10 Jun 2013

Rajagopal with International Initiatives in Colombia

Rajagopal with International Initiatives in Colombia

Author: Ekta Europe Admin  /  Categories: News, Archive, Events  /  Rate this article:
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9th June  Arrival
10th June Holiday in Colombia
11th June  Meeting with the Interchurch Commission for Justice and Peace team (9 - 12 am). Sharing of experiences.
12th June Meeting with ecumenical communities  (12 – 4pm). Every Wednesday at noon, the organization Justapaz organizes a small discussion on “Spirituality of Non-Violence”.  

Justapaz (Christian center for Justice, Peace and Non-violent action) is an organization created in 1990 as a response of the Mennonite Church to the violence and injustice inflicted to the deprived communities in Colombia. Its action lines are:

·         Training of social organizations on advocacy, human rights, conscientious objectors, social analysis, non-violent action and leadership.

·         Social research and communication

·         Advocacy and civic participation

·         Accompaniment of communities whose rights have been violated.


13th June Meeting with the women’s organization (2 – 5 pm) Casa de la Mujer (women’s house), to discuss “the non-violent methodologies and recognition of women’s rights”.

Casa de la Mujer is a feminist organization specialized in defending the rights of truth, justice, reparation and guarantee of non-repetition of women victim in the Colombian armed conflict. This organization has worked with indigenous, Afro-Colombian, farmer and urban women. Its main lines of work are:

·         Women rights advocacy at the national and international level.

·         Systematic research on impact of armed conflict on women.

·         Psychological and legal advice of women victim of violence.

·         Training of women’s organizations and collectives.

·         Monitoring of national policies and government’s commitments related to women’s rights.


14th June Public Conference: DIALOGUE INDIA – COLOMBIA: from non-violent land struggle, between war and post-war

Organizers: Christian Aid, Acción Permanente por la Paz and Justapaz

Venue: National University of Colombia

Colombian speakers: CAVIDA, Red de alternativas de Comunidades, Mujeres por la Paz, Justapaz and Interchurch Commission for Justice and Peace

Indian speakers:  Rajagopal PV (Ekta Parishad) and Jill Carr-Harris (International Initiatives)
15th June Meeting with members of Las Pavas community and CAVIDA (9 – 11 am)

   Las Pavas community is conformed by 132 families. These families have been leading a legal battle for the ownership over 1.184 Ha abandoned since 1997 and in which they have been living for years. The community was violently evicted twice (2003 and 2006) with the help of illegal paramilitary groups. In 2007 the INCORA (Colombian Institute of Land Reform) confirmed that the property was abandoned for years and in 2008 initiated the legal proceedings of expropriation to its legal owner on the basis of non-utilization. In the meantime, the owner sold the lands to different palm oil companies (for agro-diesel). Later, the palm oil companies filed a case against the community for invading private property and the police evicted the community. In 2009, the Public Prosecutor rules that the farmers of Las Pavas did invaded lands that were not abandoned; in addition, it stated that in the process of eviction by the police, the community was not victim of displacement. These statements provoked uproar within the national and international organizations that have been supporting the community claims. Las Pavas case has confronted on the one hand, the Constitutional Court who supported the expropriation to the legal owner in 2007, and started in 2010 an enquiry against the companies for violation of environmental laws. And on the other hand, the Public Prosecutor and the regional court which stated that the property has been in use and invaded illegally by the community.

Flight Bogota to Medellin 9 pm

16th June Travel by bus to Medellín - Mutata – Humanitarian Zone of Curbaradó - Family Ruiz Humanitarian Zone. Act of support of the victims of violence and displacement.

Whenever a community is threatened or violently displace, they leave their territories and go to the city slums. After years of exile, some of them usually return to their territories. As security measure, the returnees live all together and build a new fenced settlement known as “Humanitarian Zones”, which are now legally recognized as neutral zones where all armed actors, legal and illegal are prohibited from entering.

                Family Ruiz Humanitarian Zone: Manuel Ruiz, a farmer leader, had been leading legal actions against businessmen who took the community’s land over in bad faith to develop agri-business (particularly agro-fuel and cash crops). The businessmen grabbed the land with the help of paramilitary groups that operate in the region. Manuel was assassinated the very day some government delegates were going to the region to verify the land in dispute  (March 2012). After the incident, all the members of that community left their territory due to threats of paramilitary groups. Currently, the 37 members of that community are back, living in a Humanitarian Zone, but majority of their land is been cultivated with palm oil, and tapioca plantations. Moreover drug traffickers and paramilitary groups still operate in the region and even the Armed Forces are building a military base without prior consultation to the community. The Interchurch Commission for Justice and Peace has been providing legal and psychological advice to the community and has lodged a case in an international court.
17th June Visit to the Biodiversity Zone of Bijao – Onofre Another strategy used by the communities displaced is the Biodiversity Zones. Usually, when the displaced people return to their lands, they find the environment has completely changed: the forests cut down, the rivers and streams diverted and the native wildlife long gone. The soil has started the process of desertification because of the African-palm plantation and cattle ranches. The community starts a strategy to reclaim the land exhausted by the agri-business onslaught as their own. They divide the territory into “Biodiversity Zones”. The aim is to allow the lands to begin the slow process of recuperation from the agri-business invasion. Since the land grabbed belonged to the Afro-descendent communities, these territories are constitutionally recognized as collectively titled territories. As a result, the Biodiversity Zones are not individually owned but divided into self-organized family groups. However, the communities have agreed on five principals that guide the use of the lands. The land is divided into sectors for agriculture, recuperation, conservation, housing and sustainable use.
18th June Visit to an African palm-oil plantation (5 hours walk)

                The African palm oil agribusiness in Northwestern Colombia. Few winners and many losers

Colombia produces 700 ton of palm oil fruit daily, but since the demand increases in Europe and the agro diesel prices have doubled in short time, the Colombian government plans to increase the production 10 times.

Afro-Colombian communities affected: The Choco department (known for it thick rain forest) has been severely affected by the boom of agro-diesel. The palm oil companies set up plantations illegally, since the land belongs to small farmers that were evicted from their lands. The displacement started in 1997, the illegal paramilitary groups chased 10.000 farmers and killed around hundred. They were following orders of several palm oil companies. At the moment there are 23 companies are filed with criminal charges for land grabbing. It is proven that 51 public servants are involved in the crime, either granting huge loans to the companies or were directly involved in the business.  Life for the returnees is not easy, the price of food goes up, no one wants to grow food; now the maize consumed in the region is imported from the USA. Is not even sure that they can stay in their lands, the government ignores their pleadings and claims over their lands. To complete, in the vicinity there is a military base, the government says that is to protect the returnees, but the community claims that it is to protect the private interests.

Labors: they are seasonal workers that earn only 6 euros a day. They have a short-term contract so the employers don’t have to pay social security. As the trade unions are banned, the workers cannot defend themselves. To complete, they come from other parts of the country so they ignore the atrocities and violence inflicted to the local farmers and real land owners.

Environment: it is a fact that agro diesel damages the environment. When in Europe one can drive a car without polluting the environment, in Colombia the tropical forest is cut down. In Colombia every day disappear a forest the size of a stadium. The palm roots suckles all the ground water, the rivers are now polluted, soils are impoverished, and temperatures in the region are rising.
19th June Travel to the Curvaradó – Camelias community

In Curvaradó river basin there are around 40 Afro-Colombian and mixed-race communities that historically have been living there. These territories are recognized and protected by Law 70 of 1993 (this law gives legitimacy to the Afro-Colombian over their territories). All the 40 communities of Curvaradó (including the Camelias community) were first displaced in the mid-nineties when the Colombian military launched a joint operation with their paramilitary death squad allies; there were hundreds of dead. After many years of exile, some of them returned. Although establishing the Humanitarian and Biodiversity Zones was the first step in returning to Curvarado, it was just the beginning of the struggle for the returnees. In 2005 they started to claim their stolen lands; their claims to the land are being fought at every turn by the businesses and by the paramilitaries.

Sixteen palm businessmen are currently in prison for their role in displacing the population of Curvarado, while 11 more are fugitives and 22 have been called to trial. Most of their crops were killed off by a mysterious fungal plague that stained the leaves of the plants red. However, as the palm companies have retreated, another sector with a long history of paramilitary ties has moved in – banana companies.
20th June The community leaders from the rest of the country introduce themselves. They present their issues, actions, alternatives and challenges.
21st June Non-violent action workshop.  Discussion agreements and future actions at the national and international level
22nd June Travel from Community of Curbaradó - Camelias to Medellin
23 th June Departure Bogota

List of participants travel to Curvarado:

International Group: Rajagopal PV, Jill Carr-Harris, delegate from Bartolina Sisa organization (Bolivia), delegate from COPINH (Honduras).

Support Group: 2 members from Interechurch Commission for Justice and Peace; 2 translators: Jessica Weinstein and Julia Duranti; one member of CINEP (Center for Research and Popular Education).

Community Group: 51 peasant leaders

Community name


Community Name




Jiguamiandó (Nueva esperanza)




Jiguamiandó (El Limón)








Curbaradó Camelias




Curbaradó Andalucía


Alto Guayabal


Curbaradó Caño Manzo


Sucre - Cauca


Curbaradó Nueva Union


Bajo Calima


Curbaradó LLano Rico




Jiguamiandó (Pueblo Nuevo)


HOBO - Cetino





Location of communities and cities



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1 comments on article "Rajagopal with International Initiatives in Colombia"


Ekta Europe Admin

6/10/2013 6:00 AM

To know more about this programme and International Initiatives, please consult http://www.internationalinitiative.org/ regularly!

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