Balancing rights

During the last decades of the twentieth century, indigenous movements emerged throughout Latin America. This unprecedented mobilization of indigenous groups, often referred to as indigenismo, had major political consequences.

The indigenismo movement led to the first official recognition of the ethnic diversity of Colombia, as well as far-reaching self-administration rights.

In Colombia, indigenous autonomy is far-reaching, but not absolute. The constitutional limitations on indigenous autonomy include respect of the right to life, the prohibition of torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, slavery but also the principles of due process and legality in criminal matters, as well as forced displacement or confiscation of private goods or land – in sum, anything that goes against human rights and the constitution.

These limitations are, in practice, very difficult to enforce when they touch upon the rights of (religious) minorities  within resguardos indígenas (indigenous reserves) because of the existence of a special indigenous jurisdiction and the so-called principle of non-attributability due to socio-cultural diversity (fuero especial indígena).

In other words, what seems positive on paper – granting indigenous communities self-determination rights – has in practice led to undemocratic excesses in resguardos indígenas.

Beating is a local tradition. Respect our customs!

The same applies to Mexico, as I explain in this video:

Dennis P. Petri
Dennis P. Petri is Director of Plataforma C, Platform for Christian Politics. A political scientist by training, he specializes in comparative politics with a specific interest in Latin America. He is currently working on a dissertation about religious freedom at VU University Amsterdam.

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