Land restitution leaders´ body count climbs, national investigation call ignored

The cold bodies of Colombia´s land restitution leaders keep piling up, while a Colombian legal expert´s call for a national investigation goes unheeded, perhaps unnoticed.

Paramilitaries and other criminals have massacred some 80 leaders of Colombia´s displaced four million inhabitants since 2006, but if there was any news coverage of lawyer Aura Bolivar´s call for a national investigation it was unnoticed by search-engine giants Google and Yahoo.

“The selective assassination of leaders of the land has turned into a form of disincentive for the victims,” Bolivar, an expert in constitutional law wrote in an article published in Internet site Razon Pública, a site dedicated to mixing academic research with journalistic content.

Photo: La Semana

Photo: La Semana

Just last week the body of Hermes Vidal Osorio was discovered a few days after his disappearance, also a few days after Bolivar´s article seemed to have been launched into Internet oblivion.  Apparently Vidal was last seen in the company of two men on a motorcycle, his presumed assassins.

Bolivar takes a lawyer´s dispassionate approach to an examination of the Land Return Law, launched by the government of President Juan Manuel Santos with much international acclaim two years ago.

She notes it has attracted more than 32,000 displaced Colombians to apply for government assistance to return to stolen land. She acknowledges that some 135 persons have been rewarded in some 32 decisions. Bolivar also recommends an intergovernmental examination of methods to speed up the process.

The biggest barrier, it seems, is the constant assassination of land restitution leaders, with near guarantees of impunity.

Bolivar notes the national prosecutor´s office has undertaken macro criminal investigations for other law and order crises. She says the same sort of approach should be used to discover similarities in the campaign of terror against campesino leaders.

But if the results from Google and Yahoo search engines is any indication, the immediate consideration of Bolivar´s recommendation had a shorter life span than the investigations into the many murders of Colombia´s displaced campesino leaders.

Bolivar´s recommendation came not only a few short days before the discovery of Vidal´s body in the northern department of Cordoba, but also shortly after Colombia´s judge´s in charge of determining land claims wrote President Santos asking for protection.

They wrote Santos asking for protection for themselves and for the targetted leaders.

The head of Colombia´s National Protection Unit, Andres Villamizar, responded that the judges are not being threatened and the land restitution leaders are protected.

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About Connecting Colombias

Recently retired newspaper reporter with one foot in British Columbia, Canada, the other in Colombia, South America. Fascinated with Colombian culture, Canadian connections, and heroic efforts to return millions of displaced Colombians to lands stolen by paramilitaries, guerrillas and organized crime.

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