David R. Goyes
‘Our territories are mass graves’: The ongoing genocide in Colombia
My phone started beeping at 1.15 a.m. on a Sunday. Thousands of kilometres from me, in the middle of an Indigenous territory, the sender trembled with fear. She contacted with me in desperation: ‘they are transforming our territory into a mass grave’, read the message. At that moment, armed men were attacking her community—once more. I am a scholar who focuses on crime and Indigenous issues; she hoped that I, somehow, could help. (I try to do so by writing these lines). She witnessed more than any human should, and knows much about the perpetrators. Speaking up would, nonetheless, endanger her. So, in creative ways she leaked me the information:
Early in September, 30 illegal fighters arrived in her territory. All were young men (between 15 and 18 years old) with the oldest at an age of 26 years. The illegal armed group now governs the community with iron claws: checkpoints throughout the zone, with snipers ready to shoot, control the movement of people. A tax-system (or should I say ransom?) nourishes the arks of the army. The lands that traditionally produced cassava, corn and potato, are now covered with coca and marihuana for drug production and trafficking. Drug dealing brings most of the income to this community. Indigenous children and youngsters are recruited either with daily propaganda or by force (as the 11 years old girl who was forced into a white truck and still lives with the fighters). Indigenous women forcefully please the fighters’ sexual desires. And, unearthing corpses became a regular task of Indigenous authorities.
Colombia hosts 102 Indigenous Peoples. In my studies I have dissected the invisible dynamics leading them to extinction (cultural assimilation, legal incorporation, economic dependence). The events I describe here, however, happen at daylight in a state that received millions of dollars in support of its peace processes. Colombia is not a safe place, it is a mass grave for its oldest inhabitants.
On the same Sunday I received the messages, I promise the sender I would contribute as I can to change the situation. I cannot prevent the genocide of Colombian Indigenous communities, but reading these lines may hopefully inspire you to join me in the task.