Wayuu, Embera Endure Brutal Attack

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BAHIA DE PORTETE, Colombia - The Colombian independent news agency ANNCOL
reported that on April 18 the Wayuu indigenous community of Bahia de
Portete in northern Colombia's La Guajira peninsula was sacked by
paramilitaries, who killed 12 residents. According to Amnesty
International, the paramilitaries interrogated a number of children on the
whereabouts of their parents, torturing and killing some on suspicion of
lying.

More than 300 Wayuu were able to flee across the border to Venezuela,
walking for more than 24 hours. One refugee told a reporter from the
Venezuelan newspaper Ultimas Noticias that he had witnessed two sons burned
alive, and his mother and nephew dismembered with a chainsaw. An Embera
spokesman named Juchi told the reporter: "The Guajira people [Wayuu] have
reached a decision ... war has been declared. We are going to respond in
such a forceful manner that they will have no desire to return to our
lands. We will apply our own law, because the justice of the courts only
serves to help them, the assassins."

Colombian authorities deny that the incident occurred. The public
prosecutor of the nearby city of Rio Hacha said he has proof of only two
deaths. According to the press office of the Army's First Division, the
Army is only sowing "seeds of friendship with the population" of La
Guajira. During the last three years the Wayuu communities have suffered
numerous attacks and assassinations at the hands of paramilitaries
supported by troops of the Colombian Army's Second Brigade, based in the
city of Barranquilla.

ANNCOL also reports that on March 30, 76 soldiers of the Alfonso Manosalva
Florez battalion arrived at Gengadu, a small village of the Wounaan Embera
indigenous people, located in the municipality of Rio Quito, Choco
department. Two local residents were forced from their home at gunpoint and
walked to the local cemetery where they were interrogated, and one was
forced to dig a shallow grave - told it was to be his own. Local residents
were also forced to patrol the area with the army. The Wounaan Embera
Regional Organization of Choco (OREWA) told ANNCOL that in an earlier
recent incursion into the village, army troops stripped and beat two women
in public before interrogating them.

Following a visit to the nation, UN humanitarian coordinator Jan Egeland
told a news conference in May that Colombia is "by far the biggest
humanitarian catastrophe of the Western Hemisphere." With 2 million
displaced by the war, Colombia is second only to Sudan and Congo in global
refugee crises. But rather than going to UN-administrated camps, the
refugees congregate in the massive shanty-towns that surround Colombia's
cities - making the crisis largely invisible to the outside world.

Egeland said he is "particularly concerned" with the situation in remote
areas "where Indian tribes and peasant communities are totally trapped
without access by us, the international community, because the guerrillas
don't allow entry, because the paramilitary forces don't allow our entry,
or because the military offensives ... make it impossible for us to get
access."