Saturday, 20 Jan 2001
The Cofán People and the Indígenas Councils of the Valle del Guamuéz and San Miguel and the Latin American Association for Human Rights (ALDHU) DENOUNCE, before the international community the assassination of PABLO EMILIO DIAZ QUETA, Vice- President of the Foundation of Traditional Authorities ZIO-A'I "Union de Sabiduria," on January 3, 2001 in the municipality of San Miguel. He was killed by armed groups, presumably paramilitaries, who shot him various times in the head and then threw his body into the San Miguel river. After this cruel assassination, his family was threatened and forced to flee the region, adding to the list of women, elderly, children, and men displaced from their territory by the increasing belligerent actions against leaders of the communities. Pablo was a Cofán Indian, born 27 years ago in the heart of Santa Rosa of Sucumbios, ancestral territory of the Cofán people of the Department of Putumayo. Brother of Taita Diomedez Díaz and grandson of Ofelia Queta, both elders and traditional experts of the millenial science of yagé. Since his infancy, the elders, particularly his father and his uncle Taita Querubín Queta Alvarado, maximum Traditional Authority of the Cofán People of Colombia, saw in him a special vocation that directed him to follow spiritual learning. This path of learning led him to be named Vice-President of the Foundation of Traditional Authorities, created by the initiative of the elders and directed to search for alternatives for peace, for solutions to the conflict that lives in the region and, to guarantee the physical and cultural survival of the 18 communities situated in the region of el Valle del Guamuéz and San Miguel.
Adding to this, on December 26, 2000, the ex-governor of the Cabildo, HENRY PASCAL, member of the Permanent Working Assembly of the Cofán People and his spouse, LIDIA QUETA, who was four months pregnant, were also assassinated by paramilitaries in the community of Yarinal. As part of the activities developing in the region, since December 22, 2000, the government has been fumigating the territories of indigenous peoples and campesino communities, located in the Municipalities of the Valle del Guamuéz, and San Miguel, Putumayo Department. This has caused the displacement of approximately 80 families of the communities of Yarinal, San Marcelino and Santa Rosa de Sucumbíos - El Diviso, towards the jungle and territories of the neighboring country of Ecuador. The fumigation has come as a surprise since for the last two years, communities have been engaged in a peaceful process of developing the "Plan de Vida" in collaboration with the government which includes an agreement for 100% manual eradication of illicit crops.
Four indigenous communities were fumigated between December 22, 2000 and January 5, 2001, devastating our traditional crops of medicinal plants, including the sacred plant yagé, and contaminating our fish hatcheries causing serious health problems, especially among the children. These acts endanger the peace process and coordination with the State to develop the Plan de Vida of the Cofán People, a proposal we presented so that the State could respond before the impacts which have resulted from the activities proceeding in our territory. The affected communities are:
NUEVA ISLA. Cofán Community of the Municipality of el Valle del Guamuéz, fumigated on December 22, 2000 at seven in the morning. The fumigation covered the traditional crops entirely. These crops provided sustenance for 32 families and included yuca, plantain, corn, and fruits. Also fumigated were the chicken shed, the fish hatcheries, and the medicinal botanic garden utilized by Taita Emiliano Queta for healing. Finally, the plane flew over and fumigated the houses, destroying the last possibilities for food for the families by destroying their family gardens alongside our houses.
SANTA ROSA DEL GUAMUÉZ. Cofán Community of the Municipality of Valle del Guamuéz, was fumigated on January 6, 2001. The 755 hectares of our reserve were fumigated in their totality, destroying not only the coca crops but also our traditional food crops, the sustenance for 50 families, the botanical gardens, the fish hatcheries, and the animal breeding places.
NUEVO HORIZONTE. Pasto Community of the Municipality of Valle del Guamuéz, was fumigated between January 1 and 4th, 2001. They fumigated our traditional crops, the sustenance for 24 families.
TIERRA LINDA. Paéz Community of the Municipality of the Valle del Guamuéz was fumigated from December 22, 2000 to January 5, 2001. They fumigated all of the traditional crops, sustenance for 32 families, the medicinal gardens and fields. We have testimonies and photos of the disaster that the fumigation has left in our community.
Given the increasing intensity of the conflict in our territories and the violation of human rights in past days, we REQUEST that human rights defenders, government institutions, and national and international NGOs, advance actions in RESPECT OF OUR INDIGENOUS TERRITORIES AND PROTECTION OF OUR LIVES. Our peoples do not take part in the war. We are a culture of peace, of wise people, of traditional ancestral knowledge, doctors, guardians of nature and of life. We have a proposal for peace, dialogue and coexistance that we have called the Plan de Vida of the Cofán People and the Indigenous Councils of the Valle del Guamuéz and San Miguel. We require urgently humanitarian, technical, and economic assistance to resolve the emergency humanitarian emergency in which we find ourselves. We hope that this message will be circulated throughout the world, and that you will take measures to support the solution to the conflict in which we find ourselves.
We ask that governments give us the opportunity to protect the life
of our brothers and sisters who are in danger. ---------
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