Thousands of Indians Stage Protest March in Colombia’s Capital

BOGOTA – Some 20,000 Colombian Indians marched through the streets of downtown Bogota on the 518th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World, blocking traffic for several hours to call attention to violence and injustices affecting their communities.

Delegations from dozens of indigenous groups in this Andean nation commemorated Dia de la Raza (Day of the Race) – as Columbus Day is known in many countries of the Americas – by marching Tuesday from the capital’s National University to the downtown Bolivar Square.

The massive demonstration was organized by the National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, or ONIC, which comprises the country’s 102 ethnic groups.

The Indians asserted their right to life and ownership of their ancestral lands and demanded that all sides in Colombia’s armed struggle exclude Indians from the conflict, some march participants said.

Thousands of vehicles were stuck in a massive traffic jam after several roads were closed in this metropolis, where streets are severely congested on most days.

Students at some local universities and the National Apprenticeship Service joined the march to show solidarity with the Indians.

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