COLOMBIA WATCH- Clashes over Indigenous Leader Detention
The indigenous communities of Northern Cauca are demanding the release of Manuel Antonio Bautista Pequí, leader of the López Adentro Indigenous Reservation, following his arrest on the 5th January 2013.Around 200 people, including members of a number of local organisations, blocked the main streets of the area surrounding the government buildings of Santander de Quilichao, in Cauca. The protestors were confronted by anti-riot police, who used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them.In a press release, the Association of Indigenous Cabildos of Northern Cauca (ACIN) stated that his arrest violates recent agreements with indigenous communities. In talks between the government and the indigenous people of Cauca, it had been agreed that arrest warrants for the immediate arrest of 139 indigenous activists would be suspended. The list, put together by the Attorney’s office, ordered the arrest of people known to be involved in the defence of community rights and included Mr Pequí’s name.Mr Bautista Pequí was arrested on his way to visit a relative in hospital in the city of Cali. A few months ago, photos were published of Mr Pequí in uniform accusing him of belonging to the Sixth Division of the Farc. This was later exposed as a set up. He is now accused of 'rebellion' and 'terrorism'.Mr Pequi’s arrest is viewed as an attempt to interfere with the indigenous resistance movement. Protestors say that it betrays the government’s lack of support for indigenous people’s mandate to control their reservation territories. It also reveals the government’s lack of commitment to holding sincere and respectful talks with indigenous communities, who continue to be threatened, persecuted and detained.Leaders are calling on the indigenous community to continue mobilising in solidarity with Mr Pequí. They are demanding a public hearing for his trial and accuse the government of attempting to criminalise the legitimate activities of the indigenous people’s movement.
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