PBI-Colombia accompanies Embera defender Argemiro Bailarín Bailarín to meeting at Irish Embassy

Published by Brent Patterson on

On December 11, the Peace Brigades International-Colombia Project tweeted: “Thanks to [the Embassy of Ireland in Colombia] for their support of defenders and Indigenous peoples in Colombia especially the Embera community of Alto Guayabal in Jiguamiandó; in the #DefendamosLaVida [Let’s Defend Life] campaign framework, it is a valuable and important support to make their situation visible.”

PBI-Colombia accompanied Argemiro Bailarín Bailarín at this meeting. He is a member of the Indigenous Embera community of the Alto Guayabal Environmental Humanitarian Reserve situated in the Urada Jiguamiandó Reservation.

That reserve is located in the municipality of Carmen del Darién, department of Chocó, in the Bajo Atrato region. Chocó is in western Colombia on the border with Panama and has coastlines on both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

PBI-Colombia has explained: “The five different collective territories in the Bajo Atrato region, which have been historically affected by the armed conflict through numerous operations of the former FARC-EP [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army] guerrilla, the paramilitaries and the Colombian state army, continue to struggle for the defence of their territories and the dignity of their small-scale farming, collective way of life.”

“The Afro-descendant and indigenous peoples who live in this territory also struggle to maintain their ancestral cultures in the face of external economic interests.”

It adds: “[In 2019] the Bajo Atrato region once again found itself caught in the centre of conflict: territorial control by illegal armed groups, threats to social leaders, recruitment of young people, armed combat between illegal armed groups and the confinement of indigenous peoples who face a serious humanitarian situation.”

This past July, El Espectador reported: “In Bajo Atrato in Chocó, according to [Human Rights Watch], the AGC [the paramilitary Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces of Colombia] and the ELN [National Liberation Army] guerrillas fight over control of the rivers ‘while thousands of indigenous and Afro-Colombian people are confined to their territories or they are obligated to displace to save their lives.’”

That article adds: “In fact, at least ‘seven community leaders in this area have been murdered,’ [says José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch].”

The Pulitzer Center has also reported: “In 2015, 65.9 percent of people in Chocó live under the poverty line and 40 percent live in conditions of extreme poverty. These indicators are nearly three times the poverty rate in Bogotá.”

Furthermore, it notes: “Rich in natural resources, over three-quarters of the land in Chocó is covered with tropical forests. But the forests are under threat from mining-related deforestation. Chocó is also Colombia’s top gold-producing region, attracting both multinational mining corporations and local artisanal mining.”

And Mongabay has reported: “According to CIPJ [the PBI-Colombia accompanied Inter-church Commission for Justice and Peace], cattle ranchers and palm oil and banana growers have counted on the support of the AGC paramilitary to intimidate, threaten and kill the community leaders who are defending their land from the expansion of agribusiness and commercial logging interests in the region.”

That article adds: “Chocó is where almost half of all the forest cover loss in Colombia from mining activities happens.”

Amnesty International further notes: “Over the years, the Colombian authorities have granted licenses to mining and other companies looking to exploit [the lands that people have been displaced from] and their vast natural resources.”

After the meeting on December 11, the Irish Embassy in Colombia tweeted: “It is always a pleasure to meet with Argemiro Bailarín Bailarín and hear about his work in defense of the rights of his Indigenous Reservation. We continue to be very concerned about the security situation in Bajo Atrato and the threats that it has received.”


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