South American states are launching a joint warning system when Awa communities are attacked by armed groups.
Colombia and Ecuador have launched a joint warning system designed to protect indigenous Awa communities from attacks by armed groups in the border area between the two countries.
At a press conference in the Colombian capital Bogota on Tuesday, human rights ombudsmen from the two countries announced the new system, which is designed to alert government and military officials in each country to potential attacks.
“The presence of illegal armed groups and organized crime in the border region of Ecuador and Colombia has had humanitarian consequences, especially for the nearly 29,000 members of the large Awa family who live in the area,” said the office of the Colombian ombudsman, Carlos. Camargo, said on Twitter.
As illegal business activities such as mining encroach on areas that indigenous communities call home, violence and intimidation by armed groups and criminal organizations often followed.
1/4 The presence of illegal army groups and criminal organization in the cross-border zone of Ecuador and Colombia has provoked humanitarian interests, especially against the 29,000 integrantes of the large family who simply live in the zone. pic.twitter.com/awQhsIFUSJ
— Defensoria del Pueblo (@DefensoriaCol) March 7, 2023
Camargo said Awa communities have faced killings, forced displacement and the threat of landmines. Children are also a target for recruitment by the armed groups.
He said 14 members of the indigenous community were killed last year and about 10,000 were displaced or imprisoned as a result of the violence.
Armed groups — including dissidents from the now-disbanded Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels — operate near the border with Ecuador, as do drug trafficking groups.
In Colombia, leftist President Gustavo Petro has continued negotiations with armed groups, including the ELN, after decades of internal conflict.
“The ability to conduct their operations along a porous border — with gaps in the presence of the state — favors the interests of illegal groups,” Camargo said.
He called on armed groups to end violence and stop attacks on indigenous communities.
“We want to warn the Colombian state and the Ecuadorian state about these human rights violations … so that the necessary urgent measures are taken to prevent the violations from continuing,” said Ecuador’s human rights ombudsman Cesar Cordova Valverde.
Throughout Latin America, indigenous communities with a long history of violent persecution continue to face threats from a variety of actors.
In Brazil, federal authorities recently conducted operations to remove illegal miners from the land of the indigenous Yanomami community.
As illegal businesses made their way into Yanomami territory, residents suffered violence and displacement, as well as disease and malnutrition.