Colombia: The Deadly Fight for Land – Fault Lines

>> It’s taken us a day to trek to the small village of Mulatos in Colombia’s Uraba region >> “We’re up here in the mountains and this is where Colombia’s war continues – this is where the government has pushed paramilitaries and guerrillas and where people continue to live at war” >> We’ve come here to meet a group of activists – the Community of Peace of San Jose de Apartado They formed almost 2 decades ago, after a series of attacks by FARC guerrillas, as well as right-wing paramilitary groups, often working alongside the Colombian military >> They’ve invited us to go with them to another village in the mountains where many people were recently displaced by a paramilitary group operating in the area >> “Around 50 people are going to the town of Rodoxali, that’s about 5 hours from here and they want to give people support there because they’ve been receiving lots of threats For instance we know that one young boy was kidnapped and one man killed by paramilitaries” >> Colombia has one of the largest numbers of internally displaced people in the world million And it’s rising Fault Lines is here to find out why >> This part of Colombia is isolated It’s here that the country’s 50-year war is playing out, often unseen The government is trying to bring an end to the fighting by negotiating with the rebel FARC group, but the community told us that officials were ignoring the real threat >> Officially, the Colombian government demobilized paramilitary groups between 2003 and 2006, but the community told us they are still operating >> As you can see, is completely empty, no one is living here, the people that are with us are telling us that the family that was here left because of the threats of paramilitary groups in the area And apparently a base that paramilitaries used to use is not far away from here” >> They’d left their mark behind >> Gildardo wanted to show us areas where the paramilitary groups operate Their camp is supposed to be located high up in the mountains Where they can move quickly and – when they want – unseen Gildardo believes there is a

reason they’re able to move easily around here >> The land in this part of the country is valuable – and not just for the crops and timber here Coal has recently been discovered in the region and the government and private companies are expected to begin extracting it soon >> An hour later we arrived at Rodoxali It’s almost a ghost town A few weeks ago paramilitaries came here, threatening residents… reminding many of what they’ve done before >> Past killings here have left people traumatized Emilio is reluctant to talk about what’s been going on here He told us that groups of 200 men come into the village…. wearing uniforms and carrying machine guns >> When the paramilitaries came back a few weeks ago, they told him they would chop him into pieces – so he left with his family He returns during the week to work the land, he said has no other choice if he wants to feed his wife and children >> These people decided today they will be arrested >> I know that I’m being surveilled >> People are not getting the care that they need >> This is a crime against humanity >> Hands up! >> Don’t shoot! >> Hands up! >> Don’t shoot! >> What do we want? >> Justice! >> When do we want it? >> Now! >> …communicate, >> They’re running towards the base >> …explosions going off we’re not quite sure what >> Get em’ how you need? >> To watch more episodes of the Emmy Award winning series Fault Lines, check your local listings or visit >> As the war plays out in force in Colombia, the government is trying to enact key land reform In 2011, Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos, signed the Victim’s Law – with the goal of returning millions of acres of land to those who have been displaced by the conflict But the challenges are not small >> Even though Colombia’s war began in the 1960s when the FARC took up arms fighting for land redistribution… the largest displacements took place in the 1990s >> “When you really started seeing the numbers you see now is when the paramilitaries formed into the self-defense forces of Columbia They started to employ a very deliberate strategy of committing atrocities, committing mutilations, or very showy masacres” >> The paramilitaries were

officially demobilized between 2003 and 2006 Shortly after, companies began to arrive in areas like Montes de Maria, as part of the government’s push to develop the region >> “We’ve been granted access to Argos, it’s one of the largest companies in Latin America, they own thousands of hectares of land planted with teak” >> Argos gave us a guided tour of one of their newer projects, it’s part of the UN’s carbon credit program >> Carmelo Agamez sees it differently In his eyes, this is his and his community’s land >> Carmelo was displaced from here twice – once in 2000 when paramilitaries arrived – killing people in the nearby town of El Salado He returned again in 2004 but after several members of his community were assassinated – he was once again forced to flee He wants to reclaim his land but doing so, he told us, would pit him again Argos >> Congressman Ivan Cepeda, who has been investigating Argos, says the company, as well as others in the region – could not have acquired the land in an area like Montes de Maria without knowing about the violence that took place there >> We asked Sergio Osorio, the head of Argos’s reforestation projects, about the claims against them and they deny any wrongdoing >> Under the Victim’s law, one way Carmelo could return to his land would be to work for Argos But for him, that is simply too much to stomach >> “I wonder how genuine the interest really is to have these victims return to their land and to have their own idea of development It seems to me that is pushes folks into a situation where they agree to this economic model that was forced on them or they don’t get anything” >> Protesters are

gatherering >> There’s an air of tension right now >> …crowd chanting for democracy >> This is another signifigant development >> We have an exclusive story tonight, and we go live to >> As Colombia struggles to navigate a path to peace, one of the biggest challenges is that people are still being displaced Everyday This is an office to help people that’s been affected by the Colombian conflict – you can see the amount of people that are coming here This victim’s center in Monteria is overwhelmed with people in search of help Ines arrived here with her mother, Martha after walking for a day >> Its people like this that the government is supposed to be helping to get back to their land But the problem is they’re trying to return in areas where the groups that displaced them still operate And the threat of violence hangs over those who want to return >> Rosa Cordero and her family haven’t been in Monteria long – they fled their home in Valencia last April the day after her brother, Ever, was killed Witnesses say he was gunned down by two men No one has been charged with his murder Ever was a community leader helping people reclaim their land, one of dozens killed in the past year >> Rosa and her family now afraid of what could happen if they try to go back A three hour drive away, the area around El Carmen de Bolivar has one highest rates of land claims Edgaro Lopez is a land restitution leader here >> The government maintains that the criminal groups threatening them have no political ideology but the threats activists receive – often by text message – tell a different story >> These are copies of the messages and threats they’ve been receiving, the members of this community, it says – first warning: we don’t want in Carmen de Bolivar those who call themselves the human rights defenders It says: “If you’re gonna denounce anything today, do so, but be wary of the consequences”

and it’s signed by the anti-restitution army The government has appointed bodyguards to travel with leaders, like Edgaro, because of the threats they are receiving ” In Colombia’s capital Bogota, there is a disconnect between what people were telling us on the ground and the official line >> Luis Gonzales is in charge of investigating the people threatening land activists But the government refuses to acknowledge paramilitaries are carrying out the killings, insisting they are just ‘criminal bands’ or drug traffickers >> In the mountains, it seems difficult to reconcile what the government says with the accounts from civilians living in the middle of the conflict And on our way leaving Uraba… something surprising happened (unintelligible) >> They’re not military… I don’t think they’re from the military The first thing they do is identify themselves Further down the road, we came across an army patrol >> “This country is so complicated – the military, paramilitaries, guerrillas are all dressed in the same way so it’s difficult to know who’s who” Filled with doubts we took our video to the Community of Peace where we showed it to one of their leaders >> A week after we left the community, 5 teenagers were kidnapped by the AGC paramilitary group who accused them of being guerrillas –

according to local accounts, the AGC walked into the local police station and handed them over…and then walked out – another example of why people here don’t trust the Colombian state – because it feels like the past is repeating itself