The latest news for the struggle for human rights for all in Colombia
Share with Friends
Locomotive Threatens Dibulla
When the mining locomotive passes Dibulla it will leave the black mark of progress, of coal, on this territory rich in biodiversity. This peasant community, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, is known for its beautiful landscapes, which showcase a never-ending flirtation between the snow-capped Sierra Mountains and the Caribbean Sea.
The characteristics of its ecosystem – its mangroves and marshes - are unique in the world. It is also a habitat for endangered species, such as the American crocodile, and is a place where migratory birds find shelter and reproduce. Its marine life is equally rich: fish abound in this territory crossed by more than eight rivers, which make the land fertile and suitable for cultivation. There is no doubt that Dibulla appears blessed by Mother Nature.
However, this entire fragile and important ecosystem has now begun to suffer irreparable harm due to the construction of the Puerto Brisa multipurpose coal port. On April 9th, the 16 fishermen's associations in the municipality denounced the environmental disaster being created by the dredging of an access channel to the pier, which began on December 1, 2011.
More than 10 dolphins, catfish, grouper and sea turtles have died. Local artisanal fishermen announced this disturbing situation in a letter addressed to the public a few days before the Constitutional Court issues its ruling on the viability of the coal port.
Puerto Brisa is located in the basins of the Cañas, El Lagarto y Jerez Rivers. These points are connected by a system of wetlands that are interconnected at high tide, forming one large basin. The project would break this connection, which enables the completion of an important part of the cycle of life in the ecosystem, as animals migrate, nutrients flow, and fish climb up from the sea to the river to feed and breed.
Assessments and studies
The environmental license was granted by ignoring all contrary recommendations and disregarding all the studies showing that the environmental consequences of a project of this magnitude in the region would generate would far outweigh the benefits.
"Areas with significant environmental restrictions on port activity between Riohacha and Dibulla are preserved by their legally protected status. Only pleasure boats and ecotourism are permitted in these areas, which also form part of the Black Line of indigenous communities of the Sierras," according to the 2002 document, Conpes 3149.
However, by contrast, in Dibulla, large ships would dock to be loaded with carbon.
At the Alexander von Humboldt Biological Resources Research Institute, the Deputy Director of Environmental Licenses from the Ministry of Environment requested on June 11, 2003 an assessment of the environmental, social, and technical viability of the project. The Institute responded that the construction and operation of Puerto Brisa was not feasible. In addition to this report, there are ten more in the possession of the Ministry, issued by different institutions, which clearly state that no license should be awarded to such a project in Dibulla given the serious environmental implications.
Similarly, one of the arguments advanced for granting the license was denying the existence of coral reefs in the area where the harbor would be built. Fishermen strongly deny that claim.
"All of our fishing grounds, as we have known since ancient times, are related to coral reefs, from which we derive our livelihood and our food," they say in their letter. On April 7 they and a team of marine biologists conducted a dive in the area around the dredging site, finding two different species of corals, which refutes the statement by the highest environmental authority in Colombia.
The position of the Ministry of Environment regarding the approval or denial of the license was not clear at press time. This is evidenced by an internal memorandum dated August 26, 2002. "According to Technical Assessment 877 of August 22, 2002, Invemar (Institute of Marine and Coastal Research), the Technical Director of Ecosystems, and the Deputy Director of Licensing from the Ministry of the Environment all once analyzed the environmental impact study and determined that it is not a viable project; in that respect, it would imply the denial of the environmental permit requested by the petitioner, Puerto Brisa. Later (in the same Technical Assessment 877) terms of reference were provided for the preparation of an environmental impact assessment. So the technical assessment should be clarified by reaching a decision on whether the project is viable or not. It is contradictory to say it is not feasible, but at the same time to give terms of reference for an environmental impact study with a relocation to the harbor, with the same environmental implications."
While fishermen, indigenous peoples of the Sierra Nevada, some of the Dibullera population, and environmental organizations hope that the Constitutional Court will, in its ruling, declare the Puerto Brisa project unfeasible, another project, the MPX super coal port, threatens to transform the beautiful Dibulla landscapes into a post-apocalyptic region.
Puerto Brisa responds
Puerto Brisa is a project that has operated with an environmental license since 2006. In the years before the granting of the license, a rigorous environmental impact study was undertaken. All the stages of law were duly evaluated and approved by the Ministry of the Environment.
In accord with the environmental permit, they established records management and compensation plans that are being properly implemented and enforced.
To approve the start of dredging, Dimar (the National Maritime Authority) demanded that the activity be widely disseminated and publicized. The Ministry of Environment has made multiple visits to the project, verifying the dredging activity and found it to be satisfactory. For its part, Dimar appointed two permanent expert witnesses who have not reported any impact on the local fishermen.
Author: Samuel A. Losada Iriarte
Location: Note Provided
Date Published: April 24, 2012
Source: El Heraldo
Translated by: Steven Fake, a CSN volunteer translator
Letter from MOVICE to President Santos
Bogotá, D.C. March 5, 2012
Doctor Juan Manuel Santos Calderón
President of the Republic of Colombia
Receive a cordial and respectful greeting from the Movement of Victims of Crimes of the State. MOVICE is made up of 22 regional chapters, 4 international chapters (Mexico, Argentina, Spain and Belgium) and 24 human rights organizations, which make up its National Impulse Committee.
MOVICE has defined March 6 as the "world day of the victims of crimes of the state in Colombia." For this March 6 it has programmed as national mobilization that has as its epicenters the cities of Monetería and Villavicencio. Equally, we will be carrying out displays, meetings and memorial galleries in diverse cities of the country (see annex—Program).
The reasons for the mobilization are centered in the following aspects:
Since your taking power, you have said that you would carry out a land and development policy based on three main lines: 1 Restitution of the land of the victims of the armed conflict; 2 Formalizing rural land ownership; 3 Rural development. In this context your government has promoted several mobilizations with the victims who have lost their land, defending your commitment to what you have called the "agrarian revolution."
For MOVICE, restitution of land and goods that have been expropriated by intimidation and violence, as well as the conflicts that derive from the concentration of land ownership are one of the structural factors that explain the origin of political violence. As a consequence, an integral reparation for the victims of land seizure and abandonment is an obligation and duty of the Colombian state.
The process of land restitution confronts multiple difficulties in the political, factual, normative and institutional areas. If they are not overcome, they will not only impede the return of the land to the victims, but they will deepen the violence and the revictimization of those who are asking of the state guarantees and respect for their rights to the truth, justice, integral reparation and guarantees that this will not be repeated. Among the principle obstacles we distinguish the following:
1. Lack of Guarantees and Protection for Those Demanding their Land:
The murder of leaders of the organizations that are demanding land is one of the ways in which obstacles are put in the way of restitution in Colombia. Since 2005, more than 66 cases have been recorded and 40% of them, that is at least 26 victims were murdered between 2010 and 2011. Almost half of these victims appeared in the Caribbean coast.[i] (see annex)
In the hearing of the Commission for Follow-up on the Public Policy on Attention to Displacement [la Comisión de Seguimiento a la Política Pública sobre Atención al Desplazamiento], convened by the Constitutional Court in the last week of January of 2012, the High Commissioner for Refugees of the United Nations, Terry Morel, gave information that since 2007 more than 1400 displaced persons have been murdered, and that of every two hundred complaints of harassment and threats, one is investigated.[ii]
Despite new government offices being assigned to assume the task of making concrete the measures that would preserve the physical integrity of men and women leaders who are demanding land and of ethnic, afro-descended and indigenous collectives, these have not been efficacious. One example of this serious situation is the grave risk and threats against 37 men and women leaders of Curbaradó and Jiguamiandó, who have not received concrete responses to their demands for protection.
The threats have increased in this year of 2012 to an alarming level; among the cases that we distinguish are the following:
On February 15 of 2012, the Arco Iris ["Rainbow"—SC] legal office denounced the formation of an anti-restitution group in several areas of the country. The financing of this group would be in charge of cattle raisers of Córdoba, Guajira and Cesar, and they will begin to function beginning in the month of March, initially in those departments, and including the Magdalena.
- On January 25, 2012, the leader Fredy Antonio Rodriguez Corrales, the legal representative of the Horizon Colombian Association ("ASOCOL") of Displaced Families of the Municipality of Piedecuesta, who directs the land restitution process of the former hacienda of Bellacruz, has been followed a number of times and received a death threat signed by the Anti-restitution group. This death threat was received just a few hours after information was provided about the process that INCODER ["Instituto Colombiana para el Desarrollo Rural"—the Colombian Rural Development Institute, a government agency—SC] was moving forward to recover 1,500 hectares of land that is the property of the nation, located in the Bellacruz hacienda in the department of Cesar.
- On February 11, 2012, Mr. Wilson Seguanes received a death threat in his house, which had a cross on the cover and that inside contained the 23rd Psalm. Mr. Wilson Seguares is a community leader in the rural community of Las Brisas and the legal representative of the Association ASOPROBI, who demand that the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice of April 27, 2011, be made real and carried out. Within this decision there is the obligation of reparation for the victims, and particularly the restitution of their land.
- On February 21, a threat was received by email against the Nariño chapter of MOVICE, Fundepaz ["Fundación Desarrollo y Paz"—Development and Pace Foundation—SC], CPDH ["Comité Permanente por la Defense de los Derechos Humanos" "Permanent Committee for the Defense of Human Rights—SC] and other organizations, signed by the anti-restitution group "Nariño—GAR" In the threat they said, "we will not turn over even a millimeter of land, territory or goods to support the illegal restitutions imposed by international pressure"…"Our hands will not tremble in assassinating, as we have already done on other occasions, all those who dare to promote activities with an ideological content and politics focused on the theses of land restitution and the rights of the supposed victims."
- Between February 22 and 24, a computer, external memory and a printed directory of the Santander chapter of MOVICE were removed from the home of Nubia Mendoza, the Technical Secretary of the of the Northern Santander chapter of MOVICE.
- On Monday, February 27, the Legal Collective "JAR"—an organization that is part of the Impulse Committee of MOVICE—received by messenger service a written document signed by "los rastrojos—urban commandos," which contained threats against this organization, MOVICE, the Committee of Solidarity with Political Prisoners (CSPP) and other organizations, and in which it is stated: "…that through our lengthy intelligence work, our follow-through in infiltrating organizations, etc., we have been able to prove their relations with guerrilla groups and their actions that are a detriment to the regions, impeding their progress through industry, all the time spreading their extreme leftist discourse, making the people who live in our regions uncomfortable."
- On February 27, around 10:00 AM, between Bella Flor Remacho (Jiguamandió) and Santa Rosa de El Limón (Vigía de Curbaradó) Oliver Blanco was harassed and threatened by troops of the XVII Brigade, after participating in a memorial activity about the loss of land. Oliver is a member of the Black Community Council and a land claimant against the occupation of land by paramilitaries in order to plant coca and install cocaine laboratories. He participated with 200 other persons, among them citizens of the United States, Canada and the European Union in activities of the victims of the "Genesis" and "Black September" operations, directed by General Rito Alejo del Río, between February 10 and 15 of this year, and in which there was proof of the use of collective land that is intended to be returned by paramilitaries.
- On February 28 a threat signed by the "Black Eagles-Capital Chapter" against MOVICE and various women's organizations—among them Sisma Mujer, Casa de Mujer, and other human rights organizations like CODHES, UNHCR. Nuevo Arco Irislegal firm, Ruta Pacífica de la Mujeres, UNDP, AFRODES, Juntos por la Vida, and Marcha Indígena—was received by internet and physically in various places in Bogotá. The threat also pointed out by their names Piedad Córdoba, Amparo Sánchez, María Eugenia Urrutia, Johanna Saenz, Angélica Bello, Rubí Castaño, Nin Jihanna González, María Eugenia Cruz, Claudia Mejía, Pilar Rueda, Ana Jimena Bautista and Olga Osana, who appear mentioned as targets of the Black Eagles.
- In the death threat, there was a death sentence for "guerrilla bitches of the FARC who are opposed to the policies of our government, and who have brainwashed the displaced, making them pass as leaders in the defense of human rights. They have to stop bothering us with the theme of land recovery, because everyone who works on this will be murdered by us no matter how protected they are. We give them and whoever collaborates with this party of guerrilla bitches 30 days to leave the city.
The threats are not new, but are part of a systematic and generalized policy against victims and their organizations. In just 2011, MOVICE was the target of 85 aggressions of which 31 occurred in SUCRE, 3 in Southern Bolívar and Southern Cesar, 3 in Magdalena Medio and 6 in Atlántico. In all, threats and revictimization actions were carried out in 18 of the 20 departments of the country.[sic—actually, Colombia has 32 departments—SC]
For MOVICE, guarantees for those who lost their land and a dignified return are fundamental requirements within a process of land restitution.
2. Maintaining the Paramilitary Structures
In the VIIth Report on the presence of narco-paramilitary groups in 2011, published recently by INDEPAZ,[iii] it is pointed out that the post-demobilization panorama shows the presence of 40 paramilitary structures in the country, which were seen in the dispute over the return of local and regional powers.
In 2011 narco-paramilitary structures existed in 31 department and 406 municipalities. The only department in which there was not an identified presence was in Amazonas, and an increase of 46 municipalities compared with 2010 was detected.
The departments most affected are: Cesar, with a presence in 23 of its 25 municipalities, Córdoba in 24 of its 28 municipalities, Bolívar in 34 of its 45 municipalities, Meta in 20 of its 29 municipalities and Sucre with a paramilitary presence in 17 of its 26 municipalities.
Areas like Montes de María, La Guajira, the part of Bajo Cauca in Antioquia, Urabá, lower Atrato, the Pacific littoral, Catatumbo and the Western Plains show the greatest concentration of actions by these groups.
For its part, the Arco Iris firm[iv] has denounced the fact that "Córdoba is one of the departments which has most suffered the presence of the different "bands." In November, 2011, 500 homicides and 2,479 individual displacements were recorded in the first half of 2011.
In the report by INDEPAZ, it is also pointed out that:
"Of the 54 municipalities chosen in 2011 to be integrated in eight zones of the national Plan of Territorial Consolidation (PNCT), a great deal of activity by narco-paramilitaries has been recorded in 40 of them, three more than those recorded in the first half of 2011.
"The area of Monte de María has been evaluated by the government as the model of progress in territorial consolidation. There, in the four municipalities chosen, the government says that there has been a transition from being "red" territories, because of lack of state control, to green territories, safe for legal investment and rural development. Nonetheless, INDEPAZ has recorded events of the Rastrojos, Urabeños and Paisas in them. This means that, although these are precise situations, they do not escape the increased mobility of the narco-paramilitary groups throughout the Caribbean region. A similar situation to what exists in the PNCT municipalities is seen in southern Córdoba, the part of Bajo Cauca in Antioquia, Catatumbo, Arauca, Caguán, Nariño and Putumayo."[v]
The alarming presence of paramilitary structures in practically all the regions of the country is evidence of the re-engineering and restructuring of paramilitarism as a consequence of a failed demobilization process, which is evidence of the crisis in the reconciliation model, and constitutes one of the principal risk factors for those who dare to claim their right to restitution and return to their land and territories.
3. Normative Obstacles Established in the Law of Victims and Land Restitution.
MOVICE has reiterated on different occasions that several of the dispositions contained in Law 1448 of 2011 form barriers for the integral reparation of the victims and those who are claiming land.
For this reason MOVICE and several social organizations and human rights organizations recently presented to the Constitutional Court a claim of lack of constitutionality so that this body would adjust said normative to correspond to national and international standards for protection of human rights.
Among the principle obstacles related to land restitution are the following:
- Absence of restitution of property, of furniture, household goods, animals, crops, production, etc., which are not repaid with this law. It is estimated that 79% of the displaced population abandoned cattle, 47% crops, 49% machinery, equipment or vehicles, and 22% productive infrastructure. The law only recognized restitution of land, not recognizing that integral indemnization must consider all the damages occasioned by the victimizing act.
- While the law recognizes as entitled to the right of restitution owners, possessors, or users of the plots which have been taken from them or which they have had to abandon, it leaves out the victims who were holders, renters who are victims of being forced to abandon or lose their land, whose judicial relations have been precarious, and who do not have a right to reparation. It is estimated that 30% of the displaced population will be left out.
- The demand that the land be inscribed in the register of seized lands in order to begin the judicial action of restitution, and the establishment of an entire administrative process to carry this out. This creates a disproportionate and unjustified barrier to access to justice for those who are claiming their land, and does not recognize the international human rights standards, nor the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court, which establishes that the mere fact of the victimizing act is what adjudicates the fundamental rights of the damaged person.
- The establishment of the contract for the use of the restituted land which makes it easier for the magistrate to know about the restitution process, in order to authorize the signing of contracts in those properties where there are productive agro-industrial projects between the beneficiaries and the good-will opponents, which makes a mockery of the right to reparation of the beneficiaries.
Additionally, it establishes that when the opponent does not prove their good faith, in place of restoring the goods to the beneficiary of the restitution, the productive project is turned over to the special administrative unit for promoting land restitution, in order for it to be worked through third parties and that what is produced by the project be destined to programs of collective restitution for victims in the vicinity of the parcel, including the beneficiary of the restitution, which denies the right of restitution to the victim.[vi] This indicates that the restitution is not intended for reparation for the victims, but rather for intensive utilization of the soil. Just as the advisor to the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Alejandro Reyes, expressed it in a letter sent in October, 2011 to La Silla Vacía ["The Empty Chair," a popular website that discusses political issues in Colombia—SC], in regards to an article that establishes the contradiction that exists between restitution and reforestation in the Montes de María, in which he expresses, "the challenge is to restore the property of the victims and take advantage of the new investment for general income, without sacrificing the new productive projects."
- Impunity for those who took the land, since it is established that those who enter the process and confess the illegality of their titles or the taking of the lands or the violation of the rights as claimed in the process will become beneficiaries of the principle of discretionary prosecution. This concept not only leaves in impunity those responsible for seizures, but also those responsible for serious injuries that the victims have suffered, such as threats, torture, homicide, displacement or sexual violence, as well as those guilty of the crimes of belonging to paramilitary structures and their complicity with gents of the state.
- The loss of the victims' rights by the de facto occupation of the land that is the object of restitution, which has a disproportionate consequence because in ends up being a kind of confiscation, prohibited in the Constitution, and not foreseen even in the normal laws which permit the adjudication of lands to occupying or invading peasants.
- The change in the principle of the reversal of the burden of proof [vii]with the decree 4829 of 2011[viii] and the recent declarations of the Minister of Agriculture which have made clear that in practice the reversal of the burden of proof means that once the application is presented, the state takes on its shoulders the burden of collecting this proof. That is to say, that such is the help of the state that it is the victim who has to prove the seizure or forced abandonment. [ix]
These concerns become more intense if we analyze the restitution policy with the Development Plan, and especially with the norms that the modifications introduced into Law 160 of 1994, because of which the use of empty lands, which now will not be used to promote access to land for landless peasants. Rather, through them it is expected that there will be an impulse for large agricultural and forestry projects, through the promotion of rent, leasing, concessions and similar agreements between the state and agricultural and forestry associations. This is a measure that, together with the modification that allows for land that was previously adjudicated to be empty, and land acquired through the integral land subsidy, to be concentrated without any kind of limits, as existed earlier with the Family Agrarian Unit. This shows that the rural development policy, far from seeking a democratization of land, deepens the loss of territory by the peasants.
Finally, we are concerned about the deepening of extractive activity over the productive vocation, the changes that have been forced in the use of agricultural soil, and the reduction of support for small peasant production, which is seriously affecting small rural producers. The exploitation of non-renewable resources occupies 5.8 million hectares, and there are mining applications in a great part of the areas occupied by the agricultural frontier. We wonder, Mr. President, how is the restitution of land going to be guaranteed where mining concessions exist?
These are the reasons why, together with various social sectors victimized by the seizure of their land, we will mobilize this coming March 6 to ask for guarantees in the exercise of our rights and against social and territorial control which paramilitary structures are exercising in a great part of the country.
In this sense, Mr. President, we are announcing that MOVICE will promote the formation of an International Commission, made up of people with great prestige and commitment to the defense of human rights, to monitor and follow up on the application of the law of the victims and the process of land restitution.
Also, social, victims' and human rights organizations in Colombia, in the face of the panorama of impunity, aggravated by the nearly certain approval in the Congress of the Republic of impunity laws like the justice and rural development reforms, which benefit the owners of large-scale capital, to the detriment of the peasants, and of the persistent violations of the human rights of the civilian population, and of leaders and human rights defenders, are going to create an International Observation Mission on the Impunity for Serious Violations of Human Rights and Violations of International Humanitarian Law, which will take place in the second week of May of this year.
Finally, we are concerned, Mr. President, about what you expressed this past March 3 during the prosperity agreement [ceremony], carried out in the city of Baranquilla, when you indicated that the guerrilla forces are doing everything possible to infiltrate social protests and provoke violence. "We have already seen in several arenas that the guerrilla forces are trying to infiltrate every expression of social protest," and you called on the "population to be prepared and not allow social protest to be infiltrated by guerrillas and end up in violent acts."[x]
These declarations, Mr. President, lead to stigmatizing the legitimate right to social mobilization and liberty of expression. In the framework of the mobilization organized for March 6, your expression could lead to deepening the level of risk for the victims who are demanding that their rights be carried out.
Based on what has previously been shown, we are asking for the following:
- That a public pronouncement be made in which the just petitions of the victims are supported and guarantees and integral protection are offered, as well as a return under conditions of dignity, which begin with the true and definitive dismantling of paramilitary structures, the identification of the perpetrators and beneficiaries of the crimes, and the investigation and punishment of those responsible.
- That results be shown in the investigation and punishment of those responsible for the murders of victims who are claiming their land and displaced persons, as well as for the threats made by paramilitary structures. And that full guarantees be given to the victims, with efficacious, political and material responses to the persecution and threats that they are subject to.
- That guarantees be given to the participants in the march next Tuesday, March 6.
- That the norms and legislations which attack the rights of those claiming their land be reversed and that a public policy be developed that is oriented toward the democratization of land ownership through an agrarian reform. Stop driving people off the land, guarantee real and integral reparation for the victims, and establish processes and resources that will expedite justice, and which have as their central organizing principle the guarantee of the right to have the truth about what has happened.
- That the mandate in Article 150 of Law 1448 of 2011 be carried out, which consists of dismantling the economic and political structures that have benefited and that have sustained the armed groups that function at the edge of the law, with the goal of carrying out the guarantees that this will not be repeated.
The Impulse Committee
Movement of the Victims of State Crimes.
[i] Source: Calculations of the Armed Conflict Observatory (CNAI), based in the Colombian jurists' Commission (CCI) and Social Action's "Project on the Protection of Land and Property of the Displaced Population" (2010) "Family Agrarian Units, Ownership and Forced Abandonment of Land in Colombia."
[ii] El Espectador, "Rindiendo Cuentas," ["Rendering Accounts"] January 26, 2012
[v] Ibid. Report of INDEPAZ
[vi] Article 99 of Law 1448
[vii] Article 78 of Law 1448
[viii] The decree which creates the rules for Chapter III, Title IV of Law 2011 in relation to the restitution of land.