13 January. Colombia. “It all started on 17 September 2002. The situation with the paramilitaries was really bad around here. And then, a decade later, on 11 December 2012, they started taking legal action,” recounted a member of the community of El Guayabo y Bellaunión (Municipality of Puerto Wilches, Departament of Santander), who were evicted from their land on December 13.
On January 12 of this year, both communities embarked on a deliberative process, backed by the National Agrarian Coordination and the Dialogue Commission for Southern Bolívar and Central and Southern Cesar. The result of the meetings was a decision to return to the land from which they were evicted by force on 13 December 2017. Around 11:00 a.m., a hundred or so people reoccupied the land chanting “land, land.”
In December, some 60 families were left homeless and without land from which to derive their subsistence. In January, in a gesture of solidarity, residents of other regions such as Costa Caribe, Centro Oriente, Southern Bolívar, Cesar, and Southern Cesar joined this land reclamation action.
“The land agency ruled that they couldn’t evict us until the status of the deeds is clarified. This is vacant land that we’ve been occupying for over 40 years, yet on 13 December 2017 they came to kick us off. There are no guarantees. The strategy is different now, less violent. But the goal is the same: to remove us from the land where we were born and grew up,” concluded this community member.
Starting in 1977, the communities embarked on a process with the Colombian Agrarian Reform Institute (Incora) to obtain deeds to this vacant land and obtain recognition that they are the official owners of it.
But in 2002, Rodrigo López Henao, a large landowner claiming to have been displaced by the guerrillas, began taking a series of actions, both illegal and legal, to reclaim this land. López Henao does not appear in the victims registry of the National Victims Unit.
A hundred people retook possession of the San Felipe farm occupied by caretakers in the employ of Mr. Lopez Henao, who has been taking both legal and illegal measures for a decade and a half to evict the families living on the land for over 40 years.
The community in attendance for this occupation is demanding the immediate presence of national, regional, and international supervisory bodies. They have corresponded with the offices of the United Nations and the National Ombudsman, to which they wish to entrust the occupants of the farm who were evacuated from the site with their belongings (including a 28-calibre rifle, a weapon little used for tending livestock).
This community owes its name to a time when the “drinking men” of the locality would go to other towns on Saturday nights to “raise a wrist,” returning to their land on Sunday to sleep off the hangover. Its founders were loggers who sold timber to build the boats navigating on the Magdalena River. The puckishness of the name is reflected in the way this community has kept up its strength, hope, and good humour in the face of a contested eviction process.
See also aussi : “Tierra ! Tierra ! ”, récupération de terres dans le Magdalena
Translate fromColombia Informa, Comunidad El Guayabo retorna a sus tierras