Yesterday, the Constitutional court removed two articles from the Agrarian Law that have been used by large landowners – who have acquired land through illegal means – and have prevented the Colombian state in recovering these said lands. From now forward, INCODER’s – the Colombian institute that regulates land titling – ruling cannot be suspended in the event of an appeal for revision.
Two years ago, INCODER ruled that the disputed territory of Las Pavas belonged to the state, through a process of imminent domain.
The community of Las Pavas has seen significant rise in attacks over the last month by security personnel from palm oil company Aportes San Isidro. Since mid-march company security head, Mario Marmol and about 70 other company workers have harassed community members preventing them from preparing the land for the planting season. They continue to prevent free movement and have even begun constructing a company house right next to where the community members are cultivating new land. The police continue to call this a neighborly dispute and have refrained from taking effective action.
La Asociación de Campesinos de Buenos Aires – ASOCAB
En ejercicio de nuestros derechos como víctimas de desplazamiento forzado en proceso de retorno a nuestro territorio y con el ánimo de volver las cosas a como eran antes del despojo que se nos hiciera el 14 de julio de 2009, tras decisiones judiciales ilegales que fueron dejadas sin efecto por la Corte Constitucional en su sentencia T-267 de 2011, en los primeros días del mes de marzo iniciamos labores agrícolas en varios sectores de la Hacienda Las Pavas que no estaban siendo explotados de nuestras tierras, una vez estuvimos allí fuimos agredidos por trabajadores de la empresa liderados por el señor MARIO MARMOL MONTERO, como pusimos resistencia fueron aumentando el número de jornaleros hasta llegar a alrededor de 70 hombres, contratando campesinos de la región para ponerlos a chocar con nosotros.
On Wednesday, September 17 the Victims Unit (Unidad de Victimas) and the Colombian Institute for Rural Development (INCODER) visited the Las Pavas community to move the Collective Reparation process forward. They also investigated violations that the Aportes San Isidro (ASI) palm oil company has committed against the community. The first was the reinstallation of a gate that prevents Las Pavas community members from travelling on the main road to their farms, forcing them to take a difficult detour through the jungle. The second was the construction of a house and resettlement of a family on Las Pavas land. The latter is an illegal invasion of state land.
In his famous address at Mennonite World Conference, Ron Sider described Shalom as “being in right relationship with God, neighbor and the earth.” Shalom, he says, “means not only the absence of war, but also a land flowing with milk and honey. It includes just economic relationships with the neighbor. It means the fair division of land so that all families can earn their own way. It also means the Jubilee and sabbatical release of debts so that great extremes of wealth and poverty do not develop among God’s people.”1
When I walk through the community of El Guayabo on a peaceful day, Shalom is what I see.
On August 4th, the community of Las Pavas publicly denounced constant aggressions committed by the palm company Aportes San Isidro and the lack of government response regarding the actions of this company. The community, to whom the government has allocated the Las Pavas farm (2012) and who are legally recognized as having been displaced by paramilitaries in 2003 (2013), continue to be affected by the palm company’s disregard for the legal system. Aportes San Isidro has committed various attacks against the community which generate terror, despair, and social breakdown in the community. The community of Las Pavas also denounces the lack of guarantees from the State, to whom they have reported many times their vulnerable situation and the violence enacted against their members.
On April 16th, 2014, 12 people from different places traveled by van, motorized canoe, and foot. The goal was to reach the community of Las Pavas, to meet their people and carry out our main purpose for the week (to organize a non-violent public action) and that was what gave us strength to continue on our route.
We arrived to a community in mourning, days of pain for the death of a community member. Rogelio Campos Gonzales, also known as “Pipio”, died on April 13th, after suffering a heart attack. Those living on the farm remain with the question, “if the patrolled gate did not exist, would it have been possible to avoid this tragedy?”
The gate for the people of Las Pavas represents oppression, death, isolation, discrimination, humiliation, and prison.
The cycle of life has been reversed. Trees defeat the earth. I do not like to say your name, Oil Palm. Scents of gunpowder and pictures of distressed mothers because of a damn tree. When I first heard your name and learned how your fruit could be squeezed and the juice used as a replacement for petroleum oil, I rushed to interrupt my teacher. “How can we bring this tree to Kurdistan”, I wondered.
This damn tree sent thousands of Colombian families to become fugitives from their homes.
The Farmers Association of Buenos Aires (ASOCAB), yesterday, delivered a letter to President Juan Manuel Santos summarizing the continued attacks and threats received by the community of Las Pavas. They appealed to him on his commitment to victims, “Mr. President, you have shown your commitment to victims. By virtue of this commitment we come to you, with the hope that the State would indeed act in our favor, and avoid the repetition of incidences that victimize us.”
The community restates their commitment to “peacefully insisting,” – despite attacks by palm oil company, Aportes San Isidro´s armed security – that the law provides the means to their complete ownership and right to the land.