|Eric Payeres (behind) presents Guayaboâ€™s case to the|
Governor of Santander (middle).
Yesterday, Eric Payaresâ€”a leader of Guayaboâ€™s legal struggle to claim its landâ€”along with three other community members heard shots coming from the direction of the neighboring plot currently occupied by armed men working for Rodrigo Henao.
â€śTheyâ€™re attacking us once again,â€ť Payares said. â€śThis time theyâ€™re firing shots at us.â€ť Over the last year since the eviction on October 29, 2014, this five-hectare plot of land has been a location of continual attacks. Two days ago, similar to numerous previous occasions, Henaoâ€™s men cut fence wiring, which allowed cattle to enter and graze on Payaresâ€™s crops.
Henao claims that the community displaced his father with the help of guerillas in the 1980s, claiming victimhood through the current Victimâ€™s Law demanding that the land be returned to him. On the other hand, the community has proven to have had no ties to armed groups and claims rightful ownership through occupation and use of the land for over twenty five years, after Henaoâ€™s father, Octavio Henao, abandoned the land due to an unpaid debt. This is Henaoâ€™s second attempt on claiming ownership. In the early 2000s he arrived accompanied by the notorious Bolivar Central Block, of the now demobilised paramilitary group, the Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) demanding the community abandon its land. This abuse of the recent victim and land restitution laws, written to bring reparation to victims of conflict, in addition to assassinations and death threats has sent a chilly warning to land rights activists and persons who resist displacement and claim ownership of land.