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Why the protests of Colombian indigenous people go beyond the clashes with the police in Bogotá

In Colombia, two moments collected by the media marked the day before. In one, a group of protesters from the Emberá indigenous people staged violent acts, on Wednesday afternoon, in Bogotá, and in another, a delegation from this ethnic group spoke with the Colombian president, Gustavo Petro, on the night of that same day.

But before both situations, there was a big parenthesis. For decades, the members of the Emberá communities have suffered and denounced, without receiving a response, the state abandonment of their ancestral territories and the unfulfilled agreements of the Government, in the midst of the poverty, forced displacement, massacres and the recruitment of minors by armed groups.

Last Wednesday, the media profusely spread the riots, which had the Colombian capital as their epicenter and that they left more than 20 people injured. From 2018, groups this ethnic group They have moved to Bogotá to flee from death and hunger.

The long Emberá pilgrimage

From 2018 the situation has become more complex between the ups and downs of negotiations and partial agreements with the Mayor’s Office of Bogotá and the Government, without reaching a comprehensive solution.

In their pilgrimage through the capital, hundreds of Emberá Chamí and Katío have had to settle in the Third Millennium Metropolitan Park, in the center of Bogotá, and in the Enrique Olaya Herrera National Park, just 4 kilometers away, where they arrived on 29 September 2022.

The Emberá diaspora has been the victim of discrimination, stigmatization and aporophobia on the part of the inhabitants of the capital and the press, which classifies it as invasive and violent.

As an example of the precariousness and the few security guarantees they have in the city, last April, members of this indigenous community blocked the street to report that a taxi driver had run over a minor. The Mobile Riot Squad (Esmad) arrived at the scene to break up the protest and clashes broke out in which 30 people were injured, most of them women and children.

In May past, after spending eight months in the National Park, where they lived out in the open in improvised ‘cambuches’ covered with plastic bags, they agreed to settle in the Comprehensive Protection Units (UPI) of Florida and La Rioja, according to the Victims Unit.

The situation in these shelters, which at first would be temporary, has become unsustainable over the months. It is calculated that 21 people, most of them children, have died in these places due to the lack of medical attention and the deplorable conditions in those found.

The members of some 15 indigenous communities, which add up to about 1.64 people face overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and the spread of diseases in these spaces that are the responsibility of the Mayor’s Office, reports El Tiempo.

La Rioja

The UPI La Rioja, one of the shelters, is a three-story building built to care for children and adolescents in vulnerable conditions. In each of the classrooms arranged in the structure, they currently sleep 27 people, according to a report by El Tiempo.

The water supply is irregular and in the rooms there are Clothes hung out, blankets, kitchen utensils, bags full of pillows and blankets.

There are complaints filed with the Prosecutor’s Office for sexual abuse and violence against children and women.

I reject all acts of violence, that was not the correct way to protest. But look at the serious situation in the La Rioja shelter. Is it fair that people whose families were murdered and displaced today have to live like this? They only ask to return to the territory. indolent state.

– Martha Peralta Epieyú (@marthaperaltae) October 20, 2022

The conditions here they are very poor. They have not given us the aid that they promised us”, affirms the technical coordinator of the Indigenous Authorities in Bakatá (AIB), Jairo Montañez.

Petro’s response

On his Twitter account, the president published the image of the meeting with the representatives of these indigenous communities, which took place on Wednesday night, and a series of trills.

Petro recalled the overcrowding situation they suffer and the difficulty of access to basic services and drinking water in the two shelters in Bogotá, amid the indifference of the authorities.

They feel cheated in their dignity. Every time they are beaten, more come to Bogotá. S With a people that rejects undignified treatment, the deceitful word. The majority do not know how to speak Spanish, they are discriminated against for it. Officials do not have the education to understand them,” he wrote.

The president expressed his willingness to comply with the agreements established with the Administration of Iván Duque, in 2018.

I meet with the Embera community victim of displacement and located in Bogotá. They have not had drinking water for a month, they live overcrowded 1200 people where only fit 40. They have seen die of its members, most of them children in Bogotá

— Gustavo Petro (@petrogustavo) October 20, 2022

The previous president had promised to provide security guarantees in the territories where armed groups, transnational mineral exploitation companies, and criminal and drug trafficking organizations operate. In addition, he promised them medical and educational care, plans for road infrastructure and public services. Until now, everything remained a dead letter.

Regarding the participation of some members of that indigenous community in the protests that ended with 27 people injured, including 14 police officers and eight coexistence managers, the president also spoke.

Many will say they are terrorists the indigenous fathers and mothers who have seen their own children die of hunger, of HIV, of epidemics, of lack of care. I believe that today I have seen one of the greatest social injustices. A State that makes victims of the victims,” ​​he tweeted.

The clashes of the day before they occurred when some demonstrators protesting the situation in the shelters tried to enter the Avianca building, a construction that previously served people affected by the armed conflict.

Requests not attended

A note of Zeroseventy places from 1960 the Emberá settlements in the Colombian capital. In that decade, the Mayor’s Office established a dialogue table where the communities demanded territories to inhabit, decent housing, access to drinking water, an economic allocation to pay rent, security and job sources. “In short, demand a path of reparation to the victims,” ​​says the text.

In the work ‘The Emberá community in Bogotá: an academic look at its care and reparation process’, its author, David Castro, cites the text ‘Reparation of Victims’, by the professor of Political Sciences Consuelo Ahumada, who affirms that “ the indigenous territories became war zones“.

VIDEOS: Tensa jornada de enfrentamientos entre indígenas colombianos y el Esmad en Bogotá

“The Emberá community of both sides of the mountain range has suffered permanent harassment by the various armed groups who, among other equally reprehensible practices, turned children and young people into objects of forced recruitment,” says the author.

Both the Emberá Katio, from Chocó, and the Emberá Chamí, from Risaralda, are distributed on “both sides of the western mountain range in a region marked by the confluence of three factors: a very weak historical presence of the State, the exacerbation of the armed conflict in its various manifestations and a great wealth of mining resources and biodiversity”.

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