Colombia: True autonomy is in the hands of indigenous communities of northern Cauca

By Tejido de Comunicación, ACIN
Thursday, July 19, 2012

It is abundantly clear that where the Colombian public forces operate with awkward ineffectiveness, indigenous communities in northern Cauca have demonstrated their autonomy and decisiveness.

Yesterday afternoon, a group of indigenous guards from the community of Toribío, armed only with bravery and consciousness, headed towards the village of Belén to capture FARC militants who were trying to ready explosives for use against a nearby communication tower.

In spite of the many acts of aggression these communities have suffered from all actors in the armed conflict, they have not given in. More and more members of the community are participating in actions in defense of the territory, with the knowledge that they will be defended by no one but themselves.

When FARC militants began to open fire from Belén, in the municipality of Toribío, the community and the indigenous guard made their way to the source of the disturbances. There, they captured 4 guerrilla fighters and confiscated arms, ammunition, and explosive devices.

This didn’t make the national news, though the major media outlets have been in Toribío for over a week providing play-by-play coverage. Rather than show how we are forcing the FARC from our territories, the mainstream media would rather claim that we are working in coordination with them, that we are terrorists and accomplices.

To be clear, we are against all the armed actors because none of them respect us. That’s why we’ve detained these members of the FARC. The community has already warned the guerrilla that if they are caught using explosives, we will confiscate them. We are simply following through.

As the coordinator of the Nasa Project has said, “the media says we are attacking the public forces, that we are abusing them. The media are a bunch of liars, and they will say only what is convenient for the government.”

While we were expelling the public forces from the Cerro Berlín area, the guerrilla began firing so as to get us involved. There are those who say that indigenous communities are accomplices, that we are guerrillas in disguise: we would ask that these people first get informed, try to understand, and think again – don’t be irresponsible because it’s not like that.

We repeat: we are against all those who use arms to affect the lives of women, children, elders, and Mother Earth, which has been affected by this war through bullets, explosives, car bombs, and pollution.

We’re sick of the violence, fighting and hostilities directed against us. The people here will decide if they agree with the presence of the public forces in our territories because they will be the ones most affected by the fighting, it will be their homes that are destroyed by those actions.

So far, the government has not responded to our demands for respect, and until then, things will continue the way they have. We will be the ones deciding how this situation is resolved, the civilian population.

We ask the communities to stay involved and to continue to defend the territory; no one will do it for us. This territory is ours, and nobody’s going to fight for what they don’t care about.

After confronting FARC militants, the following explosive devices and equipment have been decommissioned:

  • 1x ‘Tatuco’ mortar launcher (approx. 1.5m)
  • 14x ‘Tatuco’ mortars (40cm x 8cm)
  • 2x 762 rifles
  • 1x 223 rifle
  • 1x 765 pistol
  • 9x 765 pistol rounds
  • 150 metres duplex cable
  • 1x Screwdriver
  • 4x 223 rifle cartridges
  • 7x 762 rifle cartridges
  • 75x rifle rounds
  • 2x ‘Yaesu’ radios
  • 1x radio antenna
  • 3x vests with cartridges
  • 3x Flash tatuco detonators
  • 1x bayonet
  • 3kg gunpowder
  • 1x LG cell phone, 1g memory
  • 1x LG cell phone
  • 1x Toyota truck
  • 1x 125cc Suzuki TS motorcycle
  • 3x impulse detonators covered with brown tape, each weighing between 1lb and 1kg.

In keeping with the community resolution for the assertion of territorial autonomy and the end of the war, we will continue in permanent minga [trans: an ancestral practice of communal work towards a common goal] demanding that all armed actors leave our territories and sacred sites. We reiterate to the Colombian people and the Colombian government the need for a political solution to the conflict in our country. We will continue with more information about community-based actions in this process for an end to the war and the right to life. 

Tejido de Comunicación-ACIN


Translated by Pueblos en Camino ( for English, en español). Original Spanish version available here: