Letter to the President of Columbia Regarding the Recent Kidnapping of a Columbian Indigenous Leader

Tuesday, June 05 2001

Dr. Andrés Pastrana Arango
President of Colombia
Palacio de Nariño
Santafé de Bogotá

Dear Mr. President:

We have received the extremely disturbing news that KIMY PERNIA DOMICO, a valiant leader of the Embera Katio indigenous people in Cordoba, Colombia, has been kidnapped by armed men. Mr. Pernia Domico was attacked and abducted on Saturday June 2 at 6:20 p.m. near the headquarters of the Embera Katio in Tierralta.

Mr. Pernia Domico is known to thousands of Canadians due to his appearance on an educational video circulated widely by the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, an agency which has financially supported development projects in Embera Katio communities. The video highlights the struggle of indigenous people to maintain their homeland in the face of the URRAI dam (which was partially financed by Canada’s Export Development Corporation).

Mr. Pernia Domico first visited this Episcopal Conference in November of 1999 when he appeared before the Standing Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade in order to explain the plight of his people. More recently, he accompanied staff of this Episcopal Conference to Quebec City in April, where he met with Bishop Jean Gagnon, among others.

We ask you to do all in your power, Mr. President, to assure the safe return of Mr. Kimy Pernia Domico to his family and community. We request that your Ambassador to Canada provide us with up-to-date information concerning the steps your government is taking to respect indigenous rights and prevent armed groups from turning the Embera Katio territory into a war zone.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Rev. V. James Weisgerber
Archbishop of Winnipeg
Chairman, Human Rights Committee

c.c. The Honourable John Manley
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Her Excellency Fanny Kertzman
Ambassador of Colombia