Protest expected to be 20,000 strong by Thursday
BOGOTA -- Thousands of Colombian Indians arrived Tuesday at the outskirts of this capital, after a march that took more than a week, to ask President Alvaro Uribe to return their ancestral lands and to refrain from dragging the Indians into the government's conflict with leftist rebels, among other petitions.
At this stage of the "minga," or resistance march, which began Nov. 10 in the southwestern city of Cali, the Indians performed a ritual "of conciliation and harmonization with the water."
"Just as we gather and sign our names for the water referendum, the minga is also against the privatization and sale overseas of water that pours from mother earth, whose legendary guardians are Indians," said a document distributed to reporters by the march organizers.
The ritual was held at a point on the highway connecting Bogota with southwest Colombia, at the Chusaca toll station.
In the poor Bogota suburb of Soacha, the Indians accompanied family members of two "false positives," civilians slain by soldiers and then presented as rebels killed in combat.
A score of young men from Soacha who went missing in January were presented as guerrillas killed in a clash with soldiers a few days later in a region more than 700 kilometers (435 miles) from the capital.
The Colombian Indians want to hold talks with Uribe to present their requests.
Day after day dozens of delegates from different ethnicities and regions of Colombia have joined the march, and the Colombian National Indigenous Organization, or ONIC, believes that by Thursday more than 20,000 will gather for their massive entrance into the city.
ONIC says that some 1,200 Indians have been killed in Colombia since the rightist Uribe took office in August 2002, while another 40,000 have been forced from their homes. EFE