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Cablegate: Colombian Military Reaches Out to Indigenous And

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RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #6536/01 2501932
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 071932Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8622
INFO RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 7735
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 9296
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ SEP LIMA 5373
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 0609
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 5974
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

UNCLAS BOGOTA 006536

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SOCI CO
SUBJECT: COLOMBIAN MILITARY REACHES OUT TO INDIGENOUS AND
AFRO-COLOMBIAN COMMUNITIES

REF: BOGOTA 1401

1. Summary: The Ministry of Defense issued directives
instructing military and police to respect the integrity of
indigenous and Afro-Colombians. The directives educate
commanders on the rights of indigenous and Afro-Colombians
and provide guidance on how such communities should be
treated. Accion Integral ("AI"), the Colombian military's
civil affairs unit, is also implementing a program to improve
the military's relations with indigenous. AI held seminars
for local military commanders on indigenous issues, and is
developing a reference book on indigenous rights, customs
groups. If AI's program is successful, it could be expanded
to Afro-Colombian communities. End Summary.

--------------------------------------------- -----------
Minister of Defense Calls for Respect for Indigenous and
Afro-Colombian Rights
--------------------------------------------- -----------

2. The Ministry of Defense (MOD) issued directives on
indigenous and Afro-Colombian rights. The directives
strengthen the understanding of the military and police
regarding the rights of indigenous and Afro-Colombian
communities. The directives cite a number of legal sources
for such rights, including international treaties, the
Constitution and national laws. The directives outline the
nature and organizational structure of the communities.
Minister of Defense Juan Manuel Santos signed the directives
on October, 2006 (indigenous directive) and May, 2007
(Afro-Colombian directive).

3. The directives instruct military and police forces to
respect the integrity of indigenous and Afro-Colombian
communities, particularly during military and police
operations. This includes "strictly applying" international
human rights standards and protecting the communities from
illegal armed groups. Military and police forces are
directed to coordinate with other GOC agencies to strengthen
indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. They are also to
designate points of contact between their forces and the
communities in each region so that information, including
complaints, can be exchanged in "mutual confidence."

4. Sorelly Paredes, director of the indigenous office of
Ethnic Affairs Bureau, helped draft the indigenous directive
and is familiar with the Afro-Colombian directive. She said
the directives create few new obligations for the military
and police, and are intended to educate local military and
police commanders about existing rights of indigenous and
Afro-Colombians. Many commanders are unfamiliar with
indigenous and Afro-Colombian rights. The directives are
also designed to provide guidance on how such communities
should be treated. Paredes said the directives are helping
educate public forces, but admitted it has been a slow
process.

5. Pastor Murillo, director of the Afro-Colombian office of
Ethnic Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of the Interior and
Justice, worked on the Afro-Colombian directive. A key
provision is the requirement that public forces designate
specific points of contact with the communities. Murillo
thinks this will facilitate new relationships between public
forces and the communities. Constanza Ussa, an
anthropologist working with indigenous and Afro-Colombian
groups, said many military forces, especially in rural areas,
are not yet familiar with the directives. Still, she agreed
with Murillo that they will encourage the military to
proactively reach out to communities and develop
relationships.

--------------------------------------------- --
Civil Affairs Unit Focuses on Indigenous Groups
--------------------------------------------- --

6. Accion Integral ("AI") is implementing a program to
improve the military's relations with indigenous groups. AI
commander Captain Alberto Bejarano said AI's main goal is to
strengthen state institutions and protect the public by
coordinating military, political and social activities
(reftel). Bejarano noted many military operations take place
in or near lands owned by indigenous communities
("resguardos"), but few local commanders have a good grasp of
the rights of such communities. Colombia's 1,400,000

indigenous control approximately 30 percent of the country's
land (31 million hectares), mostly in rural areas, which
makes them vulnerable to pressure from illegal armed groups.


7. AI's new program is intended to sensitize the military
about indigenous rights. An outside expert on indigenous
issues, Fanny Romero Henao, was hired in May 2007 to develop
the program. Romero has held seminars for local military
commanders and troops throughout the country. She is also
developing a reference book that includes information on the
rights, customs and organizational structures of each of
Colombia's 85 different indigenous groups. The reference
book will include maps with the boundaries of all resguardos
and contact points for indigenous leaders. The book should
be finished by the end of the year and will be distributed to
all military commanders.


8. Romero also started a pilot "Dialogue Table" for monthly
meetings between the military and indigenous in the 3rd
division (covering the southwest Pacific coast). Bejarano
said if the pilot proves successful it will be replicated
throughout the country. He added that the AI program was not
developed in response to the indigenous directive, but it
dovetails neatly with it. The program could eventually be
extended to Afro-Colombian communities as well. Still,
Bejarano cautioned that Afro-Colombian communal territories
are smaller (approximately 5 million hectares) and have fewer
military operations on or near them. Moreover,
Afro-Colombian communities are generally less organized than
the indigenous, making it more difficult to coordinate
activities with them.

Brownfield

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