More restitution victims

[Judicial Edition of El Espectador on line]- Friday, 03/25/2011- 1:06

[Translated by Steve Cagan, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa
Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.]

David de Jesús Góez, in Medellín; Bernardo Ríos Lodoño, in Apartadó and Éver
Verbel Rocha, in Sucre, are the first victims this year. The three were working
with people who are reclaiming their land.

The restitution of their land is part of the promise that the government made to
the peasants who were victims of the AUC [“United Self-defense of Colombia,”
the paramilitaries—SC], but the violent forces continue sowing terror to prevent
this from being carried out. According to the Minister of Agriculture, Juan
Camilo Restrepo, between Wednesday and yesterday, they killed three leaders in
Antioquia and Sucre.

This Thursday they killed David de Jesús Góez Rodríguez, 70 years old, a leader
of the Fundación Forjando Futuro [“Forging the Future Foundation”—SC], an
organization that advises the people who are reclaiming their land in the Urabá
of Antioquiá [the area in the north of Antioquia that provides access to the
Caribbean, a major plantain-growing area, and the scene of much violence against
the inhabitants by paramilitaries over the years—SC]. To this crime is added that
against Bernardo Ríos Lodoño, a member of the Peace Community of Apartadó,
and that against Éver Verbel Rocha in San Onofre (Sucre).

The threats and attacks against persons dedicated to the process of recovering land
has been a source of preoccupation for the authorities, who committed themselves
to guaranteeing their security. The three murdered leaders are the first victims this
year, and with their deaths the number of deaths in the midst of this process rises
to 11 in the last 12 months.

What is paradoxical is that these crimes occurred just a week after the government
inaugurated the so-called Centro Integrado de Inteligencia para la Restitución
de Tierras (C12) [Integrated Intelligence Center for the Restitution of Land],
made up of the prosecutor’s office and members of the judicial police, with the
objective of providing security to the beneficiaries of the land return, detecting the
places of greatest risk and designing security and protection plans. These murders
have become the first challenge for the nascent institution.

According to the Fundación Forjando Futuro, Góez Rodríguez had been
threatened two years ago; because of that he had to leave for Medellín. This was
no impediment for the criminals who wanted to end his life. The victim’s work
was concentrated on recovering land usurped by the AUC in the town of Tulapa

in the north of Urabá, a place where the paramilitary forces of Carlos Castaño

The Minister of Agriculture rejected the crime, lamented the seriousness of what
had happened and called an extraordinary meeting of the Intelligence Center.

The government of Juan Manuel Santos has committed itself to returning around
two million hectares [nearly five million acres—SC] to peasant victims of the
violence in the areas where the AUC had influence. They even included an article
in the Victims Law to speed up and simplify the process. The most recent case
was that of Chivolo (Magdalena), where INCODER [Instituto Colombiano para
el Desarrollo Rural-The Colombian Rural Development Institute, a government
agency—SC] restored ownership of nearly 40 parcels that were in the hands of
people fronting for Jorge 40 [alias of Rodrigo Tovar Pupo, leader of the AUC’s
Northern Bloc—SC]. It is estimated that there are 500 thousand people reclaiming
their land in the country.

In Uraba alone, up to the end of 2010, the Asociación de Víctimas para la
Restitución de Tierras [Association of Victims for Land Restitution] reported that
behind the return of 184 properties (4,000 hectares) have been the deaths of seven
persons, one assault and dozens of threats.

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