feliciano Valencia, member of the Indigenous and Social Alternative Movement (MAIS).

The Indigenous community of Pingullo Sardinero is about four hours away from Barbacoas and is near the border of Ecuador. A verification commission integrated by Awa leaders and authorities has reported the activities of criminal groups disputing the territory.

Indigenous people and social leaders are often target of armed organizations in Colombia. Paramilitary groups took advantage of the power void left by the FARC and the inability of the government to control the territory after the historial peace agreement signed in 2016.

The Awa people of Nariño have been one of the victims. On Dec. 2, an armed group murdered Braulio Arturo Garcia, who had just been elected as the governor of Palmar Medio Imbi, and his father Hector Ramiro Garcia, also a social leader.

More than 25 members of the Awa people have been murdered in 2018, with four slaughtered in the latest month alone.

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