COLOMBIA: Las Pavas community resists illegal palm planting

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CPTnet
17 July 2012
COLOMBIA: Las Pavas community resists illegal palm planting 

An
oil palm grower that has operated on the contested land of Las Pavas for years is attempting to extend its plantation to
areas legally designated for use by displaced farmers.

In
late June, over
250 of the farmers’ young banana trees were destroyed and 40 cows went missing
.
This act occurred during a visit from the governmental rural land titling
agency INCODER aimed at resolving the dispute.

Aggressive
action notched up the week of 9 July as workers for Aportes San Isidro (ASI) came
to plant palm on land the farmers’ had cultivated. The farmers formed human
blockades and a CPT Colombia team member was assaulted while documenting the
conflict.

On
Monday, 9 July, palm workers from the region gathered at the company’s ranch
adjacent to the community’s cluster of small houses. Heavily armed police
arrived soon afterward. When the community explained that Colombia’s Constitutional Court had upheld the community’s right to be on the land
with the INCODER decision pending, the police stated that the company could not
plant palm.

 
  Las Pavas farmers block
palm plantation workers from entering their land.

The
moment the police were gone, however, the palm workers disobeyed their orders
and proceeded to plant. The Las Pavas community sprang into action, standing in
front of tractors carrying palm to block their entrance to the land. Their nonviolent
action forced the workers to carry the plants to a field a few kilometers away.

The
next day, ASI workers planted still more illegal palm, and the community called
the police. Police arrived by helicopter mid-morning and promised to mediate
the situation. INCODER issued a statement
calling ASI’s planting illegal and clarifying that INCODER had instructed
Bolivar Department’s Police Commander, Colonel Jorge Vargas, to “avoid illegal
planting of palm until the final [ownership] decision is reached.” The planting
continued. Police said they could do nothing without a judicial order. 

By
Wednesday, 11 July, the community was waiting on the rural municipality’s mayor,
INCODER, and other government entities to stop the company from planting. As
desperation mounted, the farmers reactivated
their blockade. Tensions ran high and
manifested in snide remarks from the palm workers. In one tense moment broadcast
by national news program Noticias Uno, the palm company’s lawyer slapped
a CPTer
who was documenting events.

As of 16 July, ASI’s illegal palm planting and the
community’s nonviolent resistance and defense of the land continued. Colombia’s Minister of Agriculture added his
voice to INCODER’s repeated pronouncements against the illegal planting,
according to a 17 July report on
the Vanguardia.com news web site.

video posted on
youtube documents aggression against the farmers in Las Pavas (available in
Spanish only at this time).

CPT
Colombia invites prayer support for the farmers as they defend the land and
their right to work it.

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