FORPP Accompanies the SIZOCC Humanitarian Mission in the Original Territories of the Embera Peoples

Sep 16, 2021 | News



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Photography by Jesús Abad

In response to the public appeal made by religious sectors in the face of the serious humanitarian crisis suffered by native peoples, black communities, and peasant campesino communities in different regions of Colombia, fifty people spent 5 days on a humanitarian mission in defense of human rights and the protection of the common home. It was led by bishops, priests, religious members of the Catholic, Lutheran, and Presbyterian churches. The mission also included representatives from the Laudato Sí movement, the CONVIDA 20 network, and was accompanied by Operazione Columba from Italy, FORPP, and FOR Austria. Finally, the mission was facilitated by traditional authorities, teachers, the indigenous guard, jaibanás and community members of the original territory in the reservations of the Emberá Eyábida, Popalito – Tascón, Nutria – Tascón and La Blanquita – Murrí people. Its goal was accompaniment, listening and visibility on the serious situation with respect to the violation of human Rights, ethnic rights and laws, international humanitarian law, as well as the impact on the physical and cultural survival of the Emberá people in the municipalities of Dabeiba and Frontino, Department of Antioquia.


The bus journey from Medellín to the sector known as Tascón, in the municipality of Dabeiba, followed a 250 km stretch on the Pan-American Highway, the backbone of the global economic model in Latin America, in response to the great project of the IDB and the World Bank, called IIRSA (integration of South American regional infrastructure) that guarantees road connectivity with ports and strategic areas for the exploitation of common goods (water, forest, seeds), at the service of the global market and based on the extractive development model, evidences the deharmonization and the physical and cultural extermination imposed by the capitalist, neoliberal economic model and its conception of “development”, in the Urabá Antioqueño, Chocoano and Cordovan region.

The multimillion-dollar investment to modernize roads, enable ports of global competitiveness, move millions of tons of raw materials as a result of the agro-industrial and extractivist model, as well as imported merchandise, shows the unsustainability of the economic model that produces a lot of economic growth, but that contrasts with the conditions of social exclusion, misery and slavery in the vast majority of settlers, as well as the physical and cultural extermination of native peoples such as the Emberá Eyábida and its biodiverse territory.

In full harmony with the development model implemented in the region, there was a strong institutional presence, public forces (police and national army) and nevertheless on the side of the Pan-American highway, as well as in the hamlets and towns, we could see the announcements of “AGC PRESENTE”, marking the presence of the neo-paramilitary group the AGC. Despite the letters sent to civil and military authorities informing them of the mission, we were approached by “civilians” aboard motorcycles and high-end vehicles, who intimidated us and tried to prevent the passage of the humanitarian mission on public roads, as well as the entry into ethnic territories that enjoy special protection.

During the days of interreligious accompaniment, it became known that two police officers lost their lives, after the paramilitaries of the Clan del Golfo detonated an explosive in the path of the police vehicle.

When crossing the beautiful Sabaletas river, where it is necessary to use a horse to cross its crystal clear waters, we were able to observe the consequences of the main pandemic that disharmonizes the planet and which the native peoples have to resist. We also saw a bridge of social interest whose funding was approved, but which has barely been started and is now a monument to corruption and impunity.

Regarding the environment, we were able to observe that the mighty “Sucio” River reflects the level of contamination and affectation of biological diversity, the result of the agro-industrial and mining model, while rivers such as Amparradó, Sabaleta, Nutria, La Blanquita, El Cuevas are a sign of respect for the biodiverse territory and care for the common home, thanks to the life plan promoted by the Emberá people, and which survives despite the structural violence that condemns them to extermination, confinement and slavery.

When tracing the economic interests behind the armed conflict in this territory, we found that several applications for the concession of mining titles were made in this area without consultation with the communities, some of which are in the exploitation stage and others in exploration.



The Embera hospitality and their gratitude for the presence and accompaniment in the territory given the current context, translated into the trust to share testimonies of resistance, the affirmation of their autonomy, their spirituality and cultural identity, to share the fears of so many effects on the territory, its women, its children, its youth, its jaibanás, its traditional authorities, its guards and its teachers.

Their stories begin by saying that there is a lot of fear in the territory, fear for the presence of AGC, fear because there are antipersonnel mines laid by the ELN, fear because the AGC without permission and without authorization reach the communities, settle in the school with their weapons and they also plant mines, fear because they are holding the market and signaling them to take it to the guerrillas, fear because they offer work to the Emberá, especially the young people. There is a lot of fear to go fishing, hunting and harvesting corn or bananas, the Emberá is starving.

Older adults affirm that since the 1980s they have resisted with an armed presence in the territory, first the EPL and FARC EP guerrillas arrived, then in the 1990s, the paramilitaries who have not left the territory, first as AUC and now as AGC. The women say that they are very afraid to see armed men, there is no freedom to walk the territory. The AGC threaten saying that, if any Emberá collaborates with the guerrillas, they must necessarily join them.

With the paramilitaries, new illicit crops have been planted in the region.

The AGC speak of being support for the people, but they do not respect the territory or autonomy as indigenous people. The offer for the Emberá is to plant coca, support mining and authorize the construction of a dam on the Amparradó river.



Traditional authorities and the community in general asked during the humanitarian mission:How can you support us so that the armed forces leave the territory?

How can they support and accompany us to protect our territory, our life and our cultural identity?


Given the seriousness of what was observed and heard, the group of churches and organizations that support the SIZOCC mission, value the need to specify accompaniment with physical presence, political support, and national and international advocacy actions that result in protection guarantees for the people. Emberá, the peasant and Afro-Colombian communities of Frontino and Dabeiba, accompaniment that will have as a priority the physical and cultural survival of the Emberá people, the strengthening of the life plan of the inter-ethnic table in Blanquita Murrí and the safeguarding plan of the Emberá Eyábida people, including the protection of the territory with all its Biodiversity.


We attach to this SIZOCC public appeal report,

SIZOCC’s statement in the framework of the press conference convened at the end of the mission.

The articles written by journalist Miguel Estupiñán, columnist for Espectador, who participated in the mission.

The urban analysis article.