Indigenous Leader Killed in Colombia, Civil War Continues
Colombia’s civil war has been dragging on for decades, imperiling the population and pitting armed insurgents, paramilitary groups (such as the Farc) and the government’s military against one another in rural areas. This past Sunday, a traditional healer, Lisandro Tenorio, part of the Nasa tribe of southwestern Colombia, was shot dead by an unknown gunman. His wife told BBC news that two men entered their home on Sunday night. One man shook the healer’s hand and another unidentified man proceeded to shoot him in the head three times.
As many as 250,000 people have been killed in the violence engulfing Colombia, and millions more have been displaced. Indigenous groups face disastrous and morbid forecasts for their survival. Last month the Nasa tribe attempted to oust both the government military forces and the paramilitary Farc forces by putting three guerilla soldiers from the tribe on trial. The three guerilla men were sentenced to a public lashing. At least one man was shot last month in the unrest that engulfed the region.
The southwestern corner of Colombia has remained a hub of military and paramilitary activity in recent years because of its position next to the ocean, where shipments can enter and leave with relative ease from the mainland. The Nasa tribe has been at the center of the conflict and have tired of their position in the middle of multiple armed groups. The healer Tenorio had reportedly been threatened multiple times by Farc leaders before his murder.
The same day that Tenorio was shot dead, indigenous leaders were gathering in La Maria in the Cauca province to discuss the military pull-out and options for increased peace. Current president Juan Manuel Santos has suggested that meetings be held with indigenous groups, but little has been done to affect change in the area and violence continues on a daily basis.
ColorLines points out that many indigenous groups in Colombia are faced with morbid predictions for their survival because of the civil war, and indigenous women are often the ones attempting to change the dynamics of these disagreements:
According to government officials, a third of Colombia’s 102 indigenous groups may disappear entirely because of the armed conflict, so the need for survival becomes the motivating factor for these women to act. As they do so, they face humiliation, jail time, and death threats. Their own sons grow up with the sense that they must avenge their fathers’ death, elucidating the generational—and unsettling—cycle of violence that grips Colombia.
The United States has been highly involved with Colombian politics and funding for several decades now. PBS News notes that Colombia received at least $35 million from the Bush administration to attempt to curb the sale of narcotics under such groups as Farc. The initiatives which have been funded by US leaders haVE not done much to ensure the safety of indigenous groups but have only added to an escalation of fighting and discourse in the area. Lisandro Tenorio’s death is another tragedy in a war that remains relatively hidden from US viewers’ eyes.