In January 1979, word spread throughout Colombia of another auda-
cious operation by the m-19 guerrillas. They had stolen five thousand
firearms from the Cantón Norte, the army’s principal arsenal in the capi-
tal city of Bogotá. This time, their daring act had a significant conse-
quence: the government of President Julio César Turbay (1978–82)
made an all- out effort to capture the guerrillas who had made the army
look so incompetent.
Within days, telephones began ringing in the offices of those of us
who were working in solidarity with the indigenous movement in Cauca
and in the offices of legal advocacy groups like funCoL,1 with news
that indigenous leaders belonging to the Regional Indigenous Coun-
cil of Cauca (Consejo Regional Indígena del Cauca—CriC), as well as their
advisors, were being rounded up in Cauca, accused of belonging to
the m- 19 guerrillas. Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca president
Marcos Avirama was arrested and tortured, as was his brother Edgard,
the organization’s secretary, and leaders Taurino Ñuscué, Miguel Ñus-
cué, and Mario Escué. Before long several nonindigenous advisors in-
cluding Guillermo Amórtegui, Graciela Bolaños, Luis Ángel Monroy,
and Teresa Suárez met the same fate.
On February 3, pistol- wielding assassins killed Paez leader Benjamín
Dindicué in the settlement of Irlanda on the resguardo of Huila in the re-
gion of Tierradentro. Within the space of a few months, others includ-
ing Dionisio Hipia, Avelino Ul, and Julio Escué were killed on different
resguardos in Cauca. CriC leaders not in captivity, such as Juan Gregorio
Palechor and Manuel Trino Morales, went into hiding and sought the
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