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Race and History Forum

Indigenous people 'suffer abuse'

By Daniel Schweimler

BBC - Indigenous Americans are still one of the most marginalised and poorest communities in the world, according to a new report.

Amnesty International says they are discriminated against and often exposed to grave abuses of their fundamental human rights.

The study is published on the eve of Columbus or Native American Day, when several countries in the region celebrate the continent's multicultural heritage and the arrival in the Americas of Christopher Columbus in 1492.

Amnesty International says many countries in the region guarantee indigenous rights in their constitutions and legislation.

It adds, however, that these pledges are in stark contrast with the reality faced by the vast majority of indigenous people from northern Canada, through Central America, down to the southern tip of Chile and Argentina.

The organisation said they are often treated as second-class citizens, subjected to racism and discrimination and in the worst cases, torture and killing.

It says governments often fail to implement agreements reached with indigenous communities, which can lead to further mistrust and resentment.

Communities downtrodden

The report says that in countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada and Nicaragua, indigenous people trying to reclaim the lands of their ancestors are facing violent opposition from landowners and companies exploiting natural resources.

The study found that in Colombia indigenous people often find themselves trapped in the crossfire between the army and their paramilitary allies and left-wing rebels.

In Honduras, several native leaders have been killed and no-one has been held responsible for their deaths.

It says that in Saskatoon City in Canada police have been accused of routinely leaving what they consider troublesome members of the indigenous community in isolated areas.

And in Argentina, more than 100 policemen raided the Toba community in the north of the country, beating and racially abusing the residents.

Amnesty is calling on governments to take immediate and concrete action to turn their rhetoric on multiculturalism and indigenous rights into reality.

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