Global Campaign for Agrarian Reform – La Via Campesina/ FIAN International, 24.02.2011
Demand that their right to adequate food and related rights be guaranteed during and after their return!
July 14, 2009, 123 families living in the rural area known as Las Pavas, in township of Buenos Aires in the El Peñón municipal jurisdiction located in the southern region of the Bolivar department, were forcefully evicted by members of the National Police and the mobile riot police squad at the request of a palm oil production company. The community has filed recourses, to no avail, with different legal bodies, along with other respectful and peaceful appeals requesting: the revoke of administrative acts justifying their eviction, the regulation of the possession of land they have occupied since 1997, and the general protection of their rights, including their right to food.
The State’s failure to respond effectively to these actions demonstrates the lack of protection that this community suffers, prolongs the illegality of their eviction and their lack of access to adequate means for a dignified subsistence. This situation has led the community to decide to return to the land. We are making a call to action in the light of the community’s leaders having been subject to threats, harassment and a campaign to discredit them, and in view of the lack of food self-sufficiency that plagues this community and forces them into hunger.
END OF ACTION: APRIL 24TH 2011.
The peasant families that would later form the Buenos Aires Peasant Association (ASOCAB for its initials in Spanish) occupied the land known as Las Pavas in 1997. The land, originally belonging to alleged drug trafficker Jesús Emilio Escobar Fernández, had not been utilized since 1992. The families conducted a peaceful occupation and farming of the land until 2003 when paramilitary groups forced the families to leave these lands. Lacking any alternative means of subsistence and despite the generalized fear in the region, the families decided to return and slowly re-occupy the lands. Therefore, they could continue producing food albeit, at risk and without any guarantees. That same year, ASOCAB initiated an administrative process before the competent authorities requesting the confiscation of the lands since the proprietor was not utilizing them, as the law stipulates.
At the end of the same year, the proprietor of the land, aware of the process initiated by ASOCAB, invaded the land with armed men and forced the families off the land again. In March 2007 after the eviction had been realized, the proprietor sold the lands to the El Labrador Consortium (consisting of two companies, Aportes San Isidrio and CI Tequendama S.A., the latter being a subsidiary of the DAABON group) dedicated to the cultivation of oil palm trees in the region. Once the administrative processes had begun, the 123 families, hopeful about the State’s actions, decided to return to the land. In July 2009, they were evicted again, this time by the El Labrador Consortium, despite the fact that Colombian law prohibits the eviction of peasants from lands that are undergoing administrative proceedings for confiscation. In February of 2010, the administrative process was illegally declared invalid. Then, a new process was initiated that, in a preliminary phase, closed the case because the lands, after the forceful eviction, were being economically exploited by El Labrador Consortium, which was not aware of the rights acquired by the peasants and the protection provided to the them by the legislation concerning forceful evictions in Colombia and internationally. ASOCAB also presented a constitutional complaint mechanism in 2009 that has been being revised by the Constitutional Court for over 18 months. There has yet to be any decision, despite the continued human rights violations suffered by the communities.
Since July 2009, the families have been deprived of their livelihoods and receiving sporadic humanitarian aid. Due to the peasants’ declining food situation, caused by their lack of access to subsistence means, the community has announced that the only option that guarantees their survival is to exercise their right to return to the land. This decision has received support from several national and international organizations.
After announcing their imminent return (including a radio broadcast), on February 18th 2011, ten armed men, wearing uniforms that are used exclusively by the military, accompanied by a paramilitary man and two male civilians, who refused to identify themselves, went to the community´s leader´s house, ELUID ALVEAR. These men claimed to have an order, which they never showed, to arrest him. Fortunately, Eluid Alvear was not at home. This serious act of intimidation is one more example of the criminalization, discrediting and harassment that the community has suffered. This same leader has been threatened with losing his public service job as a teacher by people close to the community. Furthermore, the community has noticed the presence of people from outside the community that are constantly keeping watch over the association´s leaders, including a paramilitary man that according to the community represents the Consortium. A fire was set by unknown persons in the communal hall that served as the association´s headquarters. Then, in a declaration released to the media, the Consortium accused the community of trying to illegally and clandestinely invade the Hacienda Las Pavas.
Colombia is a State party to the ICESCR and other human rights treaties. As long as Colombia does not protect the community´s physical safety against attacks by third parties, as well as their right to food, the country is in violation of their international obligations. Your actions are important!
- Please send the model letter in Spanish via e-mail, fax or letter to the below mentioned addresses. End of the action: 24th of April, 2011. Please inform FIAN International about any response you receive to your letter.
- You can also send your letter online at http://www.fian.org/cases/letter-campaigns/colombia-return-of-asocab-to-their-lands-in-las-pavas
- Download the Urgent Action as a pdf at http://www.fian.org/news/news/new-urgent-action-in-colombia-123-families-return-to-the-las-pavas-land/pdf