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Dear Prime Minister Harper:
We are deeply disturbed by reports of violent repression being carried out by the Colombian army against unarmed civilians during the past week’s civilian demonstration against militarization and free trade in Colombia, and we urge the Canadian government to take immediate action.
Over the past week, the Indigenous people of Cauca and throughout Colombia have faced severe violations of international human rights. At least 11 people across Colombia have been killed and more than 60 people have been wounded during the peaceful demonstrations – four of these deaths occurred in Cauca. There are reports of unprovoked assassinations of Indigenous civilians by the Colombian Army and the paramilitary groups. One Indigenous man, brother of two of the leaders of the peaceful mobilization, was allegedly taken from a vehicle and shot in front of his wife and child at point blank range by the paramilitary organization “Black Eagles”. There has also been a report of a death threat by the guerrilla group FARC against one of the most vocal Indigenous leaders, Feliciano Valencia. It seems the Indigenous people are a target of all armed groups operating in the region who are vying for control over lands recognized as Indigenous territories by the Colombian Constitution of 1991. Further, there have been blockages of websites and suspicious power outages affecting internet service during the mobilization, reported by Indymedia and FLIP (Foundation for Free Expression in Bogota, Colombia, member of IFEX, based in Toronto, Canada). The international right to free expression is also under threat.
There is a significant danger of a massacre, and governments around the world are being called upon to act to stop this violence and foster a space for dialogue between Indigenous people and the Colombian government. The InterAmerican Commission and UN bodies have been asked to intervene, and support the implementation of an international commission to travel to the region.
This violence is taking place within the context of the negotiation and implementation of free trade agreements with Canada, the U.S. and other countries. As citizens of Canada, it is deeply disturbing that our government is engaged in trade and ‘business as usual’ with a government with well known and documented violations of human rights, particularly against Indigenous people in that country. Canada, as a signatory of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People is obliged to uphold the rights, cultural and territorial integrity of Indigenous peoples around the world.
We strongly urge the Canadian government to call on President Uribe to cease violence immediately and support an International Commission to the region to monitor the situation.
We also strongly urge the Canadian government to rethink its position on free trade with the Colombian government, which has demonstrated a complete disdain for the rights of Indigenous people and other groups, and has a long history of brutal human rights violations.
Pueblos En Camino,