Paramilitaries threaten Colombians seeking to return to lands lost in conflict
It´s no surprise that paramilitaries have returned to the communities of Curvaradó y Jiguamiandó in Colombia´s northern Pacific department of Chocó.
Everyone feared and knew they would.
That´s the reason why seven members of the U.S. congress wrote Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in February asking for their protection.
Now the fears are taking form, according to a report two days ago by human rights defenders the Inter-Church Commission of Justice and Peace (Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz).
The human rights organization said community leaders were told by a paramilitary representative that returning to the lands would cost community leaders their lives. The organization said in a Spanish language press release that the paramilitary was asking for names of the leaders in the communities of Jiguamiandó and Curvaradó. No names were given, but the paramilitary reportedly threatened two men, “Guillermo Díaz and Emilio Cabeza and others”.
The Inter-Church Commission of Justice and Peace said the paramilitaries were camped only 20 minutes away. They informed the campesinos they have a list of those who will be killed if the land is returned.
Colombian Interior Minister Fernando Carrillo responded on behalf of the Colombian government after the U.S. members of congress wrote asking that the government provide protection. He said that the process of returning the land to campesinos was in a particularly delicate stage, that there were those who opposed the process.
Colombia, he said, was providing protection.
Whether that protection will be enough to prevent the assassination of more campesino leaders remains to be seen.
Numbers vary according to the source, but some 75 or so leaders of Colombians attempting to return to the land taken in 50 years of conflict have been murdered. Prosecution of killers is exceptionally rare.
Manuel Ruiz Torrelosa a leader of Colombian campesinos battling to return to lands in the north Pacific department of Chocó was murdered by in March 2011. (Photo: elespectador.com)