Thousands of indigenous people demonstrated in southwestern Columbia on Monday demanding an end to violence, on the day commemorating Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas.
Dressed in green and red and carrying traditional sticks, the demonstrators converged on the city of Cali where they hope to meet President Ivan Duque.
“The main reason we’re marching is the systematic massacres happening in our territories without the government taking any interest,” said Franky Reinosa of the Regional Indigenous Council in the western state of Caldas.
The demonstrators are demanding to be consulted on major development projects and for the full implementation of the historic 2016 peace plan that ended a half century of armed resistance by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels.
Interior Minister Alicia Arango said on Twitter a government delegation was traveling to Cali to meet the protesters.
The demonstration coincides with the commemoration of the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492 — known in many countries in the region as the “Day of Race.”
“For us (that) was the greatest ethnocide in the history of our territories,” said Reinosa.
The southwest of Colombia that borders Ecuador and the Pacific has a large indigenous population and is one of the worst affected areas by a wave of violence that has resulted in at least 42 massacres this year, according to the United Nations.
Despite the 2016 peace accord, dozens of armed groups remain active in Colombia fighting over the lucrative drug-trafficking trade.
Colombia is the world’s largest producer of cocaine.
Representing 4.4 percent of Colombia’s 50 million population, indigenous people have been fighting for territorial rights for decades, using methods such as road blocks to gain attention.