Five farmers were hit by rubber bullets or paint during the protest at the Hacienda Monte Verde in the municipality of Turbo (Urabá Antioquia)

[Translated by Deryn Collins, CSN Volunteer Translator. Edited by Jessica Schwartz]

Source: Agencia de Prensa, IPC

A group of claimants were attacked with tear gas and rifles that shot pressurized air in the village New Middle Township Turbo, Urabá. They were gathered to protest the ineffectiveness of the restitution of land in this region of Antioquia. There, the victims called for a roundtable with the Government to find a solution to the restitution problem.

The attacks occurred on the morning of Monday April 6, 2015, when about 500 claimants were heading towards the Monteverde farm in the village of Villa Rosa Turbo. They were intercepted by men armed with paintball rifles, rubber bullets, tazers, pepper gas, sticks, and machetes.

According to the complainants, five local people were injured, suffering bruises on the arms, abdomen, back and neck due to impacts from rubber bullets and paint. Women, children, and the elderly were also affected by inhalation of gases.

Carlos Páez, president of the association of the victims’ group Earth and Peace, said that after the attack that although the group of claimants dispersed as they were frightened by the attacks, a group of 50 farmers managed to remain at the entrance to the estate.

“After the attacks, the Monteverde Villa Cart loads of men arrived from Chigorodó, who farmers say are gang members, and they dispersed the group of famers using sticks and paintball guns paintball,” said Paez.

On April 8, during a symbolic protest march to the entrance of the farm, farmers could see that the group of men guarding the property were making spears to attack the claimants. The weapons were found next to a mango tree on the side of the path where a group of security men were located the entire time.

For Martha Peña of the Popular Training Institute (IPC), who is the coordinator of the project to support victims, the group of men who attacked the claimants acted as a private army using weapons that are used exclusively by the police.

During his visit to the site of the attacks, the social leader asked the authorities to verify the weapons they had at Hacienda Monteverde and seize weapons that were not licensed. However, Martha Peña revealed that “the police had said they could not do this without a warrant,” which she points out means that the locals are still at risk of attack.

On the farm where the incident occurred, farmers claimed that 28 properties were stripped violently between 1995 and 1997. Today, this land is controlled by distinct business men including: Fabio Moreno, Jaime Sierra, Daniel Sierra and Jaime Uribe, as victims stated.

In a statement from the association Earth and Peace, the claimants stated that they were tired of suffering the injustices of forced displacement while awaiting the restitution of land, which has not been granted. “In 2005, with the Justice and Peace law, we were hoping to regain our land, but this rule has not help solve the problems. In 2011, with the implementation of the Law of Victims and Land Restitution, which we welcomed and supported, we again hoped we would recover our farms, but four years later and all we have is frustration, and in some cases, the prosecution of our leaders and those who have tried to defend our rights as victims.

According to data from the Forging Futures Foundation in Urabá there are 150,000 hectares of stripped land, but the April 6, 2015, the courts have resolved only 28 cases, corresponding to 1,177 hectares and only 50 properties have been restored. Most processes remain unsolved.

Requests for claimants

Through a statement claimants concentrated in Hacienda Monteverde presented the following requests to the Federal Government:

  • to repeal the decree of micro-targeting since this hinders the process of returning land
  • to apply strategies and collective administrative for land restitution
  • to provide guarantees for farmers who return to their lands without institutional support to wait for their land to be returned
  • to provide humanitarian assistance to returnee farmers
  • to ensure collective protection schemes for all unaccompanied by the State returnee settlements
  • to implement processes of care, stabilization and collective redress
  • to investigate and punish those responsible for the threats and accusations to claimants and defenders of the dispossessed
  • to ensure our legitimate right to organization, mobilization and opinion
  • to establish an international overseer for the restitution process in Urabá

Farmers also suggested that Forging Futures Foundation and the Popular Training Institute -IPC serve as guarantors of negotiation with the government.

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