09 Aug 2007

At a United Nations forum on Wednesday, Colombian tribal leaders reported that, in order to protect and control lucrative cocaine-smuggling routes, new criminal gangs of former militia fighters are surrounding indigenous tribes and cutting them off from food supplies.

According to Luis Andrade, president of ONIC (Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia), the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, about 12,000 tribe members throughout the country have been locked in their villages by paramilitary groups.

‘They can’t leave to fish or hunt, which has caused hundreds to starve,’ he said. ‘This confinement is causing more victims than direct actions such as assassinations. Indigenous people who do try to leave their villages risk being shot as rebel collaborators.’

The United Nations says that the new crime gangs are less disciplined and more dangerous than their predecessors.
‘They do not have a political agenda at all. It is pure narco-trafficking,’ explains Roberto Meier, Colombia’s representative for the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.

UNHCR – The United Nations Refugee Agency

ONIC – Organización Nacional Indígena de Colombia

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