Former paramilitaries form anti-land restitution army: NGO

Former paramilitaries are being re-enlisted in a private army which will be used to violently resist the restitution of land to displaced farmers in the north-Colombia Cesar department, according to NGO Nuevo Arco Iris.

The claim was made following an investigation in to the agreed formation of an armed force by politicians and ranchers in the Venezuelan border department of Cesar. Although ostensibly formed to defend against FARC incursions, the NGO suggests that it is also intended as a tool to resist land restitution measures.

Nuevo Arco Iris investigator Ariel Avila said, “On December 17 [last year] there was a meeting […] attended by a group of ranchers and politicians from Cesar concerned with the recent incursions by FARC, so it announced the creation of an army that would protect them. Then in a second meeting on January 13 […] it was determined to be an instrument against the land restitution act.”

According to Avila, up to 150 former members of the Northern Bloc have been enlisted and are due to enter service in March.

The President of the Colombian Cattle Federation [Fedegan] said of the NGO’s research, “It lies in the service of the dirty war,” in an interview with Colombian daily El Heraldo.

He added, “it is a disgrace to throw mud on the cattle guild [one of the organizations involved in the talks] to create a climate of anxiety about the government’s flagship project and, incidentally, to put into question the ability of the security forces to ensure order and security.”

Fedegan released a statement saying, “their information is so precise […] Mr. Avila, the investigator of the corporation, was and is obliged to report this to authorities. If you know names, places, dates and topics, now Mr. Avila, and the Nuevo Arco Iris Corporation, you are committing the crime of failure to report an individual, which carries a sentence of between three and eight years in prison.”

Cesar department

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