On 4 March, Protection International Colombia joined together with the Corporación Claretiana Norman Pérez Bello, the communities of the El Trompillo Settlement and the indigenous Resguardos of La Llanura and La Pascua in the municipality of La Primavera to present a risk diagnostic named “Canaleteando juntos y juntas la defensa de lo nuestro: a look at the risk situation of indigenous peoples who defend human rights in La Primavera, Vichada (Colombia)”. The word “canaletear” is used by the indigenous peoples of the area to describe the action of moving paddles or oars in the water to propel a canoe forward.
The document, built together with the indigenous peoples who defend human rights from the municipality of La Primavera, details the social and economic context of the region, the environment in which these communities carry out their work to defend their rights, the risks they face, and, their vulnerabilities, as well as the capacities and protection practices they have developed to defend their rights.
As quoted in the document, “The indigenous peoples of the Orinoquía have faced, for centuries, situations of injustice, inequality, and persecution, under which their rights have been systematically violated. Faced with this reality, they have become human rights defenders, strengthening their organizational processes as communities and creating support networks to protect their rights and territories.”
During the process of identifying present risk, the team found various threats. These threats are not only associated with the life and integrity of these indigenous peoples but also recurrent situations of criminalization, stigmatization, and discrediting their work, as well as attacks on their territories, livelihoods, and organizational processes—all within a context of historical, structural violence.
The presentation of the diagnosis was conducted in a closed, virtual meeting in which representatives of the El Trompillo Settlement and the indigenous Resguardos of La Llanura and La Pascua from the municipality of La Primavera participated as speakers. Other speakers include members of Protection International, the Corporación Claretiana, and the Orinoquía national analyst of the delegation for the prevention of risks of violation of human rights and international humanitarian law of the Defensoría del Pueblo (Ombudsman’s Office).
Among the more than 35 attendees were members of municipal and national authorities, civil society organizations, embassies, international delegations and a researcher from the office of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor. This space for dialogue was created with the support of the German government, the Swedish government and the Ford Foundation.
We are sharing this document in hopes that the exposed elements will contribute to the development of a comprehensive protection system in Colombia, which is focused on the priorities of the indigenous peoples who defend their rights. State protection mechanisms should recognize indigenous peoples’ knowledge, practices, and specific needs.