1684077401 Racism and Stigmatization The Police and Prosecutors Plan Against the

Racism and Stigmatization: The Police and Prosecutor’s Plan Against the Indigenous People of Bogotá National Park

Racism and Stigmatization The Police and Prosecutors Plan Against the

The children ran in the middle of a cloud of gas in the dark of night. Videos broadcast by Neighbors watching from windows pointed indigenous women fleeing the police with their children. These were scenes set in Bogotá National Park, where almost 2,000 people from different indigenous peoples had lived for seven months because they had no other place. On April 6, 2022, the Carrera Séptima in front of the park was the scene of a violent clash between agents of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (Esmad) and the indigenous population. At least seven police officers and 15 indigenous people were injured, including three pregnant women and two children under the age of one.

The physical confrontation between state officials and the indigenous community That night in April was the start of a plan by the Colombian Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Colombian Police to disband the social organization Autoridades Indígenas in Bakatá, according to documents accessed by Vorágine and EL PAÍS as part of a journalistic alliance. They are referred to in the official reports with no evidence that they have ties to the National Liberation Army (ELN) and pose a threat simply because they are indigenous.

Bakatá led the indigenous mobilization process launched on September 29, 2021 at the national park in a highly visible and busy downtown area of ​​Bogotá. After their arrival in the city, which had been displaced by violence, the indigenous people were driven out of the tenement houses – shared apartments of several families – in which they were housed with state help. Their presence at the park was a desperate measure given the lack of places to sleep, but also a way of drawing attention to the abandonment they felt. During the eight months they stayed in the park, from September 2021 to May 2022, the Bakatá guides were their spokesmen. The indigenous people demanded attention for the cities in the Colombian capital.

Police began legal proceedings against the organization hours after the violent night of April 6, when officers violently intervened in an indigenous protest. Jairo Montañez, leader of Bakatá who has been in the national park since settlement began, said that day that they were desperate. “They don’t let the children play anymore because playing they burn calories that can’t be replaced by anything else,” said indigenous officials from various state agencies at a meeting that took place the morning of the same day, as recorded on video. The children only ate once a day.

The failure of the meeting with delegates from national and local authorities, which failed to reach an agreement, triggered a desperate response from the indigenous population, who occupied one of the lanes of Carrera Séptima. Then the repression began. According to Montañez’s version, they were surprised by hundreds of agents demonstrating in the street: “I had never seen so much Esmad.” After the riot police showed up, the leader says, four stun bombs were heard exploding.

the informant


Analysis of current affairs and the best stories from Colombia, every week in your mailbox


Three days after the clashes, a woman arrived at the Sijín facilities [la dependencia investigativa de la Policía] to give his testimony. According to one of the documents that Vorágine and EL PAÍS had access to, his story was received by Patrolman Gonzalo Albeiro Tangarife, who belongs to the anti-terrorist unit of the police institution, and Mayor Wilber Ibañez Gómez.

The woman accused the Bakatá leaders of manipulating the communities to get money and urging the rest of the community to attack the police and officials. The Sijín agent wanted to know about the practices that were taking place in the park and inquired about aspects unrelated to the protest that caused chaos on the night of April 6th. For example, he asked if the community used “psychoactive and intoxicating substances.” The informant equated the ancestral medicines of the indigenous peoples and replied: “I have received complaints that they consume alcoholic beverages and consume ancestral medicines (coca leaves, Ambil, these derivatives of coca).”

According to the statements, the communities negotiated violently because of their ethnicity. Many of these are local [que estaban en el Parque Nacional] They come from their territories with the intention of protecting their belongings through violence and violence, which is why Jairo Montañez, María Violet Medina and Edgar Juanias have harnessed their knowledge and used it to attack [a la Policía y a funcionarios públicos]’ the informant assured.

Montañez denied the allegations in an interview with this journalist alliance. “The call was always for dialogue, peace and the search for solutions on a structural and common level.” Maria Violet Medina Quiscue also denies the allegations. “They said it was a public space and we would occupy it. But it was never cordoned off, it never had gates, it was an open park,” he said in a call he answered from New York, where he attended the this April Permanent UN Forum on Indigenous Issues Colombia.

The whistleblower’s report to the police indicated an alleged plan by the Bakatá leaders to establish an indigenous reserve in the town. “[Su objetivo] is the creation of an indigenous housing unit in the national park that includes a school and maloca [una casa comunal indígena] to execute the resources provided by the state and county government,” the informant told agents Tangarife and Ibañez. He also accused the community of burying a child at the site who died of illness. “[Con esto buscaban] Start working on the idea [crear] “They are growing an indigenous cemetery and are thus gaining land to establish themselves as a reservation,” the informant said.

The Bogotá Health Secretariat responded to this report on the serious allegations. “No, there is no information that allows us to assume this situation,” said the organization, which admitted three children had died but were buried and cremated in the South, North (in Chapinero) and El cemeteries Apogeo. None in the national park, as pointed out by the woman, whose testimony was accepted by the Sijín.

The police officers who took the whistleblower’s statement concluded: “The data provided by the human source is extremely reliable for the criminal investigation department, since his report is extensive and detailed, serious, dispassionate, objective and without any reason that it allowed us to do this.” close something else.

In addition to María Violet Medina Quiscue, Jairo Montañez and Edgar Juanias, those named by the woman also include Giovani Yule, a member of Cauca’s Regional Indigenous Council and current director of the Land Restitution Unit. Yule is believed to be one of the targets of the judicial investigation. When asked about it, he declined to comment.

Goal: Undermine the indigenous protest

Tangarife submitted a criminal investigation report to the prosecutor’s office, asking the informant for permission to infiltrate the indigenous population. In the document, he explained the goals of the plan. “It is intended to obtain corroborative material elements and physical evidence that will enable the dismantling of a group of people calling themselves Bakatá Indigenous Authorities.” They also attempted to investigate some of the media covering the indigenous protest. “Independent press whose mission is to once again harass the Embera indigenous people in front of society in order to attract the attention of ordinary citizens and to discredit the inter-agency work being done on behalf of this indigenous group, such as: B. Furia gráfica and Punto Renacer, “La Skinny” and the alias Z11, already pursued by the criminal police, a member of the first line of Suba”.

The Foundation for Freedom of the Press (Flip) describes the police officer’s comments about some alternative media as worrying. “It is very sensitive and violates guarantees of the exercise of press freedom that the nation’s attorney general’s office and its investigative agencies are carrying out actions that tend to stigmatize and criminalize the media and journalists who have covered coverage.” the framework of the national strike,” says Jonathan Bock, president of that organization.

Tangarife has been involved in other trials of protesters, such as those of Kevin Sebastián Hernández and Edwin Raúl Murcia, who prosecutors accused of involvement in the burning of a Commando for Immediate Attention (CAI) in southern Bogotá.

Police reports of subverting indigenous protests link the community to the National Liberation Army (ELN). “It is not known whether its members and leaders have links and criminal alliances with other criminal structures related to terrorist alliances, but cooperation with active members of the GAO National Liberation Army is suspected, providing information and materials for the preparation.” of the elements used during the violent demonstration against public authority, public facilities and private transport vehicles”.

Montañez refutes the allegations. “We have no connection or relationship whatsoever, it is extremely irresponsible to make such allegations,” says the indigenous leader, who the Sijín gave the pseudonym “Jairo.” Giovanny Yule was mentioned as a pseudonym for “Yule”. “I don’t know what they mean by alias Jairo because that’s my first name (laughs). Your alias cannot be your name,” Montañez comments.

The police asked prosecutor Marta Isabel Jiménez to carry out “all appropriate procedures” to intercept the phone lines of the nine named leaders.

The prosecutor received the stigma

On May 11, 2022, prosecutor Jiménez accepted the statements of the whistleblower and Tangarife. In a letter summarizing the case, he asked the head of the Bogotá branch of the public prosecutor’s office to authorize the woman’s infiltration. “I would like to ask you to authorize this officer to commission an undercover cop as this is essential to the success of the investigative tasks,” he said. “It has been shown that its sphere of influence corresponds to a complicated sector in which the presence of people with different characteristics is constantly monitored,” the document says.

In this office, the prosecutor sharpened the tone of the allegations. “The undercover officer will be able to conduct transactions with the alleged suspects, determine if minors are being exploited, identify members of the GDCO (Common Organized Criminal Group) and locate the nerve centers,” the official said. “It will be possible to establish the modus operandi of this ethnic group, the distribution of tasks, as well as the hierarchical structure of the community,” concluded the report, whose main argument was the “dangerousness” of the indigenous population. “Manifest [la informante] that they are dangerous people and if they are discovered by the members of this criminal structure, they can make an attempt on their life and that of their relatives.”

The police define a GDCO as “a group of three or more persons, existing for a definite period of time and acting in concert with the aim of committing one or more crimes affecting the security and coexistence of citizens and with whom they have economic or want to achieve material benefits.” .”

Montañez, one of those accused of belonging to a GDCO, questions the inability of the authorities to protect them and the diligence in pointing them out. “Holy God! I’m laughing, but I don’t know if I’m laughing at how incoherent it is or at the nervousness this tip gives me because neither the prosecution nor the police were there at the time we were there , were able to provide security there and now they accuse us of being an organized group.”

Several secretariats of the Bogotá City Hall have signed agreements with Bakatá. According to calculations by the organization, which is not officially recognized by the Interior Ministry, there are around 7,000 people from 15 indigenous peoples in Bogotá, most of whom are victims of the conflict. The indicated leaders have different functions: Montañez is the technical coordinator of Bakatá, María Violet is responsible for technical support and Juanias was the authority of the Pijao Mohán people.

Referring to the nine leaders of criminal behaviors such as terrorism and violence against an officer, prosecutor Jiménez made clear what the purpose of deploying an undercover cop was: “Disrupting the indigenous community called Bakatá.” The intention of the Sijín and the prosecutor’s office, the social organization Disbanding is seen as a strategy to silence the indigenous movement, says Montañez. “You shouldn’t dismantle anything because we are not a criminal gang, we are not criminals, we are not an organized group that commits crimes.” This is the stigma and one of the legal strategies used to silence human rights defender groups.”

The document highlights the violence of the indigenous peoples living in Bakatá. “We can conclude that this operation poses a high risk as the undercover cop supported another case investigating leaders and members of violent radical movements.”

Prosecutor’s files known to Vorágine and El PAÍS show that at this facility they verified the whistleblower as a person who had provided information about alleged “violent groups” that participated in the 2021 national strike.

One year contract, no compliance

On May 5, 2022, indigenous authorities and state delegates agreed to remove the settlement from the national park. At the meeting, Carlos Baena, Deputy Interior Minister in Iván Duque’s government, confirmed the social organization as a legitimate interlocutor: “If the process of the Bakatá authorities were not recognized, we would not be sitting here,” he said at the time. That day they signed a 10-point agreement to improve the conditions of the indigenous people who remained in the city and to guarantee the safe return of those who left the city. Those responsible say that after a year none of the promises have been kept.

The communities that have not returned because they feel they have no security guarantees are crammed into La Rioja, a county-approved building for their housing. Some sleep there on the floor, without mattresses or blankets, as EL PAÍS was able to prove during a site visit last August. Access to drinking water and energy is sporadic, so some families use standing water from a nearby Eje Ambiental monument in downtown Bogotá. The indigenous authorities have reported the deaths of 26 minors while staying in this place. “I think that’s what the prosecution should investigate: the reasons why so many children are dying,” says Montañez.

The hunt continues

Six tribal leaders, two of whom are mentioned in the police and prosecutors’ plan to dismantle Bakatá, have been ordered by judges to face a crime of incitement to commit a crime. The Lazos Foundation, which is defending some, says the prosecutor in the case requested an insurance measure even though the crime they want to prosecute her for is exemptable.

“You were summoned to the allegation and security hearing on March 10, but a day before prosecutors withdrew the request. “We had no access to any information,” says the Lazos Foundation, which interprets this new chapter as another way to silence the indigenous movement. “There is a campaign of defamation, intimidation and harassment,” they stress.

Indigenous peoples have denounced the discrimination and stigma they suffer for decades. At the meeting on April 6, 2021, before the Esmad riots broke out and the prosecutors and police plan was launched, a leader accused officials of this historic omission. “The problem is not the tribal peoples, but the institutions that don’t know how to react,” the woman said almost forebodingly, a few hours before the tribal peoples emerged at the center of a police investigation.

Luis Bonza contributed to this article.

Vorágine and EL PAÍS contacted the police and prosecutor’s press offices, but by the time of publication, neither company had responded to the questionnaire sent.

Subscribe here to the EL PAÍS newsletter on Colombia and receive all the latest information about the country.