BY JOANNA BARNEY FOR DEBATES INDÍGENAS.
Despite this Caribbean region’s natural wealth, Wayuu children in La Guajira are dying of hunger and thirst. Exploitation by multinationals, a lack of rainfall and the contamination of their wells only add to historical injusticies. Today nearly 40% of the population of La Guajira does not enjoy optimal nutrition, 433 Indigenous children under the age of five are malnourished and since the beginning of 2021, 17 Wayuu children have died from malnutrition. For the most vulnerable, the reality only continues to worsen and Wayuu children continue to die from preventable causes.
Peaceful and anonymous protests have broken out simultaneously in hundreds of cities and towns around Colombia. The main protagonists are young people of different origins and backgrounds who have decided to form the mouthpiece for the widespread malaise of a country ravaged by an immutable government that has distanced itself from democracy and created an unprecedented social, economic and political crisis. Although people initially took to the streets in reaction to a regressive tax reform, they have ended up identifying with the collective outcry regardless of their profession, class or ethnicity, demanding an end to violence, corruption, inequality, and a poverty that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Faced with the magnitude of this mobilization of bodies and minds, it did not take the Colombian government long to demonstrate its authoritarian and repressive nature and, with particular viciousness, it attacked the young people of Cali, in Valle del Cauca department.
In Colombia, both Indigenous Peoples and traditional black, Raizal and Palenquero communities are recognised as ethnically, historically and culturally differentiated groups, with human and territorial rights of a collective nature. According to the 2018 Census, the Colombian Indigenous population numbers some 1,905,617 individuals who, in turn, belong to 115 different native peoples. Approximately 58.3% of this population lives in 717 collectively-owned resguardos (reserves).
The same census counted 4,671,160 people (9.34% of the national total) who self-identify as black, Afro-Colombian, Raizal or Palenquero. Around 7.3% of this population lives in 178 collectively-owned territories, organised around Community Councils.