Reparations without Funds
Tuesday, March 13, 2010
Link to original story: http://www.semana.com/noticias-justicia/reparacion-fondos/137563.aspx
Four years after the demobilization of the “paras” [paramilitaries—SC], very little has gotten to the Fund for Reparation of the Victims. Although the ex-paramilitaries have not made an adequate commitment, victims and victimizers complain about bad management by Acción Social [the government agency responsible for disbursing domestic and international funds to government social programs and social agencies—SC]
Three Toyota pickup trucks, seven motorcycles, a truck and 28 million pesos [about $14,000 USD—SC]. This is the meager booty that the Fund for Reparation of Victims has for the 8 thousand victims certified until now of the Bloque Norte [Northern Bloc, of the paramilitaries—SC], a group that took over the drug trafficking routes, thousands of hectares of productive land, millions of pesos in municipal contracts, and that was responsible for one of the worst massacres in the history of Colombia.
Certainly the paramilitary ex-chiefs and mid-level officers have not turned over enough for reparations for their victims. But there is a clear unhappiness among the victims, the demobilized and even prosecutors because of the presumed bad management by Acción Social of the Fund for Reparation of the Victims, the state structure that collects the money and the possessions that the ex-“paras” turn over for all the victims they left.
A lawyer for victims of the Bloque Catatumbo [another para bloc—SC] told VerdadAbierta.com “Acción Social has thousands of hectares, businesses and money of the “paras” in their hands and they do nothing to speed up the reparation process.” [See all the possessions and money that the Fund for Reparations of the Victims has: http://www.accionsocial.gov.co/contenido/contenido.aspx?catID=455&conID=1667]
One of the recent episodes that show the unhappiness with Acción Social occurred with possessions that belonged to Salvatore Mancuso, ex-head of the Bloque Catatumbo and Bloque Norte. According to the minutes of the Fund for Reparation of the Victims, Mancuso, one of the main landholders of the Coast, has only turned over four farms in Santa Fe de Ralito, Córdoba, four in Tierralta, Córdoba and five in El Guamo, Bolívar
[See he account of the possessions delivered by Mancuso: San José, El Escondido, Villa Rosa, Providencia, Vizcaya, La Esperanza 2, La Esperanza 1, Mi Refugio)]
However, since May of 2007, Mancuso has wanted to turn over nine more haciendas and two businesses (Enteca del Atlántico and Sociedad Inclusol), possessions that the lawyers of the ex-“para” calculate are worth several billion pesos. But Acción Social does not want to receive them, because they say they are not appropriate for reparations for the victims. A year ago, Mancuso had complained that “Acción Social and the Fund for Reparation of the Victims have put up many obstacles to receiving these possessions; I prefer to do it coordinating the delivery through the US government.”
In the face of these problems, on March 19th, after Mancuso’s defense team entered a complaint against Acción Social for not receiving the possessions, the Superior Court of Baranquilla ordered that government body to receive all the possessions of the ex-paramiltary and ruled that Acción Social is not competent to determine whether the possessions can serve for reparations, but rather that it is the recognized magistrates who will determine that at the proper moment.
But the problems of Acción Social do not stop there. That presidential agency, in addition to receiving the possessions of the demobilized, also must maintain and conserve those that are already in the Victims’ Fund. But, according to Mancuso’s lawyers, the government agency has not yet even occupied the haciendas that are already in their hands. “The farms that Mancuso handed over have been invaded by unknown persons, they are in bad condition, we don’t know who is going to take responsibility for this,” a lawyers of some of the victims of the old paramilitary chief. That is why the defenders of the victims and of the ex-paramilitary asked the Inspector General and the Comptroller to open an investigation of Acción Social for what they consider to be irregularities in that government body. These complaints, however, are not the only ones that have been made against Acción Social within the reparations process. In an interview with VerdadAbierta.com, Manuel de Jesús Pirabán, aka “Jorge Pirata” [“Jorge the Pirate”—SC] said that he turned over properties and possessions that were sold off as bargains below their commercial value. “I delivered a young bull worth 800 thousand pesos [about $400 USD—SC] and Acción Social sold it cheap for 400 thousand.” “Pirata,” ex head of the Bloque Centaures added that now he would prefer to sell his good himself and deliver the money in cash to Acción Social.
In a “version libre” [statement confessing past crimes—SC], on given on January 27, 2010, José Baldomero Linares, aka “Guillermo Torres,” also protested against the management by Acción Social. The ex-head of the Autodefensas [“self-defense units,” the paramilitaries—SC] of Meta and Vichada said that in July, 2007, he delivered for reparations the 400-hectare hacienda Lusitania, located in San Martín, Meta. A large part of the property was planted in oil palm, currently one of the most profitable crops.
According to “Guillermo Torres,” after he delivered the farm, Acción Social did not maintain the plantation and all the palms were lost. The demobilized paramilitary said, “I put more than 800 million into the crop, and they valued it at only 37. A man who is interested in buying the land went by “Villavo” [Villavicencio, a city in Meta—SC] and told me that the crop was in bad condition.”[See the story about the possessions]
VerdadAbierto.com tried several times to contact Marlene Mesa, the Sub-Director of Acción Social’s program of attention to victims, but it was impossible to do. Mesa, however, declared in a recent interview in El Espectador that the Constitutional Court established that the State has the duty to make reparations to the victims, with or without the contributions of the demobilized, but that the most important thing is not that they should turn over properties, but that they feel called upon to make reparations. Mesa also said to El Espectador that “We cannot receive properties whose taxes are more than the property itself, on which money is owed, that are embargoed, or that present problems with the land titles.” “With Mancuso and some other ex paramilitary chiefs we have had many problems. They want us to accept whatever [they offer], and we cannot do that,” indicated Mesa.
The problem is that if Acción Social does not accelerate the process of receiving the possessions of the demobilized, there will not be enough money for reparations for the victims. A lawyer for the victims told VerdadAbierta.com that, based on the Penal Code, they hope that each victim might receive up to a thousand times the minimum wage [a typical way to measure fines and legal penalties in Colombia—SC], more than 500 million pesos. With more than 250 thousand recorded victims of the paramilitaries, it is evident that Acción Social has to find a mechanism by which money and possessions can massively get into the Fund for Reparation of Victims. If the opposite happens, many organizations that represent the victims will not hesitate to bring a case against the Colombian State before the international justice system. And then it will not be 500 million pesos that each victim will be able to try for, but billions of pesos. And, before the eyes of the world, the Colombian State will demonstrate its lack of capacity to compensate the victims of the worst atrocities in the recent history of the armed conflict.