In Colombia, the quest to dismantle coca plants is too little, too late

When Colombian President Ivan Duque announced his administration would “aggressively attack” coca production in his country earlier this year, it was part of an ongoing effort to rein in Colombian coca growers, in particular…

In Colombia, the quest to dismantle coca plants is too little, too late

When Colombian President Ivan Duque announced his administration would “aggressively attack” coca production in his country earlier this year, it was part of an ongoing effort to rein in Colombian coca growers, in particular those employed in the area known as “Bajo Cauca,” as they are known in Spanish.

But it wasn’t just La Cauca that Colombians of indigenous descent were rallying against — communities there were also some of the first to sign on to the environment protection agreement the government announced in July, as reported by the Institute for Scientific Research in Colombia. Though the country’s indigenous population are incredibly powerful members of society, they are far from only a minority, and not only are they rarely consulted about the conflict that is tearing Colombia apart — they are also also bearing the brunt of violent activity by paramilitaries like the Center for the Defense of the National Oil Homeland, or CPND — one of the most violent of the many “paras” brought into power by the now-defunct Plan Colombia.

And, just like President Duque’s anti-Coca push, the Colombian government has quietly bypassed groups like the CopCo as they work to secure agrarian land for commercial farmers.

Below, you’ll read about the struggles of dozens of indigenous communities near La Cauca from Indigenous Artists in Action and a group called Afro-Colombian Network for Afro Culture and Development:

While the motives of the CPND aren’t currently specified by Colombia’s government, its reporting suggests some are merely protecting a vital supply of oil, although the Reuters account of its existence also indicates it harbors a darker history.

Further, in what is perhaps the most alarming comparison between Colombia’s efforts to combat crime and Colombia’s indigenous activists, one might look to Venezuela: Members of Venezuela’s indigenous community increasingly have found themselves targeted and targeted by the country’s military — a country that became a socialist state of its own in the name of both security and simply removing crime from the streets. Back when it was a Spanish colony, however, Indigenous communities were frequently exploited, appropriated and stripped of land, in part under the insidious guise of an ongoing Spanish colonization mission; a mission that spread the practice of black slavery.

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