A former local Red Cross head from the north of Colombia appears in court records where hundreds of hectares have been deprived by paramilitary forces. The now-Red Cross volunteer denies accusations.
Elkin Bechara, former head of Red Cross in northern Caribbean state Cordoba, owns 16 hectares of lands, which originally was stolen from peasants by now defunct paramilitary group United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), according to newspaper El Tiempo.
Bechara, who owns the land with his son Ricardo Velásquez Bechara, claims that the hectares were bona fide purchases.
“I’m willing to prove it to the authorities. Also I am going to sue the person who sold me the land and make his name public,” stated Bechara to El Tiempo.
The cases of stolen land surfaced in 2013, when a Santa Marta family in the Magdalena state, reported to the prosecutor general that AUC forced them to give up their land, which after a couple of transfer ended in Bechara’s name.
Investigators of the case remain open to the possibility that Bechara is innocent and only entangled in the webs of the paramilitary crimes.
But the name of the former head of Red Cross leader also figures in files related to Funpazcor, which is a NGO founded by late Castaño brothers, who were also creators and leaders of AUC.
Bechara was the legal representative for the NGO for at least four month, and additionally participated as a witness in a court case against Funpazcor.
Funpazcor allegedly forced farmers to sell their settlements, because the organization threatened them with burning down the houses, animals and kills the peasants, according to peasants charging the organization.
Bechara maintains he has never heard of Funpazcor having intentions to recover peasant farms or exert pressure on the farmers to give up their property.
The magistrates of the case didn’t believe Funpazcor or its witness, and the verdict stated that Funpazcor was to give the land back to the peasants.