(Translated by Leo H. Torres, a CSN Volunteer Translator, edited by David Van Den Brandt)
Author: Yhoban Camilo Hernández Cifuentes
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Peasants in the Hacienda La Seis (Ranch The Six), where the entrepreneur-cattleman Vicente Cantero was captured.
The inefficient response from the Government to a hundred complaints of land forcibly taken in Urabá (Antioquia) has resulted in 75 families returning peacefully, but without institutional support to their properties that they have been claiming for several years in the villages Cuchillo Negro (Black Knife), Eugenia, Guacamaya (Macaw) and Villa Rosa, located in the township of Macondo in the municipality of Turbo.
This action actually occurred due to the delay of the restitution processes and the absence of judicial decisions and the difficult economic conditions experienced by the 100 complaining families. According to Carlos Páez, director of the Earth and Life Association, “they are hungry and in a state of extreme poverty in the villages and townships where they live”.
The leader of these victims reported that since last year, families have been asking what they can do, because they are waiting for the return of their land and still no results. It has been 10 years since the establishment of the Justice and Peace Law – 975 of 2005 – and two years since the Victims and Land Restitution Law – 1448 of 2011.
Finally, the return to the land was denied after 9 of the 100 complaining families received a response from the Land Restitution Unit indicating that the land claimed cannot be included in the register of lands that were forcibly taken because they are located in a forest reservation area.
The contradiction, says Carlos Páez, is that the land is currently being exploited for extensive ranching by a group of businessmen in the region, “including Jose Vicente Cantero, who is being held in jail for displacement of peasants and has two farms there, where today the Land Restitution Unit is saying that there is a forest reservation”.
So when news arrived that these nine families “had been excluded or rejected because the area is in a forest reservation, the victims rapidly returned to their land because the government is failing them.”
The decision of the Earth and Life Association regarding the peaceful takeover of these 75 families has been to support them in their return process, making sure that their rights as victims are respected and that no violations occur.
Said Carlos Páez, “we call on the National Government to sit with us in a roundtable with the proposal that these victims will remain in their land until the end of the pending trial. Because the families are living in extreme poverty but the entrepreneurs have money and are exploiting the properties, the entrepreneurs have no desire for the process to go forward.”
One of the businessmen who would be opposed to this land occupation process is Adriano Pino, who would count on the army’s presence to supply security to La Union Pino and his other properties.
“The Union Pino is an estate of over 5,000 acres, and in 1997 was peasants’ land. Adriano Pino took advantage of the time of displacement and got those properties at very low prices under the influence of paramilitary groups. This week, when the peaceful return started the entrepreneur went to the ranch and assaulted and insulted a peasant, in the company of the army. This is a public denunciation and we want the prosecutor to take action on the matter, because this entrepreneur has complaints due to the forced displacement of peasants in this area.”
Along with the opposition and pressures generated by the entrepreneurs, who are living in the claimed area, another major concern of the complaining families is that the response of the Land Restitution Unit would be to deny their right to restitution of their land.
“The response from the Land Restitution Unit says that they have only been recognized as victims of violence but they cannot be included for restitution. It is unfortunate that a man who moved to his property in Black Knife in the year 1960 and was expelled by paramilitaries in 1997—who also killed his son there on that property—has the Restitution Unit telling him that he is not entitled to restitution and he has to go to the Victims Unit to expedite his compensation,” said Carlos Páez.
In this situation, the proposal of the Earth and Life Association is that if an agricultural judge determines that the lands will be reclaimed as a forest reservation area and cannot be subject to refund, the dispossessed families will be relocated to other properties to guarantee their right to restitution.
The Macondo Township, in the municipality of Turbo, where this situation arises, it is one of the micro – targets by the Government for the restitution of land areas. Currently in the Urabá area there are 2,800 land claim applications.
In order to ensure respect for human rights and the victims’ rights, the Earth and Life Association appealed to organizations that defend victims and human rights at national and international level to provide support to returnee families and to serve as guarantors in this claims-process that is underway in the village of Macondo.
(This translation may be reprinted as long as its content remains unaltered and the source, author and translator are cited.)