Colombia: "Space for Peace": Guayabo Residents Nonviolently Resist Displacement

by CPT-Colombia

Guayabo farmers declare=On 28 October 2014, Colombian riot police accompanied Rodrigo López Henao to the community of El Guayabo (in the municipality of Puerto Wilches) and evicted Professor Henry Rincón Reinel from his home. Mr. López left ten of his workers to occupy Professor Rincón’s house and the police remained in the community for three days.

In response, the communities of El Guayabo, Bella Union, Central and surrounding villages “decided to declare our farming families in a Space for Peace and Nonviolent Resistance against Dispossession for the right to land and territory until our situation is legally resolved and they return our land.”

Community members have lived and worked the land in El Guayabo for nearly three decades. Mr. López claims to own the land and, according to the community, wants to plant oil palm there. Lawyers for the Colombian National Institute for Rural Development (INCODER) have made it clear to local authorities that any eviction of Guayabo residents is illegal while the dispute is in federal court.

This is not the first time that Mr. López has used illegal tactics and violence in his efforts to displace Guayabo farmers. He first showed up in 2002 with armed paramilitaries, threatening to take over the land, extorting money from the residents and accusing them of being guerillas.

Ten years later, in 2012, he reappeared in the region with the same threat to take over the land.

When he tried to evict Professor Rincón in November 2013, the community organized a peaceful action, singing Christian songs and carrying banners with messages of peace. The authorities did not carry out the eviction.

MRodrigo Lopez arrives with riot police to evict Guayabo farmersr. López arrived in Guayabo again on 26 June 2014. He broke the lock on Professor Rincón’s door and left 4 men to live in the house. The community gathered again, singing peacefully, but riot police fired tear gas at them and several people were beaten.

“We decided to talk to these [four] men, and we invited them to vacate the house,” reported community leaders. “They agreed, and when we helped them remove their belongings, we discovered they had guns wrapped inside a mattress.”

This latest group of López’s workers is also armed. They have torn down fences and destroyed some of the farmers’ crops.

Residents continue to sing and pray in nonviolent resistance, counting on the solidarity of local, national and international human rights organizations for support in their struggle for life, dignity and freedom from violence.