One person has died and 26 were injured after Wednesday’s clash between police and the Nasa indigenous tribe in Colombia’s southern province Cauca.
Claiming that the military presence attracts too much attention from FARC rebel forces, the indigenous group stormed the troops at a local base. The Nasa were met with tear gas and armoured vehicles by the riot police.
The riots began earlier this week when the president, Juan Manuel Santos, did not retract military forces from the base as requested by the Nasa. The Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca released a statement saying:
“We profoundly regret having to use force to restore our constitutional rights. This could have been avoided if the army heeded our request in due form and the government had ordered them to leave…”
The Toribio region in the Cauca province has been the centre of conflict between the government and FARC forces as the area is an alleged portal for drug trafficking. Since the military and rebel presences, dozens of indigenous people have died from being caught in the crossfire and one was killed at a checkpoint.
Still, the indigenous people are asking for all armed men from either side to be removed. As of last week, they also surrounded the FARC base and gave a two-week deadline to vacate the area.
Despite this and previous protests,Santosrefuses to remove troops from the area and said that he would only hold a meeting with Nasa representatives if they withdraw from the base.
“I don’t want to see a single indigenous person on our military bases; that’s the order,” Santos tweeted on Wednesday.