Colombian farmers accused of faking displacement demand apology

Farmers accused of faking displacement rallied in Bogota Wednesday to demand an apology from Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

About 100 farmers from Las Pavas, a community which has been accused of lying about being forced off land by paramilitaries, gathered in the city’s Bolivar Square holding banners reading “Landless Victims” and “Victims Without Peace.”

The community and the NGOs which supported it have been accused of staging a set-up to defraud the Colombian state, following an admission from a man claiming to be part of the Las Pavas group that he lied in his testimony during a land forfeiture process earlier this year.

The case is complicated, as the last time the farmers were removed from the land (in 2009) it was by Colombian riot police, not by paramilitaries. The eviction followed a court order obtained by palm oil company Daabon, who had bought the land from its previous owner, Jesus Emilio Escobar, Pablo Escobar’s uncle.

At the time, the community were trying to gain official rights to the land through the forfeiture process being implemented by Colombia’s Institute for Rural Development (Incoder), the organization which oversees land restitution. Their basis for the forfeiture claim was alleged abandonment of the land by Escobar – though they do also claim to have been displaced by paramilitaries several times in the 15 years prior to this abandonment.

Colombia’s Prosecutor General has now opened an investigation into the case, for which she has been congratulated by President Santos.

Related posts

Bogota court refuses to drop fraud and bribery charges against Uribe

Colombia’s prosecution cornered over drug links

Paramilitaries threaten to kill judges of Colombia’s war crimes tribunal