Colombia: Indigenous groups demand meeting with Duque


Thousands of protesters from Indigenous groups marched through Colombia's capital city on Monday as they sought a meeting with President Ivan Duque to debate government policies they say are crucial for their survival.

The group of about 5,000 protesters has been travelling since the first week of October on buses and trucks, stopping at several towns on the road to Bogota as they stage a colourful protest known as the Minga.

Their arrival in the capital Bogota coincides with anti-government protests that union leaders and student groups are planning later this week as the economy struggles to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Duque - who has two years left in office - faced large protests over his social and economic policies at the end of last year, but their momentum slowed down by January and with the onset of the pandemic in April political priorities changed.

Now as the rate of daily infections slows down in Colombia, the government is once again facing protests from a variety of groups.

The Minga is demanding a public forum with Duque to debate economic policies that are affecting Indigenous groups such as mining concessions and plans to introduce fracking technology at oil rigs.

Colombia's conservative president has refused to participate, with officials in his administration arguing that the national congress is the appropriate venue to hold hearings over public policy.

The Minga is made up mostly of Indigenous tribes from the southwest of Colombia whose territories have long been affected by fighting between left-wing guerillas, the Colombian army and drug trafficking groups, as well as illegal mining projects and the expansion of agro-industry.

The protesters are demanding that the government restart peace talks with the National Liberation Army, Colombia's last remaining guerrilla group, and speed up implementation of a 2016 peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).



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