Prayers for Peacemakers, 12 September 2018 Colombia

A campesina from Las Pavas salvages wood from a home she and her family had to abandon. The isolation in the 3000 hectares of 
disputed land leaves the campesinxs vulnerable to violence from company security, and also from inclement weather.  
Photo: Caldwell Manners/CPT

Please accompany the peacemakers of Las Pavas, with your prayers.  Pray for their continuing strength, courage and resilience. Pray to strengthen their togetherness while they continue to seek peace and justice in light of the recent elections.

In early June, the Agencia Nacional de Tierras (ANT), the National Land Agency, delivered to the campesinxs of Las Pavas papers that showed the agency’s resolution declaring a majority of the land in dispute now belongs to the state, which means the families of Las Pavas will be able to continue living on it and farming it.  It also means palm oil company Aportes San Isidro would have to vacate the 300 hectares of land taken forcefully and violently by the company from the farming community in the south of Bolivar.

The agency took eleven months after the Consejo del Estado, the highest court in Colombia that decides over administrative matters, ruled in favor of the resolution of eminent domain over the appeal filed by the company. Such land, under Colombian law, should be guaranteed to campesinxs and not be used for large-scale agribusiness.

The promise of land restitution is now in limbo after the recent highly polarized presidential elections. Over the last two weeks, the community has suffered damages to their property.  Fences have been cut, crops destroyed, and even the new boundary markers—installed by the land agency to demarcate state land—have been uprooted. The campesinxs reported seeing Aportes San Isidro security personnel leaving the site around the time the damage was done.

Continuing a repetitive pattern, last week, the military accompanied José Ernesto Macías, owner of the Aportes San Isidro, to Las Pavas, generating fear in the village of over a hundred families who have consistently taken bold action to exert their right of return. The armed forces have historically shown up at the behest of the company, often with negative consequences to the campesinxs. While the military accompanies the owner of the company, the government pays no attention to the threats and violence the campesinxs face. Though the lawyers representing Las Pavas have filed one official complaint after another and made numerous inquiries, the local government has yet to respond.

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