[Translated by Buddy Bell, a CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN Volunteer Editor.]
Six million hectares of land were stolen from the Colombian people.
Their struggle is now. Up to today more than 40 community leaders, lawyers, and other outspoken people have been assassinated… sadly nothing is done to bring justice.
‘Monoleche’ and the battle for ‘La Holanda’
The legal dispute to regain a parcel of stolen land in Córdoba has brought about death threats for the plaintiff and her lawyers. On top of everything else is the involvement of the former bodyguard for the Castaño brothers, alias ‘Monoleche’.
The ex-paramilitary JESÚS IGNACIO ROLDAN also known by the alias ‘Monoleche’ was the former bodyguard of Carlos and Vicente Castaño.
The legal battle to recover farmland in Montería, Córdoba has turned into a nightmare for Yaneth Arango García, who has not been able to win the re-transfer of land stolen from her. Instead, she has had to put up with death threats, the denials of various lawyers to take her case, and the need to live in hiding, moving from one part of the country to another.
THE STORY OF YANET ARANGO GARCÍA’S STRUGGLE: Owner of La Holanda farm, located in Montería -Córdoba:
Yaneth’s ordeal started Nov. 26, 2003, when a group of armed men led by Jesús Ignacio Roldán Pérez, alias ‘Monoleche’, an ex-paramilitary from the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), arrived at La Holanda, located in the municipality of Leticia, in Montería.
Besides intimidating Yaneth, he forced her to leave the farm. He said these were the orders given by Ramiro Vanoy Murillo, alias ‘Cuco Vanoy’, who at that time was the commandant of the Miners’ Regiment of the AUC. According to Yaneth’s testimony, he gave her on that day 450,000 pesos [US $250] to abandon the site. In that year, ‘Monoleche’ was the personal bodyguard for Carlos y Vicente Castaño.
For his part, the ex-paramilitary, demobilized with the Casa Castaño Regiment in 2006, told the district attorney, “I would be disposed to lose the benefits of [the demobilization law] if what this woman said is true: that I gave her money in order that she would abandon the land and be displaced. What she said in her accusation is false”. The statement was recorded in investigative proceedings carried out in Bogotá on Aug. 13, 2009.
They killed Yaneth’s husband (HUGO ALBERTO BERRÍO TORRES)
As listed in Notary records, La Holanda farm was under the name of Hugo Alberto Berrío Torres, life-companion to Yaneth, who was killed Dec. 3, 2002 in Bello, Antioquia, in fighting instigated by ‘Cuco Vanoy’ against one of his brothers, Fredy, who had an outstanding debt in the narcotraficking business in Bajo Cauca Antioqueño.
According to Yaneth, ‘Monoleche’ wanted to take advantage of the situation in order to extort the farm from her. “I took the opportunity to speak with Vanoy in Itagüí prison before they extradited him so that he might clarify to me why ‘Monoleche’ had been sent to take my farm away and he told me he had never given that order”.
In order to launder this theft, there was much falsification of signatures and successive sales and purchases of the land, which finally ended up in the possession of Monoleche’s ex-wife, Amparo Pereira. (http://www.verdadabierta.com/archivos-para-descargar/category/21-tierras?download=893:finca-la-holanda)
The original document that initiated it all was a ‘special power of registered sale’ before the Notary of Cereté, Cordoba. The document is dated Nov. 28, 2003, two days after Yaneth left the property under threat, and it conferred the property of Hugo Alberto Berrío Torres to Ernesto José Cantero Pachecho, giving him ample authority to resell or transfer the title. However, upon the date listed, Berrío Torres had been dead for a year.
HOW FAR DOES THE NOTARY’S COMPLICITY GO???
With a basis in this document, the farm was sold by Cantero Pacheco to Alex Gustavo Posada Petro for 93 million pesos [US $53,000]. According to the Montería Registry of Public Contracts, the real estate transaction happened on Dec. 29, 2003.
Months later the farm was sold again by Posada Petro at the same price to Monoleche’s ex-wife. The sale was registered on Mar. 11, 2004.
The farm was sold for 93 million pesos, when in reality it only costs 1.7 million??
The price of the sale contrasts with the commercial value appraised 4 years later, on Jan. 28, 2008, which established that La Holanda, consisting of 128 hectares, was worth 1,677,000 pesos [US $925].
Up to this moment, Yaneth has not sued; she says because of fear. Her efforts to reclaim the lost farm under the [paramilitary demobilization bill] have brought her to make 2 charges: one to regain her land and one to seek penalties for those involved in the whole affair.
The first charge came to the Attorney General’s office in Medellín on Jan. 21, 2008, naming Jesús Ignacio Roldán Pérez, alias ‘Monoleche’ as defendant, for the crime of forced displacement. The second, filed in Feb. 2009 against Amparo Pereira Rivera, ex-wife of ‘Monoleche’ for the crime of procedural fraud with the intent to appropriate La Holanda farm.
One of the judicial rulings Yaneth intended to revisit with the case against Pereira Rivera was the land acquisition granted by the 4th Civil Circuit judge of Monteria, who legitimized the title held by said defendant through a decision handed down Jun. 4, 2008.
The role of the Attorney General: Yaneth went from “accuser to accused”
Responding to the Yaneth’s petition to re-establish her right to the property, on Jan. 22, 2010 the attorney General denied the petition arguing that Civil Circuit Court decision giving the property to Pereira Rivera was not reached in an opportunistic manner, considering there was no proof that ‘Monoleche’ appropriated La Holanda farm.
They added that another reason for denying the restitution request was because of another petition granted in 2009 by the Land Title Termination Division, which requested Berrío Torres and his companion be required to establish the means by which they had acquired the land, and that up to that day there had been no response filed in any other judicial office. Yaneth was indignant at this, saying, “I went from accuser to accused.”
Yaneth appealed this ruling and on Mar. 18, 2010 the Superior Court agreed to hear the case, arguing there existed “multiple aspects that have been shown to be various maneuvers utilized to get an end result of official title to the land”. The court made a provisional cancellation of the registered title of Pereira Rivera and granted restitution of the land in Yaneth’s favor.
But the case did not end there. As for ´Monoleche’, he was jailed for his pending criminal case and on Apr. 5, 2010 he was indicted by the Attorney General for grand conspiracy, forced displacement, falsifying a private document, procedural fraud, and forgery. A judge in Montería will preside over the ex-paramilitary’s case in the coming days.
If the judge agrees with the prosecutor’s arguments and convicts ‘Monoleche’, the decision would affect his continuing participation in the [paramilitary demobilization bill]. This could open up new (and formerly excluded) charges not covered by this incident, since he would lose the immunities conferred to him under Law 975 of 2005.
According to attorney Martín Orrego, representing Yaneth in this process, the ex-paramilitary “denies the charges can be brought against him; because of that this is a new and separate legal case, and it’s not being pursued as put forth in [the paramilitary demobilization law], but in an ordinary court of justice. That’s where the fear comes from: that he has to be excluded”.
JESUS IGNACIO ROLDAN, Alias MONOLECHE, still gives orders from jail
This fear, he says, puts a lot of pressure on the prosecutors. “We have security problems, that’s for sure,” the lawyer asserts. Actually, last week Yaneth’s security was reinforced, thanks to operations undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, but only for three months, during which they will evaluate her level of risk.
For people who file to reclaim land and for the people who support them, personal security is a serious concern:
Personal safety in Córdoba is not easy at all for claimants and their lawyers and supporters. The most recent homicide occurred on May 12, when Martha Gaibao was killed. She represented 100 families who had been resettled in La Jagua, a plot of land located in Ayapel municipality. Although the State had already set this plot aside, the people could not yet move there because of the presence of outsiders who came to constantly snoop around and threaten them.
Because of all this, Yaneth was very afraid: “for more than a year I have not gone to Montería, I’ve found myself having to move from place to place, there is a bounty on my head. I know that they are offering 100 million pesos [US $55,000]”.
But she is not only brave enough to name and bring charges against ‘Monoleche’, but also his ex-wife, Amparo Pereira Rivero, who will be named as a front woman for this operation to benefit the Castaño brothers. “We will bring new charges regarding each of their appropriations of land,” asserted Attorney Orrego. In this whole process, this has been demonstrated in cases regarding properties in Necoclí, Turbo, Arboletes and Montería.
Two lawyers have given up on protecting me, and anyone who wants to buy my farm is being intimidated: Yaneth
NANCY FIALLO ARAQUE
Civil Society Women’s Assembly for Peace
mobile: (57) 300 823 66 34
Bogotá. DC- Colombia- South America
(This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, and translator are cited.)