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LatinNews Daily - 23 April 2021

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COLOMBIA: Armed attack on indigenous in Cauca

On 22 April, at least 31 people were injured in Colombia’s Cauca department after an armed group opened fire on a group that had gathered to protest the murder of the indigenous leader Sandra Liliana Peña, who was killed on 20 April.

Analysis:

The attack demonstrates the dangers faced by indigenous communities in Cauca, many of whom live in areas of strong criminal control. The latest act of violence appears to be the result of opposition to coca cultivation in the area, and follows the assassination of Peña, a high-profile activist, who opposed coca crops in indigenous territory. According to the defence ministry, two dissident units of the disbanded Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Farc) guerrilla group are active in the department, as well as the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) guerrilla group. Dissident Farc units have been increasingly assertive in Cauca in recent months, and were blamed by the government for a car bombing in Corinto municipality in March.

  • According to the Consejo Regional Indígena de Cauca (CRIC), a council comprising different indigenous communities in Cauca, at least 31 people were injured in Caldono municipality after an armed group opened fire on a minga (meeting of indigenous representatives). CRIC reported that 12 of the attackers were subsequently captured by members of the Guardia Indígena community defence force, an indigenous patrol set up to combat coca cultivation. The minga was called following Peña’s killing, and prior to the attack had agreed to intensify the coca eradication efforts that she had promoted before her murder.
  • Peña, the governor of the Laguna Siberia indigenous reserve (Caldono municipality), had been a vocal opponent of coca cultivation in Caldono, where weak state presence has led to the creation of Guardia Indígena patrols as a means of countering criminal expansion.

Looking Ahead: Following Peña’s murder, on 21 April Defence Minister Diego Molano Aponte held an emergency meeting with regional authorities and representatives from the military, police and attorney general’s office. Molano announced that efforts would be intensified to dismantle dissident Farc units, and that coca eradication efforts in Cauca would be assisted with Col$1bn (US$275,000) from the interior ministry to help local farmers substitute coca for other crops.