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The US Office on Colombia Blog is a bilingual space to discuss important news about human rights and peace in Colombia. Several of our articles come from prominent Colombian organizations and independent journalists. We encourage you to read our articles and participate by posting comments!


El Blog de la US Office on Colombia es un espacio bilingüe para discutir asuntos importantes acerca los derechos humanos y la paz en Colombia. Muchos de nuestros artículos vienen de prominentes organizaciones colombianas y de periodistas independientes. ¡Le animamos a Usted a que lea los artículos y participe con sus comentarios!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Indigenous People in Latin America face grave challenges for their survival.

By the US Office on Colombia and the Washington Office on Latin America

Indigenous leaders from Peru, Colombia and Panama told the US Congress yesterday of grave, continued and systematic violations to their rights that are pushing many indigenous communities in the region to the brink of physical and cultural extinction.

The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission of the House of Representatives yesterday held the first of a series of hearings on the rights of indigenous communities. Daisy Zapata Fasabi representing the Yine community in Peru, Estanislao Bejerano and Feliciano Santos representing the Ngobe people of Panama, and Dario Mejía representing the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, testified for Congress on the grave and multiple challenges that the indigenous communities in Latin America face for their survival.

Dario Mejia from Colombia said he was worried about the role of the United States in supporting policies that may violate indigenous rights, including: funding for the Colombian military that has been responsible for human rights abuses against indigenous peoples, fumigations that have led to forced displacement, illnesses and loss of community crops; and the extradition of paramilitary leaders to the US on drug trafficking charges which has impeded victims’ right to truth and justice.

However, Mr. Mejia told Congress that Colombia’s indigenous people were pleased to see the introduction of House Resolution 1224 by Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia on Recognizing and honoring the important work that Colombia's Constitutional Court has done on behalf of Colombia's internally displaced persons, especially indigenous peoples, Afro-Colombians, and women.

Congress heard that more than 64 Colombian indigenous groups were at risk of extinction and that 80% of indigenous territories had been conceded for the implementation of economic projects without respect for indigenous communities’ right to previous consultation.

"Forced displacement has become the rule for many indigenous communities in Colombia. Only in 2009 there were 6,201 indigenous people displaced from their ancestral lands,” Mr. Mejia said. "Between 2002 and 2008, over 70,000 indigenous people were registered for individual or collective internal displacement”.

The US Office on Colombia (USOC) and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) supported the participation of Dario Mejia from the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia in the hearing. For more information please go to www.usofficeoncolombia.org or www.wola.org

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