Police oust indigenous group in Colombia standoff

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, July 19, 2012 3:07 EDT
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Natives surround 33 Colombian soldiers captured by them after they burst into a military base in Caldono, Cauca deparment, July 18, via AFP
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Riot police clashed with indigenous protestors in southern Colombia, retaking a military post after a weeklong standoff by demonstrators demanding outsiders get off their land.

“At (1030 GMT) we retook control. There was resistance (by the indigenous people), there were some skirmishes but there are no wounded among the police,” said Colonel Ricardo Alarcon, police commander in the southwestern Cauca region.

Police used tear gas canisters and among the native Nasa-Paez people, there were at least four people injured, one arrested and one who has not been accounted for, said Carlos Andres Alfonso, leader of a local indigenous federation.

“There was so much tear gas the community had to leave,” Alfonso said. “They kicked us out of our own territory.”

The military is in the area nicknamed Berlin Hill to stand guard over telecommunications antennae there.

President Juan Manuel Santos, who visited the area during the week but did not meet with indigenous leaders, praised the military and said, “You have the affection and support of 46 million Colombians.”

Local indigenous leaders had been demanding that both the military and leftist rebels leave what they consider their ancestral homeland.

Colombia has about one million indigenous people, according to official data. Most of the population is of mixed white and indigenous heritage.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
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