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A kidnapping in Cauca


I am writing to apologize for taking so long to write back. Readers were writing me asking about my safety. You are too kind. In fact it is not my safety that I am writing about right now. Nor the safety of the Palestinian political prisoners on hunger strike, which I should have been writing about this week. Today I need to write to you about Cauca.

Do you remember Cauca? I write about it a lot. I prepared a photo essay about it based on a visit I made in February of this year. Could you read it now, please? Could you please read this quote, in particular, that struck me so powerfully?

Part of the spirit of the Nasa’s movement is expressed by the mayor of Toribio, the town that is the historic heartland of this movement. Arquimedes Vitonas in a speech in Cali in February 2004, told the assembled leaders of the indigenous movement in Northern Cauca: “With this war, they can kill many of us, but they cannot kill all of us. Those of us who live will continue with our work. Those of us who die, will have died defending our process.”

Arquimedes Vitonas is a remarkable person, an exemplar of a remarkable movement. He is a graduate of Northern Cauca’s indigenous university. He is one of the leaders who was chosen to be mayor because the community knew he would follow their mandate and their plan. And I know personally just how much wisdom and integrity he has. A couple of years before I went up to Northern Cauca thanks to an invitation by the Nasa (signed personally by him) I interviewed him here in Canada. The thing about a leader like Arquimedes is that he really is a representative of a community and a process, and an attack on him is explicitly an attack against the community and against their process.

The Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca believe that Arquimedes Vitonas was kidnapped three days ago, along with a number of other key indigenous leaders. They are still not sure whether it was the paramilitaries or the guerrillas who did the kidnapping. But they believe that quick and massive pressure can make a difference now. The usual people to write to:

President of the Republic: auribe@presidencia.gov.co
Vice President: fsantos@presidencia.gov.co
Minister of Defence: siden@mindefensa.gov.co
Presidential Human Rights Programme: cefranco@presidencia.gov.co

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