Cauca Region, Colombia

A Call for Help; Paramilitary Death Squad Targeting Indigenous Leader

Rick Kearns

The life of Indigenous Colombian leader Flaminio Onogama Gutierrez is in imminent danger and Amnesty International Canada (AIC) is approaching the Canadian and Colombian governments and the international community for assistance.

Onogama is a prominent Embera leader in the Cauca region of Colombia and had also been in leadership of the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia (known as ONIC in Spanish). As a respected national leader he was invited in 2010 to speak in Canada about threats to indigenous people throughout his country. The recent threats however are specifically targeting Onogama and four other indigenous leaders.

The infamous paramilitary death squad known as the Black Eagles sent a profanity-laced death threat to Onogama and other leaders in February and, according to various sources, authorities believe that the Black Eagles are also responsible for torturing and stabbing to death Onogama’s nephews Berlain Saigama Gutierrez and Jhon Braulio Gutierrez on January 1st of this year.

“We know that the Black Eagles paramilitary group sent a threatening letter to Flaminio after his nephews were killed,” said AIC spokesperson Kathy Price in an interview recently.

“We know that armed men showed up at Flaminio’s residence, were hanging around his town and were hanging around outside of the wake for the murdered nephews,” Price said, adding that the nephews were killed because they warned their uncle of the threats.

“We are very concerned for his safety,” she added.

Price noted that the Colombian government has provided some protection for Onogama but that the threatened leader believes it to be inadequate. AIC and other allies are urging the Colombian government to increase the protective measures and to further investigate the murders of his nephews who were also leaders in their Embera communities.

In his appeal to the international community for assistance, AIC’s Secretary General Alex Neve provided some background on Onogama’s work and experience.


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