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Indigenous Push for Peace in Colombia With Massive March

Rick Kearns

Indigenous people in Colombia were strongly in favor of the Peace Accord between the government and the FARC rebels, which was rejected in a plebiscite on October 2, as they were caught in the crossfire for decades. The country's largest indigenous organization helped mobilize allies for a march in support of the accord that brought 50,000 people in downtown Bogota.

According to most polls, the Indigenous communities, where much of the bloodshed took place, voted heavily in favor of the accord. However, on October 2 the final tally of votes went against the accord by a narrow margin, with 50.2 percent rejecting the deal

On October 12, the National Organization of Indigenous people of Colombia (ONIC) announced plans to start a long march on that same date, which they referred  to as The Day of Resistance (formerly Columbus Day). ONIC is the largest Indigenous organization in Colombia.

Indigenous people from across the country and other Colombians gathered in Bogota to urge both sides to resume the talks as soon as possible.

According to the ONIC press release, the scene at the march was joyous.

“It constituted a multi-colored, multi-ethnic river that reaffirmed how peace in Colombia cannot be built without the ancestral contribution of the 112 Native Peoples that survive in Colombian territory. The spontaneous response of the citizens, always delivering flowers of different colors and water to the marchers combined in a magical way with the chants of the Indigenous Guards, who at various times danced in a happy way to the rhythms of the musical groups from different reservations and communities.”

The Indigenous marchers were joined by other victims of the war and allies, many who chanted “No More War” and “You are not alone.”

Among the Indigenous organizations at the march were members of the Indigenous Authorities of Colombia Movement (AICO) who had also sent out a press statement about their support for peace.

“In response to the NO vote decided by a part of the Colombian population, we assert that that was a decision that affects the interests of our peoples who have faced, in a very direct way, the havoc of war with the death of our leaders and community, the dispossession of our lands, the extermination of our physical and cultural integrity as ancestral peoples…”

“We exhort the National Government to continue with the process of dialogue including for all political and social sectors of the nation and that the AICO be one of the direct participants in the reconstruction of peace between the national government and the FARC.”

According to statistics gathered by AICO and others, the war with the FARC had killed at least 7,700 Indigenous people, displaced approximately 180,000 Indigenous persons, with 1,800 disappeared and contributed (along with mega-projects for energy and mining) to the status of “high risk of extinction” for 32 Indigenous communities.

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