December 3, 2023

To commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the Bahia Portete massacre

Lágrimas de arena del desierto WAYUU (click here for Spanish version)

DSCN5350 Between the 18th and 20th of April in the “Media Luna” sacred territory of the Wayuu people, located in La Guajira, we gathered for the second Yanama in memory of the massacre that occurred in Bahia Portete in April of 2004 at the hands of paramilitaries. To this event came the ONIC organization, other indigenous of Colombia, national and international NGOs, human rights organizations, environmentalists and unions, at which we shared meals, drinks, customs, hopes, the sea, the landscape, and the strength and magic of our territory. The objective of this encounter was to accompany the survivors of the massacre and share solidarity with all the Wayuu people in their struggle and determination that the victims of this massacre not be forgotten and that there not be impunity for the perpetrators.
This genocidal act was perpetrated by the paramilitary structure headed by Rodrigo Tovar “Pupo,” known as Jorge 40, assisted by Chemna Bala, Josemaria Ipuana, and his nephew Adrian Agustin Bernier.

This massacre killed women, children, young people, men, and elders, and the survivors have been forced to live outside their ancestral territory and outside the country to reside in Venezuela. But we are not renouncing our intent to return to our salty land. We thirst and hope to again feel the winds of the sea in our own desert land.

The barbarism against the Wayuu has not stopped, even though the zone has been militarized under the excuse of protecting this town and despite the promise of Colombian DSCN5490 Vice-President Santos that he will not allow one single more death to the members of this community. Yet, the government continues to turn a blind eye to the murders that have occurred after the massacre. Such is the case of Edilia Epinayuu, one of the witnesses of the massacre and murdered by the paramilitaries on the 13th of July of the year 2005. The government refuses to acknowledge the complicity of the military and paramilitaries that we were able to observe and it does not have ears to listen to the threats that are raised constantly against the Wayuu people and its leaders. In the zone of this scene of torture, where the Colombian military is posted to “take care of” the houses, where torture rape and death occurred in the middle of the burning desert of salt and sand, appeared vulgar graffiti reminders of the acts of rape and other crimes that were committed against a dignified people. We also saw recently made threats written on the walls against their leader, Debora Barros Fince, who has fought to assure that the horrible acts committed against her people be not forgotten or fall in impunity.

Though the massacre occurred two years ago, there continues to be exerted physical, moral and psychological violence against this town, without intervention by the government forces purported to protect it. In this visit to Bahia Portete, the participants to the Yanama encounter were able to observe that, in the area controlled by the government, the indigenous houses are being destroyed and roofs, water tanks and doors are being dismantled. With this action the government attempts to erase the memory of the landscape and dwellings from the minds of the people.

100_1266 THE UPROOTING OF THE WAYUU PEOPLE AND THE LOSS IN TOTALITY OF THEIR TERRITORY IS A REAL AND GRAVE SITUATION. Only four families still live in Bahia Portete. The process of return of the displaced people, promoted by the vice president of the republic, Francisco Santos in 2004, was a false return where people who were not from the area at all were brought only for public relation purposes, to give a false appearance of return by the victims.
Also of grave concern is the presence of the multinational mining corporations, Glencore, Anglo American, and BHP Billiton that have been exploiting the resources of the Guajira for the last twenty years, removing the coal from the heart of the Mother Earth, without benefiting in any way the indigenous people. This multinational conglomerate formed when they purchased the “rights” from Hillock in 2002, which was then operated by Exxon. Though the government offers no guarantee of security for the return of our Wayuu people, these mining activities have been the justification of militarization of the ancestral territory by the Colombian Army, who protects the mining interests such as infrastructure. In Media Luna, for one example, they have installed barb wire around the territory and the indigenous people can not walk freely and cannot visit their cemetery. The military has not been able to protect the Wayuu but the wall of iron protects foreign interests.

DSCN5203 The participants in this Yanama gathering shared with us the tears of the women, the breakers of the sea that broke in our hearts as the waves did on the beaches, the breakers of sea that in each tide approached and washed away the memories of their parents, children, grandsons, spouses, brothers. We went to claim the rights of the Wayuu people to feel the breezes of the sea in their own desert home and so that the infamous history of death, torture and disappearance perpetrated by the paramilitary in the territory of the Wayuu is not left in forgetfulness and impunity; so that the transnational companies do not profit from the war in this country by state complicity; so that they do not imprison with fences the indigenous territory and inhabitants. We find that the government has great heart for the multinationals and strong arms against the Wayuu.



In this document the organizations below affirm their commitment to engage their organizations in support of the secure return of the displaced Wayuu and to inform their respective communities of the violence committed against the indigenous people of La Guajira and of the close relationship between the Colombian military and the paramilitary.

We call for the Colombian government to: 1) guarantee the life and integrity of all the members of the desert town of the WAYUU, especially of its leader De
bora Barros Fince, who received new death threats during this second Yanama; 2) respect the territory and property of the Wayuu; 3) work to guarantee the existence of economic security of the resources worthy of this town; 4) join the Wayuu in seeking justice in the 9th Circuit Court and officially condemn and seek punishment of the perpetrators of this attempted genocide against the Wayuu people and community so that these facts are not left in impunity and forgetfulness.


Subscribing Organizations:
Pueblo Muisca, Corp. Siemprevivas, Association Ecate, Ecological org. OE, Sintraminercol, Sintramin, Fenasintrap, Bridges Across Borders.
Please send communications to the Colombian authorities with copy to Organization Wayuu Munsurat; Email: [email protected]:

Please also send notice to Bridges Across Borders, PO Box 103, Graham, FL, USA 32044 (352) 485-2594 [email protected]

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