Good news from Colombia: 21 abducted Embera Katio released

October 16, 2000

ICCHRLA has been informed by the leadership of the Embera Katio people of the Upper Sinu in northern Colombia that the 21 people who were abducted on September 16 by army-backed paramilitary gunmen have been released unharmed.

News of the abductions, together with the assassination the following day of three other Embera Katio by paramilitary death squads, prompted ICCHRLA to send out an urgent action calling for messages to be sent immediately to Colombian and Canadian authorities.

We know, from the copies of letters you sent us, that hundreds of people and institutions responded immediately to that appeal.

Indeed, we have been told by Embera colleagues who met with Colombian officials that they believe a critical factor in the safe return of their people was the mountain of faxes and e-mails the government received from concerned Canadians. Canada’s Ambassador in Colombia Guillermo Rishchynski also made the issue a priority, expressing the concern of the Canadian government to Colombian government counterparts.

Writing letters can save lives and yours did. However, the situation remains critical and your active solidarity is still urgently needed.

Paramilitary forces have threatened new attacks. This has provoked fear of massive displacement. Already, the inhabitants of the Embera communities of Zorando and Simbra have fled their homes after paramilitary forces ordered them to leave, threatening to go after anyone who remained in the area.

Violence against the Embera Katio has escalated since the construction four years ago of the Urra I hydroelectric dam, which received financing assistance of approximately $25 million from Canada’s Export Development Corporation (EDC) in support of work on the megaproject by a Canadian company.

As Embera spokespeople told ICCHRLA this summer during filming of a video documentary, the dam was built without first consulting those whose lands and communities would be impacted, in flagrant violation of the Colombian constitution and international treaties to which Canada is a signatory. Moreover, while the dam has flooded Embera land and crops, brought mosquitoes and malaria, and eliminated fish, the mainstay of the Embera’s diet, Embera leaders who have spoken out against the dam have been killed by army-backed paramilitary death squads.

Categories: EDC, Export Credit, News

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