Nearly two years after police forcibly evicted 123 families from Las Pavas, the community returned home on 4 April, 2011.
Accompanied by national and international supporters including CPT, the families defied threats of violence directed at their leaders, gathered their belongings and walked for two hours to reach their lands.
Police were waiting for them but offered no resistance as community members began the work of building houses and planting crops.
Several weeks later, the Las Pavas community celebrated another victory when Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled in favor of their land claim. The ruling upheld the legality of the community’s process to gain title to the land, declared the eviction of the families illegal, and ordered that the land be returned to the families. This decision trumps all other lower court rulings.
The Las Pavas families have ancestral ties to the land and have resisted dispossession multiple times over generations. In 2006, the community was in the midst of a legal process to reclaim their land when palm oil company Daabon Organic bought it from the previous absentee landowner, a family member of infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, who had lost his right to the land due to abandonment. On 14 July 2009, police forced the community off the land.
While the community’s nonviolent return to the land and the court ruling constitute a crucial triumph for the Las Pavas community, the risk of violence continues.
How Daabon will respond to these developments remains uncertain. Since January, armed groups opposed to the government’s land restitution plan have killed nine leaders of small farming communities involved in land claims.
CPT-Colombia thanks everyone who responded to calls for action on behalf of the families of Las Pavas over the past two years. During the community’s return, international supporters held solidarity vigils in Bogotá (Colombia), New Orleans (USA), Toronto (Canada), Berlin (Germany), and London (UK) among other places. Please continue to hold the Las Pavas community in prayer.