Many of the communities living in the Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó river basins in Colombia’s northwest Urabá region have come under great threat this past week.
After being violently displaced in the late 1990s, the Afro-Colombian and mestizo communities in Curvaradó and Jiguamiandó created "Humanitarian Zones," or areas where the peaceful civilians who declared themselves neutral in the conflict could be clearly differentiated from combatants and protect themselves and their families from the violence. Since then they have been working for a peaceful return to their lands, but continue to face often violent challenges from paramilitaries, cattle ranchers and oil palm companies that want control of these territories. Click here to watch a short video about their history and struggle.
National and international courts have ordered the Colombian government to give back the land to these communities and protect them from violence. While almost none of the land has been returned to the communities, the Colombian Army had been providing some important protection around the outside of the humanitarian zones.
But last week the Army retreated from several of their established and agreed upon protection posts. Around the time that the Army pulled back, a group of 20 paramilitaries armed with assault weapons was reported to be near the humanitarian zone of Andalucia-Caño Claro. Within days, paramilitaries armed with machetes tried to stab a community member, who narrowly escaped by running off into a field. And now the communities fear that an attack is imminent.
The Colombian government has been proposing a new law that would return land to Colombia’s displaced people. But it’s far from clear what the government will do to make sure that land returns be carried out safely. In writing to them today, you can let them know that the international community is watching high-profile cases of land return like this one to see if their good words are backed up with actions.
Past attacks against these communities have included assassination attempts, targeted killings of their leaders and members, the burning of community food crops, threats, and baseless criminal prosecutions. Since 2008, three farmers from these communities have been murdered, allegedly by paramilitaries. To date, those responsible for these crimes have not been identified nor punished. To learn more about the threats these communities face, check out the recent post from Peace Brigades International on our blog.
As a member of the international community, your voice can make a difference. So please join us in urging the Colombian government to support these communities and investigate the threats and attacks carried out against them before anyone else is harmed.