Statement about the Agriculture and Interior Ministers visit to Curvaradó

On March 18, 2011 we held a meeting in the Camelias Humanitarian Zone with the Minister of the Interior and Justice, Dr. Germán Vargas Lleras, and the Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Juan Camillo Restrepo. Both ministers reiterated their adherence to the contents of the Constitutional Court Order of May, 2010, that includes the development of the census, the description of communities, the assembly for land elections, legal representative elections, and the development of productive projects that facilitate social and economic stability in the communities, that condition the protection of communal integrity.

The ministers were accompanied, among others, by the Vice Minister of the Interior and Justice, Aurelio Iragorri, the questionable superintendent of notary and registration, Jorge Enrique Vélez, the director of INCODER, Juan Manuel Ospina, the director of Ethnic Minorities and Races from the Interior Ministry, Vanessa Palomeque, the Ombudsman Volmar Pérez, the director of Social Action, Luis Mario Gaviria, and the 17th Brigade commander, General Giraldo.

1. In particular, the outcome of the visit is the presentation of a timetable for land restitution in October of this year, 2011, and not the restitution of 25 thousand hectares of collective property that the press reported.

2. They reiterated the annulment of illegal land titles registered by offices and notaries of Public Registration. This success of annulment was due to the judicial and administrative work that we have delegated to the Justice and Peace Commission, who have endured a great pressure that has accompanied their legal work. The new Superintendent ratified nothing new, but instead ratified that which already happened in 2008. He is accused of being a paramilitary beneficiary in a denouncement by demobilized paramilitary, Juan Carlos Sierra, who was extradited to the U.S.

3. The businessmen Holger Menese, chief U.S. marketing officer of plantains for Banacol, and Carlos William of Unibán entered our Humanitarian Zone without our permission in the middle of the visit. Both companies have been named in public confessions of paramilitaries as paramilitary collaborators. Particularly, the Urabá director of Unibán has an oil palm nursery in our collective territory of Curvaradó, and Banacol offered plantain seeds to the recent illegal invaders of our territory. According to the information received, they entered onto our land with the intermediation of the questioned director of Acción Social [Social Action], Luis Mario Gaviria.
We appreciate that the Vice Minister of the Interior has been respectful and supportive of our call for the withdrawal of these businesses from our humanitarian area.

4. 17th Brigade General Giraldo questioned the writings and statements about the existing relationships between the regular military troops under his command and the paramilitaries. The military leader said that “this was before”, denying that in the midst of the armed conflict that is still alive in our territories, they continue their offensive against the FARC EP, in conjunction with paramilitaries, and denying that in reality the persecuted are we the campesinos.

5. In the region there remains a strong aggression of men, contracted by bad-faith business occupiers, to destroy our crops, and take out our livestock. In Caño Manso, the known paramilitary Pedro Tordecillas continues destructive actions like breaking fences, taking out our livestock and replacing them with businessmen’s livestock, to destroy our crops. In Caracolí, the same extensive cattle ranch businessmen recognize that they have armed men to maintain the usurped territories. In Camelias, the invasion continues, even though an eviction order exists. Now we are being told that the Carmen del Darién Municipal Inspector resigned. In Llano Rico and Caño Claro businessmen continue provoking displacements and damages to our crops.

All of these actions by bad-faith business occupiers have occurred in the presence of members of the 17th Brigade of the army. These soldiers have done nothing effective to prevent the situation, failing to comply with the Constitutional Court Order, which prohibits any commercial activity in the territory until the land restitution is resolved.

6. We reiterate that the paramilitary pressure has culminated in the bad-faith invasion and occupation of collective properties, and in threats against our food sovereignty, since three hectares of corn have been burned, plus the constant violent threats and judicial harassment.

7. Despite the policy actions ordering the eviction, the National Police, under the lead of Naranjo who knows the situation, has failed to act with efficiency. More than two months have passed since the municipal inspector’s decision in favor of an eviction, and the police have not complied with the ruling.

8. Some media outlets, among them, LaSillavací and, have said that one of the problems in the region is a division of the Afro-Colombian community in which one side, which wants palm, burned the crops of the other side. The reporters fail to recognize that in fact behind the burning are businessmen from the oil palm, extensive cattle ranching and plantain industries, plus the paramilitaries who operate with support from the 17th Brigade, all in order to prevent the land restitution to the real owners.

9. Although we clearly explain this situation to the government, we have not received even one response about these daily aggressions. To resolve the dire situation requires that good will becomes real life actions. How can you restore the land to its proper owners, if the bad-faith occupiers remain on the territory? How can you guarantee the protection of community members if all the aggressions by bad-faith occupiers have taken place in the presence of the same military?

10. There is a necessity of certain guarantees for the land restitution, which should include the legal eviction of the bad-faith occupiers, unconditional respect and protection of fundamental rights by the Public Security Forces, the dismantling of the paramilitaries, and support for community initiatives of eco-production, environmental protection, health and education.

Families of the lower councils associated with Humanitarian Zones and Biodiversity Zones of the Jiguamiandó and Curvaradó river basins
Camelias Humanitarian Zone, Curvaradó river basin, Municipality of Carmen del Darién-Chocó

March 19, 2011