For around 26 years, more than 20 families held land in the rural district called Pitalito, found in the municipalities of Curumani and Chimichagua in the Department of Cesar. Their work there allowed them to support their children, provide a dignified living for all the members of the community and protect the environment.
In January 2010, JUAN MANUEL FERNÁNDEZ DE CASTRO, a known palm cultivator, alleged ex soldier and land owner arrived at their homes in the company of armed men. He told them that the land belonged to him and that he would buy the best plots, fixing the price of these plots and obliging them to sell under pressure.
Later, he ordered them to abandon their land. These acts were denounced before the public prosecutor in Chimichagua and local governemnt bodies in this municipality, including the Mayor´s Office, and also in Curumani. However, protection measures were not granted in favour of the community.
On 1 February, 15 days later, FERNÁNDEZ DE CASTRO returned with alleged members of the Nacional Army and his own workers, who destroyed the peasant farmers´ houses, leaving only 1 house standing, where all the families remianed resisting the land dispossesion, and the community school.
Months later, the land owner sent armed civilians, apparently from La Guajira, to the school. These persons destroyed the crops that the community relied on for its subsistence.
On the 24 of June 2010, as a result of an irregular eviction order emanating from the Mayor´s Office in Chimichagua, the community was removed from their territory. That day the families’ provisional shacks were destroyed and personal belongings were taken. Furthermore, every member of the community was removed, with men, women, the elderly, children and youngsters placed in police lorry, seemingly belonging to the Riot Police Unit ESMAD, and were transported to the city centre of Curumaní.
As a result of the community´s protests in Valledupar, they were attended by regional authroities, who gave commitments which presently still have not been met.
More than 20 families remain today displaced unable to reclaim their land and without any help or humanitarian assitance from the Colombian State – the same that enjoys stating that victims are a priority and all persons who have been forcibly displaced with return to their land.
Given this situation, it is clear that the displaced community of Pitalito deserves and needs national and international solidarity in order to restablish its former way of life and basic conditions of dignity that were taken from them during the onslaught of violence that struck Cesar and many other places in the country.
Bucaramanga, 1 October de 2012
LEGAL TEAM OF THE PEOPLE
SOCIAL INTEGRACTION COMMITEE OF CESAR – CISCE