The return of Las Pavas to their land was miraculous indeed. Instead of their leaders being killed, as is so often the case when displaced peoples try to return to their lands here in Colombia, with the support of many national and international allies, the people of Las Pavas were able to return to their land last April. Their prospects of obtaining official titles to those lands looked good. All of that is now in jeopardy.
On the 30th of November the Colombia’s Prosecuter Generals’ Office accused Las Pavas farmers of having lied about being displaced and that their claims for restitution was unjustified. She has called for a reinvestigation of the case on the assumption of “false victims” and also a probe into the organizations that have supported the community through the process.
The community from Las Pavas was initially displaced in 2006 by paramilitary and later in 2009 evicted off the land by state security forces at the request of the consortium Labrador (a palm oil company comprised of Aportes San Isidro and Daabon). Labrador had obtained title to the land after having purchased it from Jesús Emilio Escobar Fernández. However, earlier this year the Constitutional Court determined that Jesús Emilio Escobar Fernández may have forfeited his title to these lands by failing to cultivate them for an extended period of time, thereby making its sale to the consortium Labrador illegal. They ordered the Colombian Institute for Rural Development (INCODER) to look into the matter. Doing so would not only have deemed the sale of the land illegal; it would also have legitimized Las Pavas community’s claim to land titles under the right of possession after having occupied and cultivated it for a period more than five years. None of that happened. Instead the state, which had earlier recognized and assisted the community of Las Pavas when they were displaced from their land by paramilitaries in 2006, now denies that the community has ever lived there. It now claims the community is lying about its former occupation and displacement from these lands, and may once again resort to using state security forces to remove them!
CPT has been accompanying the community since 2009. Thank you for having supported us and the community through the process and the Body Shop Campaign to bring about international awareness and justice about the connection between commerce and displacement in the context of Colombia.
This is once again a time of uncertainty and your prayers and support are needed once again. Not only is this case a situation of delegitimizing the trauma, violence and displacement already experienced by the community but also a harassment of local and international organizations that have acted as allies of the community. We ask that you:
- Pray for the community of Las Pavas, not only for their well being but also for their safety.
- Pray that truth will emerge, and that justice will be done.
- Pray for the representatives, lawyers and activists who are under a lot of stress.
- Pray that peace and non-violence will always prevail.
The people of Las Pavas would be reassured to know that their national and international allies continue to stand by them. If you wish to send prayers, words of affirmation and support to the community do write to us and we will make sure they to get it to them.