New death threats against land claimant

Death threats to a land claimant in Curvaradó and stalking and harassment of the family of Manuel Ruiz reveal the degree of control of paramilitary structures in the banana-growing region and Lower Atrato River Valley.

Belisario José Marzan Montaño, a member of the Lower Council of Caño Claro in the Curvaradó River Basin, was threatened with death for the second time by cattle ranchers of the Ramirez family.

“If you do not leave the territory, we will kill you (lo pelamos),” was the threat Belisario heard uttered by bad-faith occupant and businessman William Ramirez, which forced him to flee for the third time.

Belisarius returned last March to Curvaradó, where his family has lived for 30 years on an 80-hectare property, after being displaced for about a year.

In April 2011 bad-faith occupiers of collectively held lands threatened after his return in 2007. On that occasion cattle rancher William Ramirez sent the following message with his employees: “My boss asks me to tell you that you deserve to be a shot with an AK or a shotgun (gabin).”

Along with the threats, the employees of the businessman destroyed 2 hectares of cassava and timber forest belonging to [Belisario, who is a]… member of the town council.

As a result of this threat, Belisario was forced to move to Chigorodó. He denounced these threats that year to the Prosecutor’s branch office.

Following the current instance of forced displacement, trusting that progress would have been made in the investigation of the prior instance, Belisario returned to denounce the new occurrence. The town council member was met with two surprises. The SPOA system and the Prosecution Office’s SIFUF did not register any complaint about the events of 2011, and officials suggested he go to the Prosecution Office of Rio Sucio, seven hours away, to file the new complaint.

Patricia Sanchez [and] Adalbis and Marisel Ruiz, relatives of assassination victims Manuel and Samir Ruiz [whose bodies were found March 27] – the former a recognized claimant to lands in Curvaradó – have been followed and harassed by men with radios in the municipality of Apartadó, where they have spent the last twelve days as displaced persons.

Including Belisario, forty-nine land claimants in Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó are currently under threat. The modus operandi, aims and motivations of paramilitaries indicate that they are involved in an organized criminal enterprise to assure forms of land use that fit the interests of business owners, bad-faith occupiers, and beneficiaries of paramilitary operations and procedural fraud.

The ongoing nature of the threats points to both the absence of effective investigative measures that could dismantle the criminal structures and disrupt their profitability, and state responsibility in these operations. The undisguised operation of paramilitaries could not have occurred without the complicity of the 17th Brigade and the Urabá police force, as corroborated by dozens of testimonials. The national government has not taken effective measures to protect claimants of collectively held lands.

Bogota, D.C. April 13, 2012

Commission for Justice and Peace