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FALL, 2001: Volume 6, Issue 3

In Colombia, CPTers Accompany Indigenous People from CPT Net

More than eight hundred indigenous people from throughout Colombia began a march Wednesday, June 13, in search of Kimy Pernía Domicó, the abducted leader of the Embera-Katío indigenous group.

Three masked men on a white motorcycle kidnapped the internationally respected leader at gunpoint June 2. He shouted, “They have me!” as the motorcycle sped from the municipality of Tierra Alta toward Monteria, Cordoba. Nothing has been heard from Kimy since.

The dominance of army-backed paramilitary in the region and the form of abduction indicate that paramilitary belonging to the United Self-Defense Groups of Cordoba and Uraba (ACCU) are responsible.

In media reports following the incident, the police commander of Cordoba attempted to justify the abduction by accusing Kimy of involvement in the drug trade. These comments have been proven untrue, but in this context they are dangerous nonetheless.

Indigenous people from around the country congregated and marched in the streets of Medellín on Wednesday and then descended to Tierralta, starting point for the direct action and march route, later in the day. Participants in the non-violent direct action plan to confront the paramilitary by marching to their farms around the city of Monteria and demanding the release of Kimy, or at least the return of his body.

Kimy Pernia Domicó was targeted for playing a leading role in the Embera-Katío campaign against the construction of the Urrà dam mega-project. Due to their resistance, several Embera-Katío communities have been targeted by the paramilitary. Paramilitaries belonging to the AUC make no effort to hide their alliances with their private sponsors. In a recent interview with Carlos Castaño, former head of the AUC, a columnist from the Colombian magazine Semana asked “Whose work was (Kimy) impeding?” Castaño responded, “The Dam! He‘s impeding the functioning of the dam!”

The Urrà dam mega-project, partially funded by the Canadian government, ravaged the Embera-Katío ancestral lands and threatens the group’s very survival. Several leaders were assassinated, community members were abducted, and others disappeared due to their active resistance to the project. The Embera-Katío thought the violence would subside with the treaty signed with the Urrà builders and the Colombian government early last year. They were wrong. Kimy’s abduction was just one of the attacks they have suffered.

In recognition of US complicity in violence and injustice, Christian Peace Teams and Witness For Peace hold prayer vigil outside US Embassy in Bogota. Photo: CPT

On Monday, June 18, CPTers Scott Kerr and Ben Horst arrived in the town of Tierralta in the department of Córdoba to accompany [the marchers]…

[The] Embera-Katío and allied indigenous groups occupied Tierralta’s main central plaza for the duration of the encampment, stringing up a spider’s web network of rope and plastic tarps to serve as tents.

The indigenous walked through the ranchland surrounding Tierralta on June 16, June 18, and June 20, asking ranchers, peasants, and passers-by for any information regarding Domicó. Kerr and Horst accompanied the marchers on June 20, walking for six hours over dusty roads in areas largely controlled by paramilitaries. When Horst asked why that section of the countryside had been chosen for the march, an Embera-Katío leader replied, “One of our shamans has seen signs that Kimy was brought to this area.”

On June 22, officials, including the Minister of the Interior, several senators, and a UN delegate, arrived from Bogotá for a public meeting to discuss the disappearance of Domicó and the plight of the Embera-Katío people. The Colombian government officials hedged in response to the Embera-Katío’s requests, in effect rejecting them.

The response of UN delegate Anders Kompas was more direct. He criticized the government’s failure to enact a thorough search for Domicó, and their “lack of transparency” in matters regarding the indigenous peoples of Colombia. Additionally, Horst read a statement on behalf of the five international observers taking part in the march, which called in part for “the liberation of Kimy and the respect for the autonomy of indigenous territory and authority.”

Editor’s note: During the march, no one was hurt, but afterward, a Justapaz staffer e-mailed me saying, “Attacks on the indigenous have increased since the March ended.”

See this issue Urgent Need for Spanish Speakers for more information on CPT

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