Colombia: paras linked to agbiz

In an interview published in [Bogota’s] El Tiempo on December 22, [j]ournalist Yamid Amat asked: “What was it that the Attorney General’s office discovered and is investigating in the Choc贸?” and [Colombian] Attorney General Mario Iguar谩n replied: 鈥淭he tragedy of the communities in the Jiguamiand贸, Curvarad贸 [and] Domingod贸 river basins. In the ’80s they suffered through the presence of the FARC and in the ’90s that of the self-defense groups and the Casta帽o family. There are accusations that the self-defense groups threw people off their lands to eradicate the guerrilla groups. But there are indicators that these expulsions were not exactly to get rid of the guerrilla, but to take control of land that was owned by the community. After receiving hundreds of testimonies, carrying out judicial investigations at the palm oil companies, in banks, notaries and in the Registry public offices, the Attorney General’s office just opened a formal investigation into the representatives of these companies.” Read the full interview in Spanish here.

As part of the legal proceedings in case 3856, the Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law Special Invesitagions Unit of the Attorney General’s office opened a formal investigation against 23 businessmen and land buyers from Antioquia whose companies occupy the collective territories of Curvarad贸 and Jiguamiand贸 in the lower Atrato river region of Choc贸. Among the crimes committed are forced displacement, land usurpation, falsifying public documents and crimes against the environment.

According to the information published in the newspaper, the actions of these businessmen are associated with the presence of paramilitaries in the region since 1996. Demobilized paramilitary boss Fredy Rendon Herrera alias “El Alem谩n,” made declarations stating that the military control of the region happened as part of an operation carried out by the brothers Casta帽o Gil, and that it wasn鈥檛 until the year 2001, when african palm started being planted, that the area was given over to the control of the Elmer Cardenas block. Mario Iguaran affirmed in the interview “the paramilitaries weren’t looking for anyone, but rather, people looked for them” (meaning it wasn’t the companies which started their businesses and then found the paramilitaries to protect them, but the companies who sent the paramilitaries in to clear and take control of the land).

While this investigation is a positive step forward, the organization Justicia y Paz warns that the displaced communities still face risks as they affirm their rights to Life and Territory. Read the full communiqu茅 of La Comisi贸n Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz.

Fellowship of Reconciliation Colombia Update, January

See our last posts on Colombia, Choc贸 and the parapolitica scandal.