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Native protests affect regions of Colombia and Peru

By Renzo Pipoli
Native protests affect regions of Colombia and Peru
Native populations in Colombia and Peru face separate but similar confrontations with government officials over land rights and pollution. File Photo by Mauricio Duenas/EPA

March 29 (UPI) -- Native protests over land rights in Colombia spread Friday while natives in Peru clashed with officials over pollution at a copper mine.

In southwest Colombia, dialogue between the natives and government were suspended after President Ivan Duque visited the Cauca region to discuss reopening the blocked Pan American Highway, El Tiempo reported.

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Native communities from Tolima, Huila, Boyaca, Arauca, Santander, Antioquia, Cauca have joined protests that began earlier this week, announcing plans for labor strikes on three other main highways connecting major Colombian cities.

"This Minga [protest] will increase progressively, and our goal is that by this weekend all the indigenous movement will be mobilized in Colombia," said Luis Fernando Arias, leader of the Cauca Indigenous Regional Council, in a report by El Tiempo.

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The stalemate in talks came as President Duque said he doesn't want to give in to demands Colombia can't meet. The government has said indigenous demands for rights to 121,000 acres of land are inadmissible, offering instead 3,700 acres. It's also said demands to double the state budget for more aid is not affordable, El TIempo's report said.

Further south in Peru, farmers continue to block a road used by a copper mine to transport mineral. They have done so for 54 days. They're protesting a plan they say should've transported the mineral in special ducts -- not by truck on roads through their fields, as it's been happening. The protests have intensified in recent days after native community leaders were detained, ATV News reported.

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Community leaders near the mining area, about 300 miles southeast of Lima, were arrested last week on charges they tried to extort mine owners. That lead nearby communities to join the demonstrations. Peruvian officials are now deciding whether to release the leaders, RPP radio reported.

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Conflict in the Apurimac mining area, in the Peruvian highlands, have been deadly in the past. Clergy members have offered to mediate the new dispute.

Social conflict involving land rights are common in Latin America. One feud in Chile last November grew after a 24-year-old indigenous man was killed. Organizations that defend human rights of indigenous Latin Americans often cite a 2007 United Nations declaration on rights of indigenous persons.

The U.N. declaration seeks to guarantee rights of indigenous peoples to "enjoy and practice their cultures," as well as "develop and strengthen their economies" and social and political institutions.

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