COLOMBIA: Garzal residents receive land titles


6 April 2013
COLOMBIA: Garzal residents receive land

  Samuel and Eunice show off their land title. 

On 3 April, gathered under two large trees,
Jhenifer Mojica, the Colombian federal land authority’s Deputy
Director of Rural Land, returned sixty-four titles to members of the community
of Garzal. “Your unity has been exemplary to all of us,” she said. “Garzal is
an emblematic case, one of the sixteen hand-picked by President Santos to receive
immediate attention.”

In 2003 the community was defrauded by INCODER
under a technical guise. A representative of the institute unofficially
collected their original titles, claiming that the paperwork was under revision
of a legal procedure, while assuring them that the titles would be returned to
them soon after the minor adjustment was made. The sixty-four families never
got their titles back but were instead accused of illegally occupying land that
belonged to the late Manuel Enrique Barreto. In 1989 Barreto fled the region
when a drug laboratory on his farm was raided by officials as part of an
operation against Medellin Cartel leader Pablo Escobar. By late 2003 three Barreto
returned to the area with the support of the Central Bolivar Block of the AUC (United Self-Defense Forces) paramilitary group.
When he returned he brought fraudulent titles laying claim to the land and
violently threatened to displace the families.

The sixty-four titles are a fourth of the total
titles that are expected to be distributed to the rest of the community.
INCODER will spend the next two weeks surveying and mapping the water bodies
that surround the communities of Garzal and Nueva Esperanza to complete the
process. “Once we’re done with our current survey we hope to have titles ready
for the rest of the community by the first quarter of next year,” said Mojica.

The communities of Garzal and Nueva Esperanza
have engaged in a legal process and with the support and solidarity of over a
dozen national and international organizations, have been persistently hopeful
that this day would come.

An emotional and joyful Reverend Salvador, speaking on behalf the community, gave thanks: “What God
promises, God fulfills.” 


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