Colombia: violent eviction at Cúcuta squatter camp

Some 100 troops from ESMAD, the feared Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron of the Colombian National Police force, were mobilized Nov. 21 to the corregimiento (unincorporated village) of Urimaco, in the outlying rural zone of Cúcuta, capital of Norte de Santander department, to evict an encampment of campesinos who had been displaced from their homes by political violence in the region. At least 50 makeshift dwellings and small farm plots were destroyed in the operation, carried out at the behest of Cúcuta municipal authorities. Local attorney Germán Urbina says he intends to bring suit against the authorities, charging the eviction was carried out in violation of an April order from Colombia's Constitutional Court mandating that new housing be provided for the squatters before they could be expelled.

The campesinos took over unused lands on the private ranch, called La Sabaneta, two years ago, eventually claiming title on grounds that the owner had abandoned that section of the property. The owner, Enrique Caruzzo, contested this and demanded action, but the courts found that the campesinos had at least acquired the right to compensation through their occupancy of the lands. The municipal authorities, for their part, reacted to the outrage by boasting to the press that they had postponed the eviction for eight days because one of the camp's women had just given birth. (La Opinión, Cúcuta, Nov. 22; Radio Caracol, La W Radio, Nov. 21)

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