THE RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE IN COLOMBIA
According to official figures, there are nearly 600,000
indigenous people whom the Colombian State regards as an invaluable part
of the nation and a cultural and social treasure.
They are organized into 81 groups, speak 75 different languages
and inhabit 25% of the national territory.
RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLES UNDER THE NEW
The new Constitution approved in 1991 recognizes a number of
rights that specifically pertain to indigenous communities:
The State recognizes and protects the ethnic and cultural
diversity of the Colombian nation (Article 7); it is the obligation of
the State to protect cultural assets (Article 8).
The languages and dialects of the ethnic groups are also official
languages within their territories; in communities with their own
linguistic tradition, education shall be bilingual (Article 10).
Instruction shall respect and develop their cultural identity
The communal lands of ethnic groups and reservation lands cannot
be taken away or attached (Article 63).
Ethnic groups settled in areas of archeological treasures have
special rights over that cultural heritage, which rights must be
regulated by law (Article 72).
Indigenous persons who share border territories are recognized as
Colombian nationals, provided the recognition is mutual (Article 96).
The new Constitution creates senatorial posts and as many as five
representatives to be elected by indigenous communities in a special
national election (Article 176).
The new Constitution provides that the indigenous peoples'
authorities may exercise jurisdictional functions within their territory
and in accordance with their own laws and procedures, provided they are
not contrary to the Constitution and the laws (Article 246).
According to the Minister of Government, the entire State policy
toward indigenous communities is based not only on the provisions of the
new Constitution, but also on Law 21, of 1991, which ratified ILO
Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent
Countries and made it the law in Colombia.
OF POLITICAL PARTICIPATION
These rights are exercised vis-a-vis national government and
local self-government. At
the national level, there are two senatorial positions and as many as
five representatives to the National Congress reserved, under the
Constitution, for representatives of indigenous peoples.
In the election for the most recent Constitutional Assembly, two
indigenous leaders were elected by popular vote.
At the national level, the Office of the Presidential Adviser for
Human Rights has a Committee on Indigenous Policy, on which indigenous
people are well represented.
At the local level, indigenous persons serve on the municipal
rehabilitation councils and the "indigenous town councils."
Decree 2001, of 1988, recognized that the indigenous town
councils were special public bodies charged with governing indigenous
affairs and administering their territories.
The 1991 Constitution develops the concept of indigenous
territories, which it regards as territorial entities on a par with
departments, districts and municipalities.
The indigenous territories are another regional configuration and
may lie within the jurisdiction of one or several departments (Article
329). Their relations with
the department--and especially with the municipalities that overlap the
respective indigenous territories--are not defined in the Constitution. That relationship is to be defined in the respective law.
However, under the Constitution indigenous territories are
autonomous for purposes of managing their interests.
They may have their own authorities to govern them; they may
administer their own resources, levy taxes and have a share of the
national revenues (Article 287). The
indigenous territories are to be governed by councils that, using their
own customs and practices, shall be responsible for seeing that the laws
are observed, for designing economic and social development policies,
plans and programs within their territory, promoting and overseeing
public investments, receiving and distributing revenues from those
investments, overseeing natural resources, coordinating programs and
projects, and helping to maintain law and order (Article 330).
Some believe that these functions give them the authority to
control, cooperate, promote and coordinate, but not direct executive
authority; by extension, therefore, the councils would be something that
the municipalities or departments could use to carry out their own
Some indigenous organizations have three levels: ONIC (National
Indigenous Organization of Colombia) is the federation of regional
councils (the most important regional councils are the CRIT in Tolima
and the CRIC in Cauca); under these councils come the cabildos,
which most closely approximate the local communities and their
traditional structure of authority.
The regional councils are the bodies through which the indigenous
communities can function as groups with a legal personality and interact
with other indigenous organizations.
Although it can be traced back to the Spanish colonial
institution of the same name, the cabildo--an institution of
Colombian public law--is a representative body and enables the community
to preserve established community principles and collective
decision-making procedures. It
was law 89, in 1890, that officially adopted the cabildo as the
organizational structure of indigenous people. It was a compromise between, on the one hand, self government
and indigenous administrative autonomy, and on the other the unified
political and legal system of the Colombian state.
The members of each cabildo (the number varies between 5
and 12) are elected by each community to one-year terms; they receive no
pay and enjoy no privileges. The
members of the cabildo elect a governor.
Although Law 89 gives them broad authorities as regards internal
administrative, executive and police affairs, their authority over the
community is not binding; instead, it is a kind of moral authority.
While this reinforces their democratic commitment, it weakens
them vis-à-vis challenges or attacks from other State institutions with
overlapping or parallel authority.
The result is that the authority of the cabildos is
systematically disregarded or dismissed by State institutions, even the
courts, the police and municipal institutions.
This conflict of parallel authorities also occurs between the cabildos
and municipal political authorities.
The latter are also popularly elected officials, but in general
through a party structure controlled locally by the political elites
that operate by buying votes through the so-called community action
boards. This source of conflict and of frequent human rights
violations could be reduced--according to some authors--if, within the
new territorial division, the municipalities were to be configured to
coincide with the communities or to be contiguous.
Because the cabildos are weak and do not have the
regulations and statutes they need for real self-governance, the
governors of each cabildo sometimes exercise authoritarian
practices and take over too much power.
This is detrimental to the communities, whose general reaction is
Article 246 of the Constitution of Colombia provides that the
authorities of the indigenous peoples may exercise jurisdictional
functions within their territories, in accordance with their own
standards and procedures, provided they do not conflict with the
Constitution and laws of the Republic.
This provides an important opportunity to develop the
independence and autonomy of the ethnic minorities, as it could obviate
the difficulties that occur when members of the indigenous communities
are tried by authorities who do not take into consideration the
minorities' cultural values.
Those who know this subject well, however, worry that future
rules and regulations will restrict that jurisdictional autonomy, making
it impossible for the indigenous communities to achieve full juridical
RIGHT TO INDIGENOUS PROPERTY AND TERRITORIES
The Government is instituting a system of national indigenous
parks and reservations, in
order to "recognize the claim that indigenous communities have to
the territories they have traditionally occupied; to adopt programs to
manage, preserve, replace and exploit natural resources; to obtain clear
title to the reservations by purchasing the improvements from third
parties within those reservations and awarding them free of charge to
the indigenous communities; to give land to indigenous communities that
have none, while expanding colonial reservations by purchasing new
lands." This system is
most prevalent in the area of the Amazon Basin.
There are presently 302 reservations, involving a total of 26
million hectares of land and inhabited by 310,000 indigenous persons. Some 63 of those reservations, which account for
approximately half of the 26 million hectares and benefit 28,000
persons, were formed by INCORA (Colombian Agrarian Reform Institute)
between 1986 and 1989. Another
19 indigenous reservations are for 1,535 families.
The legislation regarding reservations basically consists of Law
135 of 1961, Law 31 of 1967 (which approved the 1957 ILO Convention) and
the new Agrarian Reform Law.
Colombian law guarantees indigenous communities their right to
exploit the renewable natural resources on those lands.
With the participation and agreement of each community, since
1987 indigenous inspectors have been named to monitor the natural
resources on the reservations.
The Government reports that it invested some $14 million (21
billion Colombian pesos) in economic improvements for indigenous
communities in the four years from 1986 to 1990.
CULTURAL RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PERSONS
Various State measures concern respect for indigenous practices
and cultures: Public Health
Ministry resolution 10,013 (1981) provides that the health care provided
must take into account the cultural characteristics of each community;
Decree 1141/78, on education, recognizes ethnic pluralism and the
indigenous communities' right to receive an education that is tailored
to their own socio-cultural and economic characteristics and that
strengthens their ability to make collective decisions concerning their
Decree 2230/86 creates the National Aboriginal Linguistic
Committee, to advise the Government on developing policies on the native
American languages within Colombian territory.
Some 2% of the slots available in the National University of
Colombia are reserved for students of indigenous origin and the
"Alvaro Ulcué" Scholarship Fund has been set up to assist
them financially with their pre-university studies and undergraduate
studies. By law, indigenous
persons are exempt from military service.
It is interesting to note that under Colombian law, the
indigenous community is regarded as an extended family.
For example, in Article 93 of the Minors Code, "only
indigenous minors found abandoned outside the community may be put up
for adoption" and only after an effort has been made to restore
them to their indigenous community.
Article 92.2.c recognizes Colombian nationality via adoption
"in the case of members of indigenous peoples who share border
territories" thereby recognizing that indigenous peoples who
inhabit lands belonging to several States have certain rights because
those are their ancestral lands. Under
this same article, recognition of nationality by adoption is subject to
execution of such reciprocity treaties as the Amazon Cooperation
Agreement with Ecuador (1980), the Amazon Cooperation Treaty with Peru
(1979), and the Treaty with Venezuela on integral development of and
basic assistance to the Wayuu Indigenous Communities (1990).
OBSERVANCE OF THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF INDIGENOUS PERSONS
The Colombian Government has a number of State agencies whose job
is to coordinate with one another to carry out indigenous policy in
various areas and to see that the rights of indigenous peoples are
respected. These agencies and their responsibilities are as follows:
The General Bureau of Indian Affairs of the Ministry of
Government, responsible for policies and programs;
The Colombian Agrarian Reform Institute whose function is to
recognize the indigenous communities' full ownership to their ancestral
lands if they do not have legal title to those lands;
The Ministry of Education, for ethnic instruction and to see that
public education respects indigenous values;
The Ministry of Health, responsible for establishing health
programs designed for indigenous people and for training indigenous
The Indigenous Affairs Unit of the Office of the Attorney
General, which sees to it that public entities fulfill their
responsibilities vis-à-vis indigenous peoples and that indigenous
rights are guaranteed;
The Public Defender's Office, a new institution which, in this
particular area, monitors the official conduct of civil servants and
endeavors to create tolerance and acceptance of diversity;
The Colombian Anthropological Institute (ICAN), which studies
past and present indigenous cultures and coordinates with the Aboriginal
The Departmental Indian Affairs Bureaus;
The Regional Development Corporations, which promote the
indigenous communities' productive development;
The indigenous program under the National Rehabilitation Plan and
the Municipal Rehabilitation Councils and Committees of Traditional
Authorities, especially in areas that were once embattled and are now
being redeveloped, and
The Municipal Institutional Development Program, which trains
administrators with the Indigenous Territorial Agencies.
According to the Office of the Presidential Adviser for Human
Rights, some of the chief problems in securing respect for the human
rights of indigenous peoples are as follows:
Government officials are, on the whole, ignorant of the laws that
protect the rights and territories of indigenous groups.
As a result, their lawful authorities are ignored and supplanted
by countless State institutions.
In most cases, their titles to the reservations are not
recognized by government officials.
Some institutions and organs in the regions... do not take kindly
to creation of areas and regional organizations with spokesmen for a
number of communities... engaged in defending their ethnic rights and
The right to autonomy... is not recognized by political groups
and organizations of all persuasions.
An example of that ignorance--which is just as common among
nonindigenous civilian society--and of how it is to overcome it has been
the difficulty in negotiating and executing an agreement concerning the
salt mines in Guajira. The
agreement was negotiated between the Wayuu community--assisted by
certain government institutions such as Inderena, the Bureau of Indian
Affairs and the Attorney General's office--and the Industrial
Development Institute (IFI), representing other State and private
agreement, signed on July 27, 1991 in Manaure, department of La Guajira,
for exploitation of that ecosystem and the regional salt market,
respected indigenous peoples's rights and averted a larger confrontation
between the indigenous population and other sectors interested in salt
Apart from the dispute over landownership between large
landowners and the indigenous communities is the dispute between small
farmers and their organizations such as the National Small Farmers
Association (ANUC), which want individual ownership of land, and the
indigenous communities, which are fighting for communal ownership of
Communal ownership is viewed by them not only as guaranteeing
permanent control as an inalienable right of the communities, but also
of preserving their proven agricultural techniques and ensuring the
survival of their political, social and cultural structures.
Given the constitutional guarantees to those ancestral lands,
Colombian analysts believe that the position taken by some State
agencies--among them the Colombian Agrarian Reform Institute -
INCORA--that do not wish to recognize indigenous communities as
collective and separate entities with legal title to their ancestral
lands and organized, in colonial times, under the name of
"Resguardos", is unconstitutional.
The Commission has received information to the effect that in
their efforts to reclaim their lands, indigenous communities have to
contend with opposition from other groups: the death squads working for
the landowners and guerrilla groups opposed to indigenous autonomy on
the grounds that the class struggle must take precedence over indigenous
autonomy. Then, also,
indigenous communities must contend with opposition from associations of
small landowners or seasonal farm workers.
The information indicates that those who defend the rights of
indigenous people are frequently the target of attacks, as in the case
of attorneys who work in the region of Guamo-Coyaima in law offices that
serve a mostly indigenous clientele.
The death squads threatened and harassed them to the point that
they were forced to leave the area and to abandon their activities.
As with so many other sides of the human rights situation in
Colombia, all these factors make it very difficult for the State to
guarantee and promote the human rights of indigenous people.
This in no way diminishes the responsibility it has, as the
State, to be ever vigilant and to intervene actively to balance the
various legitimate interests that come into play.
It also has a responsibility to eliminate those violent elements
that operate either with the complicity or support of security and
judicial forces or against them.
RELATIVE TO THESE RIGHTS
One case is typical of the kinds of problems that indigenous
peoples in Colombia face:
On December 18, 1991, the Inter-American Commission on Human
Rights received a petition concerning a massacre of indigenous peasants
that occurred on the property called "El Nilo".
The Commission sent the pertinent parts of that petition to the
Colombian Government, as follows:
D.C., December 18, 1991
Nohemí Sanín Posada
Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has received
information regarding the following:
July of this year, the indigenous communities living on the property
known as "El Nilo", Huellas reservation, municipality of
Caloto, department of El Cauca, have been filing complaints with the
mayor of the municipality and the regional prosecutor's office
concerning the serious threats, intimidation and violence targeted
cabildo has put in a request for this property, owned by Mrs.
Betty Mora Mejía, with the Colombian Agrarian Reform Institute, INCORA,
although thus far no reply has been received.
December 7, a group of heavily armed civilians appeared at the El Nilo
property. They proceeded to
burn the farm houses and to destroy the crops.
They also made serious threats.
They were accompanied by an attorney by the name of Gilberto Márquez,
who said: "If we don't
come to some agreement, this'll be war, either open or secret."
events of December 16. The
community on the "El Nilo" property, on the Huellas
reservation, municipality of Caloto, was brutally massacred by a
paramilitary group, presumably hired by the neighboring ranchers; the
massacre left 20 dead (11 men, 5 women and 4 children).
The names of the victims are:
JAIRO SCCUE, DOMINGO CALIS, DOMINGO CALIS (WIFE), DANIEL PETE,
ADAN MESTIZO, DARIO COICUE, FELICIANO OTELO, CALICIO CHILHUESO, MARIO
JULIQUE, EDGAR MESTIZO, JESUS PETE (CHILD), JULIO DAGUA, CAROLINA TOMBE,
OFELIA TOMBE, JOSE ELIAS TOMBE, FORESMIRO VISCUE, LEONIDAS CASAMCHIN AND
JOSE ELIAS ULCUE.
Aware that Your Excellency's Government has condemned this
massacre, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights would ask that
your Government kindly inform the Commission of the investigations being
conducted into this case.
Accept, Excellency, renewed assurances of my highest
Edith Márquez Rodríguez
On January 16, 1992, the Government of Colombia replied to the
Commission's note and supplied the following information concerning the
massacre in question:
I have the honor to address Your Excellency, on behalf of the
Colombian Government, in response to your note of December 18, 1991,
concerning the massacre that occurred on the "El Nilo"
ranch in the municipality of Caloto.
I would like to inform the Commission that Dr. Jorge Alfonso
Medina Avella, Departmental Prosecutor for the department of El Cauca,
informed this Ministry that neither the indigenous community in question
nor any other citizen reported the threats made against the indigenous
group to the Departmental Prosecutor's Office in Cauca or to the
Provincial Prosecutor's Office for Santander de Quilichao.
As for the criminal investigations, once information of the crime
was reported, a committee headed by the Popayán Criminal Investigations
Director, department of El Cauca, went to the scene of the events to
conduct the first inquiries and proceedings.
This Committee was assisted by the Mobile Unit of the Technical
Corps of the Popayán Criminal Investigations Police, the Preliminary
Investigations Unit of Caloto and the Popayán Investigations Unit.
On December 18, 1991, through Resolution 1339, the case was
assigned to a Judicial Investigative Unit, which took cognizance of the
investigation that same day.
The Human Rights Section of the Popayán Criminal Investigations
Unit made contact with the officials of the cabildos and
indigenous organizations in order to locate eyewitnesses to the crime.
Also, three indigenous persons were brought before Criminal
Examining Magistrates 7 and 20 to make statements in connection with the
events; the Judicial Investigative Unit ordered that the foreman of the
"El Nilo Hacienda" and two residents from the area where the
events occurred be summoned.
With the help of the Investigative Unit, the addresses of three
individuals allegedly involved in the massacre were obtained.
On December 19, 1992, the Human Rights Section, with the help of
two indigenous leaders and the Investigating Unit of the Technical Corps
of the Criminal Investigations Police, succeeded in assembling the
survivors of the massacre to name witnesses who might be able to
identify the authors of the crime.
Criminal Examining Magistrates 8 and 20 continued the
investigation. They took a
number of statements, one being from a Congressman and representative of
the Indigenous Communities in the region.
Accordingly, Popayán Criminal Examining Judge 7 issued a warrant
for the arrest of an individual working on one of the farms located in a
area adjacent to Caloto. Criminal
Examining Judge 8, located in the community of Caloto, issued a warrant
for the arrest of two private citizens suspected of being involved in
that monstrous crime.
On December 30, an order was given to turn over the case files to
the Public Order Court of the city of Cali, which was done that very
On January 8, 1992, the jurisdiction in question began to take
cognizance of the investigation, ordering that measures be taken to
establish the identity of several people for whom a physical description
On January 9, a group was formed out of the Investigations Unit,
composed of people with the Administrative and Security Department
(DAS), police and criminal examining magistrates from the city of Popayán,
in order to submit the evidence ordered.
At this point the investigation is being conducted by the Cali
Public Order Office and no agent of the State has been implicated.
As soon as new information is received on further developments in
this criminal investigation, it will be forwarded to the Commission.
The Colombian Agrarian Reform Institute (INCORA) was created in
1962 and is part of the Ministry of Agriculture.
Its mandate is to purchase and deliver lands to indigenous and
farm communities. It has always stayed abreast of the needs of the indigenous
people in the department of El Cauca, as the manager of INCORA explains
in the memorandum that he sent to this office on December 26, 1991.
The Institute's Manager states that the "El Nilo"
property was being taken over by INCORA in April 1990, in order
to give land to the Páez de Huellas indigenous community, which had
invaded the upper portion of the property.
As part of the proceedings required in cases of this type,
technicians from the Institute visited the property and found that most
of the land did not satisfy the requirements stipulated in Rule II of
Article 57 of Law 135 (1961); in other words, the land was not suitable
for either farming or ranching. Hence, no further steps were taken to determine whether or
not the property could be acquired.
In mid 1991, the representative of the Indigenous Community in
question informed the INCORA Regional Management Office in El Cauca that
they had had talks with the attorney for the corporate owner; the
attorney had reported that the owner had volunteered to sell the rural
property in question to INCORA. In
fact, no such offer had every been made.
It is important to point out that almost nationwide, indigenous
or farm communities are taking over or invading rural properties,
forcing the owners of those properties to resort to the established
legal procedures to reclaim their property or to turn to the Institute
to volunteer to sell the property when there is considerable social
pressure on the land in the regions concerned.
But what happened on the "El Nilo" property in the
northern portion of the department of El Cauca was unprecedented.
Despite the land's limited potential for farming, the Huellas
Indigenous Community requested that INCORA enter into negotiations for
the property in question, based on the principle of indigenous
territoriality. Two experts
from the Agustín Codazzi Geographic Institute, on orders from INCORA
management, are now making an assessment of the "El Nilo"
property. The assessment
will be submitted to INCORA's Board of Directors at its first session in
1992, to secure its approval of negotiation of the property in question.
Should no agreement be reached for voluntary transfer of the
property, the Institute shall take the necessary legal measures for
The Colombian Agrarian Reform Institute has provided the Huellas
Indigenous Community with 2,371 hectares for 169 families; in 1991 it
purchased a rural property known as "Nápoles" for that
community: its 155 hectares were valued at 38 million Colombian pesos.
At a December 1991 meeting, the Board of Directors authorized
purchase of the "La Mancha" farm for the Huellas Indigenous
Community. La Mancha was a
farm of 205 hectares, valued at 143 million Colombian pesos.
In an agreement concluded last December between the Institute and
the Indigenous Regional Council of the Department of El Cauca, it was
agreed that over the next three years, 15,000 hectares would be acquired
for 9 indigenous communities in that department.
The Community that benefits most during those three years will be
the very same community rocked by the violence of December 16.
INCORA has distributed another 44,000 hectares, benefitting 4,482
families, to the nine Páez indigenous communities.
Finally, between 1962 when it was created and 1991, INCORA has
arranged the following: it
has purchased 5,928 properties involving a total of 1,278,622 hectares.
Of these, 116,243 hectares, valued at $41,162,300 pesos, have
been for indigenous communities. It
has made sanitation improvements over 505 hectares, at a cost of
There are 245 indigenous reguardos in the country, which
are home to 30,782 families and involve a total of 24,692,422 hectares.
There are another 19 indigenous reservations in the country,
covering 1,059,184 hectares and home to 1,535 families.
Finally, the day after the massacre, the President of the
Republic, the Honorable César Gaviria Trujillo, and the Minister of
National Defense, Dr. Rafael Pardo Rueda, went to the scene of these
horrible events and energetically condemned these criminal actions that
are so offensive to the Colombian nation.
President Gaviria offered the judges in charge of the
investigation any logistical support they may require.
As Your Excellency can see, the remedies under domestic law are
fully in motion and at no time has the State neglected the Páez de
Huellas Indigenous Community, which is an integral part of this nation.
Allow me to take this opportunity to reassure Your Excellency of
the Colombian Government's commitment to the human rights cause and to
extend renewed assurances of my highest consideration.
Luis Guillermo Grillo Olarte
Multilateral Political Affairs
According to reports received by the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights, the Special Investigations Unit of the Office of the
Attorney General, which is handling the investigation into this case,
has uncovered evidence of the involvement of members of the National
Police, both before and during the execution of the events leading to
the murder of the indigenous people at the El Nilo property.
The attorney defending the indigenous people, Mr. OSCAR ELIAS
LOPEZ, was still another victim of a heinous crime.
He had been serving as legal advisor to the El Cauca Indigenous
Regional Council (CRIC) and was defending the interests of the families
of the victims of the Caloto massacre.
Attorney OSCAR ELIAS LOPEZ was murdered on May 30, 1992, in the
municipality of Santander de Quilichao, Department of El Cauca, by two
hired killers riding a motorcycle.
As a consequence of this, the National Indigenous Organization
(ONIC) issued a public communique that alludes to the fact that
departmental authorities were already aware that paramilitary groups
operating in the area were making serious threats against the indigenous
people. Nevertheless, ONIC
claims, those authorities did not take the measures necessary to avoid
The IACHR has learned that the judicial investigation into the
Caloto massacre being conducted by the Cali (Valle) Regional
Prosecutor's office has implicated six individuals as the material
authors of the crime. These include National Police Major Jorge Enrique Durán,
Captain Fabio Alejandro Castañeda, and four other individuals as
The massacre of the indigenous people at Caloto is just one
example of a more generalized problem.
The department of El Cauca has one of the highest concentrations
of indigenous people in the nation, made up of Paez, Yanagona, Coconuco
and Guambiano communities which extend as far as the southern reaches of
the departments of Valle del Cauca and Huila.
Since colonial times, these communities have had to contend with
violence from the owners of the latifundios; now that violence
comes from the agroindustrial sector entrenched in that zone.
It is a vast region. The
indigenous people there have organized themselves around the Cauca
Indigenous Regional Council, CRIC, created in the 1970's to assert the
property rights of the indigenous protected areas.
The indigenous people are faced with a very complex dilemma:
they face opposition from the traditional owners, from the new
agroindustrial owners, and from the State, which by failing to pursue a
policy of defending the rights of indigenous people has only made the
problem worse. In an effort
to cope, the indigenous people themselves formed social and political
organizations ranging from civic groups to such armed groups as
"Quintin Lame," a guerrilla group that was reassimilated into
civilian life with the 1991 agreements signed with the national
To squelch the indigenous population, the large landowners have
formed paramilitary groups and bands of hired killers who operate
independently, although the influence of the public forces is sometimes
present. In his 1990 report
on his on-site visit to Colombia, the United Nations' Special Rapporteur
on Arbitrary Executions observed that in the counterinsurgency struggle,
the forces of law and order encouraged the creation of the so-called campesino
self-defense groups. He
added that they had solid support from the forces of law and order,
which gave them arms and logistical support.
Colombia, Information on Human Rights and Fundamental
Freedoms of Indigenous Populations presented by the Government
(published in UN.E/CN.4/Sub.2/AC.4/1991/4).
Colombia, Office of the Presidential Adviser for Human
Humanos, Reflexión y Acción 3,"
Bogota, September 1991.