Security forces shoot and kill protesters

October 17, 2008

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Security forces in Colombia have attacked Indigenous protestors, leading to the deaths of several people and more than a hundred wounded, according to reports.

'The most serious events have been taking place in the south-western provinces of Cauca and Valle del Cauca where ESMAD [Colombia's anti-riot squad], the army and police are attacking Indigenous people with guns, tear gas, tanks, helicopters and even machetes to break up the protests,' says Colombia's national Indigenous organisation, ONIC.

Yesterday 12 Indigenous people were injured, including two children, after being attacked by security forces.

Protests are taking place in many parts of Colombia and form part of a national movement, coordinated by ONIC which says the government is 'exterminating' Colombia's Indigenous peoples. The given reasons for the protests include: the immediate repeal of a controversial land law, the government's failure to vote in favour of the UN's Declaration of Indigenous Peoples' Rights, the government's opposition to the Organisation of American States' Declaration of Indigenous Peoples' Rights, 'to reject and denounce [government] policies. . . and the removal of constitutional guarantees in order to favour transnational companies', 'against the criminalization of the Indigenous movement', and 'against genocide and crimes against humanity',

In the last six years ONIC says that more than 1200 Colombian Indians have been assassinated, 55,000 displaced and 400,000 left without land, leaving a total eighteen Indigenous groups 'in danger of extinction.'