Twelve members of the US Congress expressed serious concern about state of the land restitution process in Afro-Colombian communities of Curvarado in Colombia’s Choco state, in a letter address to President Juan Manuel Santos Thursday.
The letter expressed concern for the security situation of both the Afro-Colombian communities in the area as well as members of Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission, who are “currently representing the communities of Curvarado and Jiguamiando in criminal cases against businessmen and paramilitary groups.”
Of the 23 communities in the area, 15 were not able to participate in committees formed under President Santos’ Victims and Land Restitution Law, meant to return stolen land to Colombian farmers, according to the letter.
“It seems a high percentage of ancestral members of the community are being excluded from the restitution process,” said the letter. “We are concerned that under these conditions, the restitution process in Curvurado may lack the full democratic participation of all the communties that make up the collective territory, and that may result in a process favoring outside interests rather than community interests.”
The letter called on Santos to increase security measures for the community and human rights representatives, and ensuring more protection for the restitution committees.
Colombia’s Victims’ and Land Restitution Law took effect in January 2012 under President Santos. The law seeks in part to give land rights to millions of Colombians displaced by armed conflict.
Colombia has the highest level of internal displacement in the world, according to latest figures released by the global Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). In 2012, 230,000 people were registered as newly displaced and the cumulative figure is estimated at between 4.9 – 5.5 million, representing 10.3 – 11.6 percent of Colombia’s population.