Indigenous and Social Organisations Fear Imminent Displacement

News from Colombia | on: Monday, 31 October 2011

Colombian human rights organisations have rejected the accusations made recently in Colombian media about peasant and indigenous communities living in Meta being “FARC families” settled there as a result of a FARC-led agrarian reform. In these reports it is claimed that the FARC had a strategy to settle the reason with families who would operate their farms on behalf of the guerrillas, and this has resulted in the FARC colonisation of zones “recovered” by the government.

However, regional social, indigenous and human rights organisations have rejected these accusations and have protested that these repeated accusations place their lives in danger and are being used in order to justify their future displacement.

According to local organisations the accusations do not take into account the fact that they are legally constituted organisations that are recognised by the government and that they are “autonomous and independent.” These organisations also participate in state institutions such as the JAC neighbourhood committees and the councils of the indigenous reserves. Furthermore, the accusations ignore the conditions in which local people have to live, and misrepresent the motives behind their settlement of the region in the north of Caqueta department and the south of Meta department.

The social and indigenous organisations state that the area is subject to a continual process of colonisation caused by land hunger and the need for peasants and indigenous peoples to have enough land for their subsistence. On top of land hunger they state that they are victims of environmental damage, forced displacement, the destruction of lives and property due to the war. This reality, and the lack of state action to assist them, has forced them to organise in order to try to mitigate the effects of this ongoing economic, environmental and humanitarian crisis.

In response to one specific accusation the groups state that they had organised among displaced Nasa indigenous people in San Vicente del Caguan, and had agreed together with indigenous councils in the Yaguara reservation, to resettle 32 Nasa families there. This process has been presented in the media as a FARC re-settlement, despite the fact that the indigenous and social organisations that carried it out did so alongside the government’s Peoples Ombudsman, and the then Indigenous Peoples’ representative in Congress, Adan Aranda.

The social and indigenous organisations reject accusations that stigmatise them as guerrillas and note that in the past they have been accused of subversion “simply because they have settled areas with a history of guerrilla presence” when the President himself has said that the FARC no longer have sanctuaries anywhere in the country.

Instead the organisations fear preparations are being made for their forced displacement from a region that has a lot of potential for oil exploration, palm oil cultivation and for mining. They quote recent media articles about a coltan mine on nearby lands owned by a paramilitary boss. It is also well known that a geological feature runs across the region which makes it likely to hold reserves of oil as well.

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