Illegal palm planting in Las Pavas, community resists with nonviolent action
Aggression against national and international accompaniers results in CPTer being slapped by palm company lawyer
by Tawd Bell
The Magdelena Medio is a warm and humid place all year round, but things have become even more heated for the community of Las Pavas. With the decision looming of who will receive land titles from INCODER [the governmental land titling agency], the community is defending their land from the palm company that is currently illegally planting palm.
Palm oil is an edible plant oil and is derived from the fruit of the oil palm. It’s in everything from cosmetics to crackers and is sold all over the world. The global north seems to have an especially large appetite for it. From an ecological standpoint, the farming of palm is devastating, as it requires clear cutting of forests in the global south and a mono-cropping technique that ravages the landscape for decades. The people of Las Pavas have been defending their land from this type of activity for years. They are struggling to reclaim the land with sustainable, subsistence agriculture which is hard enough, but becomes infinitely more difficult with large corporations land grabbing.
On Monday July 9th, Aportes San Isidro, the palm company in the area started planting palm on the community’s land. Palm workers from all over the region gathered at the company’s ranch directly next to the community’s cluster of small houses. The palm company is using workers from nearby to destroy the social fabric of the region and cultivate in-fighting within the community.
Not long afterward, heavily armed police arrived. The palm company had called in their escorts. After the community explained to the police that the Colombian Constitutional Court had ruled that the community has the right to be on the land with the INCODER decision pending, the police stated that the company could not plant palm! It seemed the community had won a stay of execution against the planting of palm on their land. However sweet the joy, it was bitterly short as the company disobeyed the police and began to plant palm the moment they were gone. The community of Las Pavas sprang into courageous action blocking tractors carrying palm from driving onto their land. Their non-violent action forced the workers to carry the plants to the field a few kilometers away.
On Tuesday morning, the community itself called in the police because the palm company was out planting still more illegal palm. By mid-morning the police arrived by helicopter, promising to mediate the situation. INCODER issued a statement that the planting of palm must cease. The planting continued.
By Wednesday, the community was waiting on the mayor of the municipality, INCODER, and other government institutions to stop the company from planting. As desperation mounted, the campesinos of Las Pavas once again mounted a blockade to stop the planting and demonstrate their commitment to defend their land. Tensions ran high and manifested in snide remarks from the palm workers and in one tense moment, a CPTer was slapped by the palm company’s lawyer from attempting to document the activities [see video]. The incident was reported on a national news program.
As of today, palm continues to be planted and the community continues to nonviolently resist and defend their land. INCODER and other Colombian officials have rushed to Las Pavas to try and enforce their cease and desist order which the company has refused to heed. Please join us in supporting the community of Las Pavas as they defend their land.
See also this video of aggression by the palm company, and the community’s nonviolent resistance. Spanish only at this time.
For more on Las Pavas: see Farmers denounce a new invasion of the disputed ‘Las Pavas’ and URGENT PRAYER + Razing of a Plantain Field: A Photo Essay