Colombia: riot police attack indigenous land occupation

<em />The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) reports nine were injured June 13 when a unit of the National Police Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) attacked more than 300 indigenous protesters participating in a land occupation at Hacienda la Emperatriz, near the indigenous reserve of Huellas Caloto, Cauca department. The ONIC statement said the nine protesters were receiving medical attention at a clinic in Toez village, but the attack had not broken the occupation, and urgently called for intervention from human rights monitors.

The occupation is part of a campaign dubbed "Liberar la Madre Tierra" (Liberate Mother Earth), to recover lands from big farms and ranches which have illegally encroached on traditional indigenous communities. ONIC said "we reject this systematic advance of submission and slavery of our people and aggression on our territory." (ONIC statement via DHColombia, June 14)

Aida Quilcue of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca (CRIC) told the online journal Actualidad Étnica that the Madre Tierra campaign is legal under Colombia's Rural Development Law, which calls for the restoration of usurped traditional lands. She said Nasa indigenous protesters would remain in possession of the hacienda.

National Police Col. William Montezuma told Noticiero CMI news service that the protesters used improvised explosives, wounding five ESMAD men and damaging crops on the hacienda. (Actualidad Étnica, June 14)

A CRIC statement denied this charge, as well as recent Defense Ministry testimony before the Colombian senate that the indigenous protesters were in league with the FARC guerillas. It accused the ESMAD of violating constitutional guarantees of indigenous autonomy by invading Nasa and Guambiano reserves in Cauca without the consent of local authorities, and harassing residents.

The CRIC statement said that on June 14, a group of local youth began a cross-country march through Cauca's indigenous reserves to publicize the issue of land recovery. The march began at the Nasa community of Tierradentro and is to end at Pueblo Nuevo, in Sat Tama Kiwe reserve, Caldono municipa