Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie

Justicia y Paz : Choco

Chocó's communities

Please note that the PASC is no longer accompanying Choco's communities.

The PASC  was founded in 2003 to accompany the communities in the Choco. In its first years, the accompaniment trips were completely spent in the Bajo Atrato humanitarian zones of the Jiguamiendo and the Curvarado basins.  The first PASC campaign against  agro-fuels is directly linked to its communities’ history

 

After about fifteen years of struggle, the communities in resistance located in the Jiguamiando and the Curvarado basins have obtained a judgment from the constitutional court ordering the restitution of their land, illegally occupied by megaplantations of African Palm.  Since their first displacement in 1997 and the recognition of their collective property title in 2001, the communities of the Jiguamiando and Curvarado organized themselves into Humanitarian Zones and Biodiversity Zones and benefitted from both national and international accompaniment.





The communities’ lawyers have succeeded in documenting the links between these « development » projects, financed by the Colombian Government and International Aid Programs, and the paramilitary structures still in place.  The topic of African Palm in the Choco has become, after years of struggle, a national issue about the restitution of land to farming communities, whose resiedents have been the victims of paramilitary crimes.  The government of President Santos, in an effort to distinguish itself from its predecessor (Uribe), maintains a discourse in favor of land restitution, but government actions speak the contrary.  Despite the court order, the Palm plantations remain intact.

On the ground, the discrepancy between government discourse and action is lived out every day by communities as land invasion, death threats, and criminalization.

Criminalization :

African Palm owners have framed prominent leaders of the minor Councils who live in the Humanitarian and Biodiversity Zones of the Curvarado and Jiguimiando as being members of the FARC-EP.   This legal strategy, on the one hand, prevents the representatives from the communities from testifying against the Palm owners in court and, on the other hand, puts into doubt the leaders' right to the land.

Paramilitary presence :

Since mid-April 2011, there has been a resurgence of paramilitary troops armed with AK-47s in these communities.  Prior to this, since the so-called demobilization process of 2005, paramilitaries had maintained a more discreet presence, sporting civilian clothes, guns and radios. 

Recolonization of the territory:

Since mid-December 2010, more than 200 hectares of the collective Curvarado territory are illegally occupied by invaders  and protected by paramilitaries.  These invaders are, generally speakig, farmers from other regions who are not involved in resistance processes and who are ready to accept « development » projects.  The goal of their installation on the territory is to « return »  the land to the communities that are open to negotiating with the industry.  It is thought that representatives for the Banana companies are behind this renewed land occupation.  While an eviction notice has been issued to the illegal occupants, no action has been taken because the Uraba regional police department claims it does not have enough employees to carry out the eviction.

History of a forced displacement:

In 1997, under the pretext of FARC-EP guerrilla presence in the region, the department of Chocó underwent a series of military operations named ‘Operation Genesis’ under the command of General Rito Alejo del Rio Rojas of the 17th Brigade of the National Army. Simultaneously, while Army helicopters bombarded the region, paramilitary groups identified as AUC (United Self-defence of Colombia) invaded civilian villages. They ordered the people to leave their territory and committed massacres while they burned down houses and crops. Communities of the Jiguimiandó, Curvaradó and Cacarica river basins were among the hundreds of communities who were thus forced to flee their villages immediately with hardly the clothes on their backs. Today, almost 10 years later, the perpetrators of the crimes committed at the time of ‘Operation Genesis’ remain in complete impunity.

History of a struggle for Life and Land

Since their displacement, the communities were forced to live on the periphery of villages in inhumane conditions, crowded into temporary housing, dependent on frequently insufficient food aid. Unaware of eachother's existence, the Afro-Colombian and mestizo communities of Jiguamiandó and Cacarica progressively began to organize a return to their respective lands.

By the end of 1999 and the beginning of 2000, in different stages, the communities were finally able to return to their ancestral lands. The communities of Jiguamiandó as well as Cacarica asserted themselves as populations engaging in civil resistance, reclaiming their rights to Life, Land, Self-determination, Freedom, Justice and Dignity. They developed mechanisms of protection enabling them to continue civil resistance amidst the armed conflict: the ´Humanitarian Zones´ were created, two situated in Cacarica and three in Jiguiamandó. Parts of the communities of Curvaradó, living in Jiguamiandó, have since created two new Humanitarian Zones on their territory (April and October 2006). The ‘Humanitarian Zones’ are physically delimited spaces where many communities have regrouped to live together. They serve to distinguish a civilian population living within an armed conflict, not to be confused with armed actors. They are opposed to the vicious exploitation of natural resources on their land and to the blood-stained development model imposed from above. The communities of Jiguamiandó, as those of Cacarica, seek to continue living freely on their land, practicing traditional subsistence agriculture.

In the case of the communities in the Community Council of the Jiguamiandó River Basin and the 9 communities of Curvaradó, situated in the department of Chocó, there are currently 1500 hectares of African Palm sown illegally by the Urapalma Company on the communities´ collective territory to which they hold the legal collective title, under law 70 of 1993 which protects ancestral territory of Afro-Colombian communities. In the case of the CAVIDA communities in Cacarica, department of Chocó, the Maderas del Darien Corporation has been for many years illegally cutting immense quantities of high quality lumber on the collective territory of the communities.

 

Colombie
CO

Latest

Paramilitary presence and acts to repopulate the region continue in Curvarado

15 December 2010

Second bad-faith invasion and occupation of collective properties, intense paramilitary presence, and steps taken to repopulate in new areas of Curvaradó collective territory.

The following is our most recent Historical Documentation and Ethical Censure to continued controlling paramilitary operations amidst Brigade Seventeen, between Brisas, Curvaradó and Ríosucio.

Arrest warrants for members of Jiguamiando and Curvarado communities

1 November 2010

Given the prosecution against human rights defenders and leaders who defend the right to truth, justice, reparation and restitution of lands, we urge human rights organizations in the United States and churches from around the world to require the United States Congress and State Department to abstain from endorsing or signing any trade agreement with Colombia, until there is a cessation of prosecution and a verification of the real, fair and effective restitution of the usurped lands.

Letter to the Canadian Embassy in Colombia

1 February 2010

Montreal, January 28 2009

Att. Jennifer Henderson
Canadian Ambassy in Colombia

Copy : James Lambert, Director General for Latin America and the Caribbean, Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Report on agrofuel impact

1 August 2009

International mission to verify the impact of agrofuel production on 5 zones affected by oil palm and sugarcane monocrops in Colombia.

Militarized mining tramples ancestral rights of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities in the Chocó

15 February 2009

The Chocó is a biogeographical region that forms part of the neotropics (meaning that it contains the largest area of tropical rainforest). Its high rainfall levels, tropical temperatures and isolation have helped make it one of the world’s most biologically diverse regions as well. In Colombia it encompasses the Pacific Coast region and, among others, the department of Chocó, located between the jungles of Darién and the basins of the Atrato and San Juan Rivers.

Threats from recent days have become actions

10 September 2008

Threats from recent days have become actions

Strangers have entered the humanitarian zones under the cover of night

A member of Justicia y Paz was kidnapped for 1.5 hours.

The situation has never been so disturbing in the past several months.
PASC member Tania Hallé is still on the ground with the communities.

See below for a model letter and a summary of the facts.
If you send the model letter, don't forget to send us a hidden copy
(BCC), as well as any response you receive from Colombian authorities.

Thank you in advance,

Oil palm grows by the force of violence

28 July 2008

Since the beginning of the decade, all the areas of expansion of oil palm plantations have coincided geographically with areas of paramilitary presence and expansion, to the extent that some of the new plantations being developed have been financed as farming projects for the same demobilised paramilitary from the AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – United Self-Defence Force of Colombia) who had previously made incursions into these very areas.

Business leader seeks hired killer, ordering assassinations of Ligia Maria Chaverra and Manuel Denis Blandon.

21 February 2008

In spite of recognition of collective land ownership, deforestation, expansion of cattle ranching and palm planting and fruit extraction continue

FRANCISCO SANTOS

Vice President of the Republic

CARLOS HOLGUN SARDI

Minister of the Interior

FERNANDO ARAUJO

Minister of Foreign Relations

JUAN LOZANO

Minister of the Environment

MARIO IGUARAN ARANA

Federal Prosecutor

EDGARDO MAYA VILLAZON

Attorney General

VOLMAR PEREZ

Nacional People’s Ombudsman

JULIO CESAR TURBAY QUINTERO

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