Rick Kearns’ Nov. 5 article, “Despite military assault, indigenous protests, mobilizations continue in Colombia” [Vol. 28, Iss. 22] effectively highlights the extensive and powerful organizing of Colombia’s indigenous communities.
It also clearly states the legitimate assertions of rights being made by these communities to the national government. And the article reveals the unfortunate, but calculated military violence being used against Colombian indigenous people in their quest for justice.
To enhance information on this topic, the role the U.S. government can play in protecting indigenous communities must not be overlooked. Currently, U.S. legislation guiding U.S. military funding for Colombia calls on the Colombian armed forces to respect indigenous land rights and ensure that distinction is made between indigenous civilians and combatants in their operations.
If the armed forces do not do this, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) has every right to withhold significant and much desired funding from Colombia. Nonetheless, the DOS has failed to use this “condition” effectively.
The result of this is what Kearns reports on in the aforementioned article – a gross violation of indigenous rights.
This condition must be utilized if the U.S. and its people hope to see not only indigenous rights, but all human rights, respected in Colombia. And it is through this condition that we in the U.S. may best be able to support the very just demands and proposals being made by Colombia’s indigenous people.
Associate Director of Public Policy and Advocacy
Lutheran World Relief