Colombia’s Unarmed Force

To defend a hard-won guarantee that allows Colombia’s indigenous
territories to remain neutral in the country’s bloody civil war,
the Nasa people have shown solidarity and organization on par with
that of the warring factions. And they’ve done it without weapons:
In 2001, the Nasa created the Indigenous Guard to peacefully patrol
their territory, carrying decorative staffs instead of guns.

The group has earned international accolades not only for their
practical successes but also for the message they’ve sent to the
world of the power of nonviolence and communal action. In a piece
NACLA News, Teo Ballv? highlights
another positive impact of the Guard: the elevation of women in
the Nasa community. As Ballv? reports, women have emerged as a
strong force in the Guard, overcoming community hostility to
indigenous women in leadership roles by showing incredible
bravery while patrolling — unarmed — for hostile groups and
drug traffickers. What’s more, they’ve earned this respect while
balancing the traditional responsibilities of Nasa women, such
as maintaining the household. Ballv? notes that women like Celia
Eumesa, who was recruited by the governor of her region to help
form a branch of the Guard, have risen to top positions both in
the Guard and in their communities.

But as the Nasa mark such successes, they also face new
challenges. Though the Nasa have fought hard to maintain
neutrality, it is this very neutrality that has brought suspicion
upon them. In the
Colombia Journal Online, Mario A. Murillo
reports that the country’s Gen. Hernando Perez Molina has accused
the Nasa and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the
primary opposition group) of using European Union resources to help
guerilla forces. The Nasa unequivocally maintain that they have
never cooperated with any party in the war, and fear that by
linking them with guerrilla forces, Molina has paved the way for
government actions against the group.

Despite such predicaments, the Guard is maintaining its
commitment to nonviolent resistance. As Ballv? notes, the Nasa use
the word proceso — process — to describe nearly all of
their community activities. This view — that change is effected
gradually — may be what gives the Nasa patience in their

Go there >>
Colombia’s Indigenous Nasa Women Resist

Go there too >>
Democratic Security Has Not Arrived for Colombia’s
Indigenous Communities

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