Tuesday, November 23, 2004

In a Land Torn by Violence, Too Many Troubling Deaths

RIOSUCIO, Colombia - At 15, Leida Salazar had just learned to ride a bike, eagerly watched after her smaller siblings and was among the extroverts in a throng of giddy indigenous girls. But a year ago, she fashioned a noose out of a wraparound skirt, hoisted it over the wood-beam rafter of her home and hanged herself.

A note she left for her father voiced anguished fears that Colombia's drug-fueled guerrilla war would engulf her family, refugees to this poverty-stricken village along with dozens of others. But the death of the outwardly happy girl continues to confound her parents and the leaders of a once-sheltered indigenous tribe, the Embera, who never before knew suicide.