COLOMBIA: Sixty farming families violently evicted from their lands in El Guayabo

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CPTnet
19 December 2017

COLOMBIA:  Sixty farming families
violently evicted from their lands in El Guayabo

On
Wednesday, 13 December 2017, municipal authorities in Puerto Wilches evicted sixty
farming families from the land they farm to ensure the food security of their
families and the inhabitants of the township of El Guayabo.   Police violently displaced the community from
eleven farms that they have been harvesting for thirty years, causing a
humanitarian crisis.

Campesinx farmers observe while Mr. Lopez’s hired men destroy their house

In a
process full of irregularities, the police arrived at 9:30 a.m. beginning the
eviction without having notified the occupants as required by law. Two police
checkpoints blocked a public road for about two hours, preventing the people
who lived on the land, the community lawyer Jorge Gómez Lizarazo, and national
and international organizations from witnessing the eviction. The order was
executed without the presence of the municipal judge of Puerto Wilches and
without the guarantees ordered by the National Prosecutor’s Office and the
National Land Agency (ANT) set in place to respond to the communities’ status as
victims.

The
police inspector—the public official in charge of executing the judge’s orders—refused
to meet with the lawyer, Jorge Gómez Lizarazo, and did not present himself for
the procedure. Likewise the municipal ombudsman, the guarantor responsible for
ensure the upholding of human rights, demonstrated his clear bias against the
community by not intervening on their behalf. Throughout the procedure it was
Rodrigo Lopez Henao, the land claimant, who gave orders to captain Rivera of
the police. Dozens of police from the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad fired tear gas at
the community and protected the men hired by Mr. Lopez so they could enter the
farms, knock down houses, and destroy crops. This was the culmination of
several irregular eviction attempts and continuous acts violence against the
community for the past five years by Mr. Lopez.

In the context of
post-agreements signed between the government and the guerrilla group FARC, it
is extremely alarming that a population recognized as victims who should be
protected and compensated, is instead being revictimized by the state. The
first point of the agreements speak of comprehensive rural reform to ensure
land for peasant farmer campesinos. This eviction is one of many examples of
the Colombian state giving priority to large landowners who have never lived or
worked on the lands they claim. In addition, part of the land in question is
state land and only the ANT can take legal action over these lands. The ANT has
a duty to enter the region and clarify the boundaries of state lands as it not
a judge’s jurisdiction to preside over cases involving state lands.

The community and supporting
organizations are meeting with the authorities to demand an investigation by
the National Prosecutor’s Office regarding all irregularities surrounding the
legal proceedings brought forth by Rodrigo Lopez Henao to claim these lands,
not just those involving the eviction on 13 December. They also demand
guarantees for the people of El Guayabo, a recognized victim community of human
rights activists, who depend on the land to support their families. Finally,
the National Land Agency must survey and demarcate and take concrete actions
with regards to state owned lands.

Community members’ belongings piled up beside the river after their eviction.
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