The first national association for the reclaiming of lands is born
(Translated by Diana Méndez, a CSN Volunteer Editor. Edited by Teresa Welsh, CSN's Volunteer Editor.)
Medellin, Dec 02 (IPC). The objectives of the recently created National Association of Victims for the Restitution and Access to Lands is to make known the calamity that the dispossession of thousands of Colombian peasants' lands by illegal armed groups has been. As well as to bring forth a project of deliberation and to have an effect on public policy that will allow for the effective restitution of goods and land to the victims of this calamity.
The Association brings together the work that different peasant organzations are carrying forth in departments such as Bolívar, Antioquia, Santander, Valle del Cauca, Magdalena, Córdoba, Caldas and Quindío, who now will not only work with their own rights to access to land but will also count with the support of the Popular Training Institute (IPC), Redepaz; Forging Futures Foundation and the New Rainbow Corporation- all NGOs.
With the association's creation, it is hoped that the restitution of lands and the discussion of the agrarian problem will not be a pipe dream or an unimportant agenda theme, but rather that it gain vital importance to the future of the country. That it count with ample and profound debates in which the peasantry would participate with recognized social force.
The initiative surged precisely at the same time when the process for the law of victim reparation and restitution of lands is in congress. It is emphasized that it is considered "a priority and essential" for the development of the country by president Juan Miguel Santos. Also, the first debate was already approved in the Comisión Primera (one of the commissions of the Colombian Senate) of the House of Representatives.
According to the third National Survey of Verification of the Rights of The Displaced Population, which was compiled by the Comission for the Monitoring of Public Policy on Forced Displacement between 1980 and 2010 some 6.65 million hectares of land were dispossed or abandoned by force due to the massive expulsion of peasants which was caused by illegal armed groups in their locales of conflict.
The study also revealed that the departments most affected by the onslaught of displacement are: Antioquia, Chocó, Nariño, Cauca, Caquetá and Putumayo. If, on the one hand, the members of the commision which includes the economist Luis Jorge Garay, the ex-magistrate Eduardo Cifuentes and Monsignor Hector Fabio Henao, celebrate the fact that the country is discussing the subject, they also warn about the threats that hover over the initiatives on restitution of lands, beginning with the issue of the victims' security.
Human Rights organizations point out that in the last three years some 47 peasant claimants have been killed throughout the country; out of these 8 of the killings took place in Urabá in the department of Antioquia. Just in 2010 the violent deaths of Albeiro Valdez (May); Hernando Pérez (September) and Oscar Mausa- this last one took place on November 24. Also, an attempt was made against the life of Fernando Enamorado in November, but fortunately it failed to take his life.
Because of this one of the first actions that the new National Association will undertake will be to negotiate with the government so that security for farmworkers in the midst of land reclamation processeses improves. "We don't count on any support, we don't have institucional backing; this is why we want to unite, to see if together we can have a bigger impact. There are critical departments such as Valle del Cauca. There is no recognition of the victims there. There is a constant threat to the integrity and rights of the victims," says Carmen Palancia, president of the association.
In agreement with Palencia, the aforementioned is fundamental if the regional organizations are to be strengthened and united with others that are working in the departments of Cauca, Nariño, los Llanos Orientales and others. "for the work of strengthening, we are working towards getting a nacional congress together, this would take place in February," adds the president of the association.
For the nongovernmental organizations which will accompany the process, the creation of the association will help contain the so called "legal and illegal enemies" of land restitution in Colombia.
"The eventual restitution of lands to the displaced has many very powerful enemies working against it which makes very great the need to decidedly back your organization. If we don't, the promises of land restitution will be be nothing but a pipe dream and add a new chapter to the structural impunity which has surrounded the subject throughout the country," Martha Lucía Peña Duque, president of the IPC one of the organizations that will accompany the Association, points out.
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