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Colombia Peace Accords Bring Ceasefire – for Now

Indigenous activists support Colombia’s recently signed ceasefire accord but they are pushing for inclusion of indigenous territorial rights and more.

Indigenous activists support Colombia’s recently signed ceasefire accord but they are also pushing for inclusion of indigenous territorial rights, prior consultation and other issues as part of the negotiations in Havana, Cuba.

On June 23, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC guerrilla leader Timoleón “Timochenko” Jiménez signed a ceasefire agreement to end the 52-year-long conflict that included the disarmament of the guerrillas.

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For the Indigenous communities, the ceasefire accord was welcome news but they say issues such as prior consultation, Indigenous property rights, return of kidnapped Indigenous children and other concerns must be part of the plan.

They have reiterated that hundreds of thousands of Indigenous people have been hurt or killed in the crossfire between the various parties and that the final accords must take this into account.

The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (ONIC) and the Indigenous Regional Council of Cauca (CRIC) issued press statements soon after news of the signing was announced. The leaders of CRIC expressed support for the accords and emphasized some historical context to their list of proposals. “In the last six decades the Indigenous territories of Cauca and the whole country has been the scene of a most cruel fratricidal conflict in which armed parties of the State and the guerillas have fallen, but in the great majority were people from social and community organizations that were caught in the crossfire between one and the other group.

“We at CRIC remember, with dignity and sadness, leaders like Benjamin Dindicue, Cristobal Secue, Rosa Elena Toconas, Marden Betancurt, Alvaro Ulcue and also the massacres of our peoples such as those against the Nilo and Nava peoples, on top of the hundreds of our friends who were used as cannon fodder by the different sides of the conflict,” the CRIC release stated.

The CRIC leaders also listed several items to be included in the final accord documents, issues such as: the location and removal of antipersonnel mines; the return of kidnapped Indigenous boys and girls; the re-integration into society of Indigenous combatants; and the establishment of special jurisdictions for Indigenous legal systems; and alternative development and solutions to the problems of drug trafficking.

Representatives of ONIC, CRIC and other Indigenous groups have reported that they will be in Cuba to continue with the negotiations.

While the ceasefire went into immediate effect, the final decision on the accord will be held by referendum in Colombia; some speculate as early as Colombian Independence Day on July 20.