Las Pavas Community Suffers New Intimidation and Harassment Tactics

Las Pavas Community Suffers New Intimidation and Harassment Tactics
Burned house and kitchen | Photo: Marian DeCouto

Burned house and kitchen | Photo: Marian DeCouto

Aggressions have increased in 2016 as the palm oil company Aportes San Isidro continues to harass and threaten the community of Las Pavas adding to their tactics the offering of monetary handouts, housing alternatives, signing lease contracts, and money towards agricultural projects with the promise to let them cultivate in peace.

The farming community’s association ASOCAB continues to denounce these aggressions to no avail.  Even though there has been judicial and administrative movement that would appear to favour the community, the reality on the ground remains the same.  For this reason ASOCAB has published a public denouncement of the most recent events in hopes that the authorities will put an end to the impunity.

ASOCAB demands that the government “investigate and sanction those responsible, both the owner as well as the security guards, who are blatantly violating our fundamental rights and liberties”.  The community also asks that the government to guarantee their safety and to follow through with the allocation and titling of the Las Pavas land that the National Institute of Rural Development (INCODER) has deemed state land.

A summary of the most recent incidents is as follows:

  1. Demostenes Miranda Cuy was subjected to offers of housing and money for agricultural projects throughout October and November 2015 with promises that he and his family would no longer be harassed.  On November 24 Miranda went to El Banco, Magdalena to sign the lease agreement.  Upon arrival, Wilmar Martinez, a palm company employee, told Miranda that he must “go now to Barranquilla; the safety of you and your family depends on it”.  He was then taken to Barranquilla to the Aportes San Isidro office where he was forced to memorize a declaration that he would make against ASOCAB.  On November 27 Jose Ernesto Macias, the company’s owner and legal representative, interviewed Miranda on tape where he was obligated to declare that he had gone to Barranquilla voluntarily, that the Las Pavas community had never been forcibly displaced, that it was all a construct of ASOCAB, that Las Pavas land had never been abandoned, and that Emilio Escobar had given the land over to the community to farm but no one had wanted to so he sold it to the palm company.
  2. In the evening on March 8, 2016 the house where Demostenes and his family used to live was torched.  Some ASOCAB members declare that “they have seen palm company workers hanging around that house and camping out there after Demostenes and his family were displaced for fear of repercussions” after Miranda denounced the acts against him by the palm company and the direct involvement of Jose Macias, the legal representative of Aportes San Isidro.On March 18, 2016 the company burned the rest of the house that remained, serving as a clear warning and threat for having recanted and a message of intimidation for the rest of the community.
  3. On February 13, 2016 the community took photos and videos of Mario Marmol and another palm company employee who were gesturing and aiming firearms with scopes at the community encampment in order to terrorize and create fear.
  4. On February 14, 2016 while in the village of Buenos Aires, ASOCAB member, Alejandro Guzman was attacked by Tabis Martinez Redondo who began punching him.  Other members of the community came to intervene when the aggressor’s brothers arrived and began to beat the other community members.  One of these brothers, Gregorio Martinez Redondo who is supposedly a demobilized paramilitary from the region, pulled out a gun and threatened all those present.
  5. On March 4, 2016 while working on his farm, Pedro Martinez was approached by three unknown youth who informed him that “he could no longer farm on his land, and that it would be better if he left.” They said that they worked for the company and did not live in the region. Since the incident, Martinez and his family have been fled the region for fear they may be harmed, leaving behind their farm and animals unattended.
  6. Taking advantage of the extensive dry season, Aportes San Isidro security have set fire to scarce community food crops and the little pasture that remains.

Read the denoucement here [spanish]