by Pierre Shantz
From May 16 to May 26 a team of agricultural engineers, surveyors and lawyers of the Colombian National Institute for Rural Development (Spanish acronym INCODER) were present in the communities of Garzal and Nueva Esperanza. Their mission was to verify amongst several things that the farming families of these two communities, that CPT has accompanied since 2007, indeed live on and farm the land. The Barreto family, who is being investigated for having ties to the old paramilitary group, Central Bolivar Block, claims that all that land is part of a large estate they claim to own. The community is fighting the Barreto family in court to prove that the title that Barreto family holds is fraudulent.
INCODER officials were also there to verify that protected wetlands and lakes that the Barreto family include in their title, be removed from any title and return to state custody. The fact the Barreto family included protected lands in their title is an element to show the invalidity to their titles.
Since the mid-eighties the communities has received numerous threats from the Barreto family and paramilitary groups. Pastor Salvador Alcántara the main leader of the community process is at particular risk. During the INCODER visit to the communities they uncovered operations of illegal mining and entered territory used by drug trafficking groups. This has raised the threat to the people as there have already been rumors of retaliation against them for bringing their illegal activity to the eyes of government officials.
We ask for your continued prayers for the families of Garzal and Nueva Esperanza. The same process is taking place in the community of Las Pavas from the 13th to the 23rd of June. Again this will bring heightened threats to the community and their leaders because it is a process that could favor the community and lead to the large palm oil company to lose the land.
Prayers for justice for the meek and poor. And may they indeed inherit the land that they have farmed for generations.
Note: Last week’s article about Garzal mentioned a struggle with multinationals, which has not yet happened. Shell has explored for oil in the region. Also, the statement that 99% of Colombian territory has been given in concessions to multinationals was a misunderstanding. We are sorry for this confusion.