Colombia security forces clash with indigenous group
By Helen Murphy and Jack Kimball
BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian security forces clashed on Wednesday with indigenous activists who stormed a hill-top military base in the volatile south as critics lambasted President Juan Manuel Santos for failing to protect troops.
Riot police using tear gas and armored vehicles battled youth hurling stones, wounding at least 26 protesters and killing one, in the second day of violence in Cauca province, a FARC rebel stronghold, an indigenous group and local media said.
Bloodshed in Cauca - one of the hottest areas in conflict-wracked Colombia - has generated more criticism of Santos, whose once-commanding approval ratings have fallen in recent weeks due to a resurgence in guerrilla attacks.
Indigenous leaders have called on both government troops and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to abandon the jungle-covered mountains so they can rebuild their lives after years of bloodshed that killed dozens from their community.
Machete-wielding indigenous activists on Tuesday overtook a military position in Toribio municipality of Cauca, jeering and waving sticks as they dragged soldiers from trenches. FARC rebels had shot at troops from the hills.
"We profoundly regret having to use force to restore our constitutional rights. This could have been avoided if the army heeded our request in due form and the government had ordered them to leave," the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca said in a statement.
An indigenous leader in a neighboring municipality told local media that residents had surrounded at least 30 soldiers after one person was killed at a checkpoint.
Santos said he would not remove soldiers from the area. Continued...