TORIBIO, Colombia—Indigenous people angry at being forced to live in the crossfire of the Colombia's long-running civil conflict jeered President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday as he visited their war-ravaged southwestern region.

Leaders of the 115,000 Nasa people are demanding government troops and leftist rebels alike go away and leave them in peace.

But Santos told residents of Toribio, a town of 35,000, during a tense visit that he would not order the military to quit the nine towns that Nasa leaders want the military to vacate.

"Our military and police are here to protect you," he said. "They are here and they're going to stay."

Less than 3 miles (5 kilometers) away on Wednesday, a group of about 50 rebels of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, set up a road checkpoint to demonstrate similar resolve.

Nasa leaders, who have gained fame over the years for standing up to Colombia's heavily armed groups with only wooden staffs to protect them, confronted the rebels and asked them to leave. After several hours, they did.

"We don't want them here. Not them, not the others. War is a bad solution," said James Yatacue, leader of the Association of North Cauca Indigenous Councils. "Militarization is no guarantee of security."

People in the region have been victims of constant attacks, including a motorcycle bomb explosion Tuesday in the nearby town of Argelia that killed a 9-year-old boy and wounded five other children.

Indians make their way past a rebel of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, front, on the outskirts of Toribio, southern Colombia, Wednesday, July 11, 2012. Rebels set up a roadblock on a road leading to Toribio while Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos was holding a meeting with cabinet members and local authorities in the church of the town, that was attacked by guerrillas last week. ((AP Photo/Juan Bautista Diaz))

Argelia's mayor, Elio Arada, told The Associated Press that security forces had blamed the FARC, which has been fighting a succession of Colombian governments for nearly half a century.

The largely rebel army says it is fighting for more equal distribution of land.

But it is also involved in cocaine trafficking, and the Cauca region where the Nasa live is major corridor for illegal armed groups that smuggle the drug to the nearby Pacific coast, where it is loaded in boats and semisubmersibles. Illegal armed groups are also involved in unlicensed gold mining in the region.

Soldiers patrol the streets of Toribio, southern Colombia, Tuesday, July 10, 2012. Rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) attacked the police station of Toribio last week. Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos will visit the town on Wednesday. ((AP Photo/Juan Bautista))

Military analyst Alfredo Rangel says Cauca continues to be a sanctuary for the FARC, which remains potent in Colombia's hinterlands despite suffering major setbacks over the past decade.

Rangel says the FARC's armed incursions have gradually increased since Santos took office in August 2010.

In that year, there were 194 incursions nationwide, followed by 238 last year, he said, with 164 for the first half of 2012.
Associated Press writer Vivian Sequera contributed to this report from Bogota. (Source)

Responses to "Colombian Indians to Santos: leave our territory"

  1. Anonymous says:

    People should be left so they can find their own destiny, not being forced into a point of view that they have no trek with.

  2. Anonymous says:

    why all of a sudden do you want their land , the good earth is rich and lots of it...

  3. Justice says:

    The police has now gained control over the place. Indian Commmunities have been subdued. I'm colombian and it's sad to see these kind of things in my country.

  4. Anonymous says:

    9:1 The integrated man is not capable of preservation, through creation. Though he is perfectly capable of renewing his ancestral bloodlines, through destruction.

  5. ninip75 says:

    trop triste l'homme se détruit lui même honteux

  6. Greg O says:

    Stop trafficing Cocaine.

  7. FREUD says:

    stop use cocaine in usa by government, artist, movie stars bla bla bla (no consume & no produse) FREUD & COCA COLA

  8. SKuNKy says:

    Too bad america isnt doing this.... ( Oh wait all the drones, TSA, and militarized police, not to mention the stripping of all our rights is for "our protection" ) Time to wake up people to what's going on!

  9. Anonymous says:

    It's historically true that both social revolutionaries and capitalist militarized structures have always used the native people as a buffer or as beats of burden, no more! No mas! We want our traditional ways to be the foundation and all the new things we've
    Learned to be structure which will help us survive! We will fight for the land and our families not for ideologies.

  10. Michael Little Cloud of the Omaha and Ho-chunck nations says leave them alone let them decide for themselves

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