U.N. says Indigenous Colombians face extinction

Thirty-four Indigenous groups face extinction due to internal armed conflict from Colombia’s ongoing violent conflicts, according to a report released by the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights.
The conflict is not new, but the current level of displacement among poor indigenous groups is unprecedented.

The UNHCR report states that the fundamental human rights of indigenous people are being continually compromised by drug war-related violence, which places them in “a state of high risk of cultural or physical extermination due to the armed conflict and forced displacement.” Indigenous youths are also in constant danger of recruitment, and previous human rights reports have shown that displaced adolescents are generally easier to incorporate into drug war forces.

The report also says that women and children are uniquely vulnerable to violence and displacement. However, they are also crucial to the preservation of ethnic and cultural traditions. The report says that the “extinction” of indigenous people is not just due to displacement and murder, but the loss of ethnic traditions that can result.

One of the biggest obstacles to effectively addressing the problem is its invisibility. “Silence regarding the violence and the situation has been the general rule until now, because of fear, violence, and powerlessness,” the report states. “However, the communities themselves have recently resolved to make efforts to publicize and denounce their situation.”

Despite claims of a multicultural, multiethnic identity, the report says the Colombian government has done little to assist indigenous groups, who represent a disproportionately high number of the total displaced within the country.

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