Those Left Behind
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Thousands of Indigenous people protested in the Colombian capital Bogota this week to voice their concerns over the ongoing wave of violence that has disproportionately affected their communities across the country, Al Jazeera reported.
Members of the so-called “Minga” – a collective movement of Indigenous people – demanded an end to the violence caused by rebel and criminal groups across the South American nation. Although similar demonstrations have taken place in Bogota, this week’s marches mark the first during the administration of leftist President Gustavo Petro.
Many Indigenous people say they are disappointed in the government’s lack of progress in curbing violence, particularly in regions like Cauca, which has long been a focal point of conflict.
Colombia has been dealing with the consequences of nearly six decades of internal armed conflict. Petro has vowed to pursue a policy of “total peace” to end the fighting – an approach that combines military action and direct negotiations with armed groups.
However, his efforts have yielded mixed results.
Last month, the government reached a six-month ceasefire with the National Liberation Army (ELN), the country’s largest remaining rebel group. But other ceasefires have collapsed and violence continues in rural areas.
Data has shown that Indigenous communities have borne the brunt of this violence, making up about half of those displaced or affected – even though they comprise about 3.5 percent of Colombia’s population.
While some leaders at the Minga have called for support for Petro’s efforts, others expressed their frustration with what they perceive as unfulfilled promises from the government.
Analyst Elizabeth Dickinson of the International Crisis Group think-tank said the frustrations expressed by Indigenous communities are often due to limited communication between the federal government and civil society, due to the government’s “total peace” approach being top-down and which has had a minimal impact in rural areas.
Dickinson added that the government made a mistake when it granted broad concessions to armed groups without securing substantial ones in return. This has allowed criminal organizations to grow stronger instead of forcing disarmament.