Colombian community writes open letter to Santos to deal with threats

Posted on Mar 19 2014 - 9:23am by Rico
(Photo: Noti Mundo)

A rural advocacy group has written an open letter to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos highlighting threats it allegedly received from a locally based palm oil company, local media reported Wednesday.

The Farmers Association of Buenos Aires (ASOCAB) won the United Nation’s 2013 National Peace Price for its efforts to reclaim land taken by armed groups. Now, the group is claiming that the Empresa Palmera Aportes San Isidro S.A.S palm oil company has physically threatened community members and “used every mechanism to intimidate us,” according to the El Espectador newspaper.

The letter asks President Santos to intervene in the Peñon municipality in the northern state of Bolivar, where alleged “systematic aggression” by the company’s security team continues to threaten the small farming community of Las Pavas.

According to ASOCAB, employees of the company “repeatedly and physically assaulted community members, threatened to sexually abuse our daughters, burned several of our settlement ranches, poisoned our cattle and damaged our crops.”

As a recognized community group, ASOCAB added that they believe the state needs to protect their personal rights and the right to live and work off their land, which is “a source of food for our families and the region,” Las 2 Orillas news reported.

The ASOCAB includes relatives of families living in Las Pavas, who were displaced by the Central Bolivar Bloc of the now-demobilized AUC paramilitary group before returning to their land.

In November 2013, the group received the UN National Peace Prize, with 464 of its members recognized by the Colombian government as victims of the ongoing 50-year armed conflict.

Displacement is one of the most common mass crimes perpetrated over the course of the conflict. Armed guerrilla and paramilitary groups have forced millions of people from their lands. The 2011 Victims Law provides, in theory, for the recuperation of stolen property. Most claims to date, however, are still awaiting processing, and in many cases, victims face active resistance to their return.

Palm oil companies are only one of a number of large-scale industries that have purchased expansive tracts of stolen land from actors in the armed conflict. In many cases, these companies have proven ties to the paramilitary organizations that sieze the land in the first place.

In the state of Bolivar in particular, human rights groups recorded extensive collaboration between palm oil companies and paramilitary groups during the early 2000s.


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