COLOMBIA: Rural families celebrate ruling on Las Pavas

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CPTnet

26 November 2012

COLOMBIA: Rural families celebrate ruling
on Las Pavas

The
Colombian government’s rural land authority published a “definitive decision” on
14 November to expropriate all remaining properties of the estate known as Las
Pavas from oil palm grower Aportes San Isidro.

“With
the forfeiture process being definitive, [the case] will proceed to material
recuperation and titling in favor of the rural population,” reads a translated portion
of the press
release
from the Colombian Rural Development Institute (INCODER).

Plots
expropriated earlier this fall, primarily waterways and wetlands, never should
have been allowed to be privately held, the agency ruled.

 
  Farmers return to the Las Pavas estate, April 2011.

In
a November 16 statement, the Buenos Aires Farmers Association (ASOCAB) – whose
116 families Christian Peacemaker Teams’ Colombia project has accompanied since 2009 – gave thanks to God, to supporting
churches and other organizations, and to responsible government agencies. While
praising the decision, the families also called for its orderly fulfillment amid
ongoing threats.

In
recent months, Aportes San Isidro has stepped up intimidation tactics against ASOCAB
farmers, including land
invasion
, threats,
house destruction
and crop destruction. In light of “promised retaliation against our community and its leaders
because of this [INCODER] decision,” the ASOCAB statement includes a request for
security measures.

INCODER’s concern was expressed
by the agency’s Rural Lands Subdirector, Jhenifer Mojica, who said, “[INCODER]
now calls on the corresponding authorities to accompany the process and the
farmers to guarantee the rights of the people and organizations involved,” (quoted
in Colombian daily Vanguardia Liberal,
16 November).

How and when Colombian government
entities will implement the ruling remains to be seen. Aportes San Isidro and
its large oil palm extensions remain in portions of Las Pavas, while ASOCAB
members cultivate other portions.

The violence and oppression faced by
ASOCAB members in Las Pavas are emblematic of the problems of land-grabbing and
forcible displacement in the context of Colombia’s
decades-long armed conflict. Their persistent, faithful, nonviolent responses
to a catalog of wrongs have helped them hold together where other communities
may not have managed to do so.

The community’s endurance in struggle has enabled Las Pavas to
become a high-profile test case of a national effort to provide a legal framework
for land restitution undertaken since Juan Manuel Santos was elected President
in 2010, with some 27,000 claims registered to date. The effectiveness of the
land restitution effort will necessarily have a significant impact on prospects
for peace. It may also shape ongoing talks between the Colombian government and
FARC guerrillas.

ASOCAB
members “have hope that the journey ahead will be positive, and that we may
finally obtain what we have called The
Miracle of Las Pavas
.”

A translation of the full text of ASOCAB’s statement can be
found here.

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