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Cablegate: Trip to Curvarado Highlights Security Concerns;

VZCZCXYZ0008
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #0618/01 0511546
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 201546Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1431
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 9979
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ FEB LIMA 5922
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 1249
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 6563
RUEHGL/AMCONSUL GUAYAQUIL 4296
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL

C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 000618

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/20/2018
TAGS: KJUS MARR PGOV PHUM PTER CO
SUBJECT: TRIP TO CURVARADO HIGHLIGHTS SECURITY CONCERNS;
GOC RESPONSE

REF: BOGOTA 239

Classified By: Political Counselor John S. Creamer.
Reasons 1.4 b and d.

--------
SUMMARY
--------

1. (C) Local members of the Afro-Colombian communities of
Jiguamiando and Curvarado complained about GOC delays in
returning their land, lack of security and GOC financial
support, and perceived military bias in favor of African palm
companies. Local leader Enrique Petro told us the palm firms
continue to develop land claimed by the communities and
employ demobilized paramilitaries to intimidate local
residents. The local military commander said his unit
protects Petro--who participates in the Interior Ministry's
protection program--and stressed that the unit stays out of
the land dispute between the communities and the palm firms.
Still, he conceded the military's use of the palm firms'
facilities--the only infrastructure available--creates a
perception of favoritism. Accion Social has helped 600
families to return to the region, but said some communities
refuse to cooperate with it. END SUMMARY

2. (C) Polcouns and Poloff traveled by helicopter to the
remote Afro-Colombian communities of Jiguamiando and
Curvarado in Choco department on February 4 to review local
security conditions. With the help of the Inter-ecclesiastic
Commission for Justice and Peace, we met with the
communities' representatives in a "humanitarian zone" located
on land owned by local peasant leader Enrique Petro. The two
communities are disputing control of the land with thirteen
African palm firms--some of which have been tied by the
Prosecutor General's office to former paramilitary leaders
Vicente Castano and Freddy Rendon. The firms began
exploiting the land after local residents fled paramilitary
violence in 1997. GOC officials tell us the legal issues in
the land dispute have largely been resolved in the
communities' favor (reftel), but security challenges remain.
Justicia y Paz also has links to the San Jose de Apartado
peace community.

-------------------------------
15TH BRIGADE PROVIDING SECURITY
-------------------------------

3. (C) Lieutenant Colonel Mauricio Moreno Rodriquez of the
15th Brigade told us 220 soldiers provide security in the
area of Curvarado and Jiguamiando, meeting up with the 17th
brigade to the north and east, and the 4th Brigade to the
south. He said the military has forced the FARC's 57th Front
to the south, and claimed that new criminal groups, such as
theAguilasNegras, have little presence in the area. The
military tries to be neutral in the land dispute between
local peasants and the African palm firms--leaving the issue
to the courts--but both sides try to manipulate the military
to support their position. Control of a local road--built by
the firms on land claimed by the communities--remains a
source of tension. The local commander conceded that the
military's use of facilities built by the palm firms--the
only infrastructure in the remote region--creates a
perception among local residents that the military favors the
firms.

4. (C) Moreno said there is no police presence in the region,
with the closest Colombian National Police (CNP) station
located fifteen miles to the north in Bajira. He was aware
of local peasant leader Enrique Petro's participation in the
Minister of Interior and Justice's protection program due to
death threats he has received as a community leader. The
military maintains daily contact with Petro, but is careful
not to enter the "humanitarian zone" on his property. The
residents of the zone have declared it off limits to all
armed actors, including the military.

5. (C) CNP Colonel Jorge Hernando Murillo Meza--based in
Apartado and with jurisdiction over Curvarado and
Jiguamiando--acknowledged the lack of police presence in the
region, and confirmed that the military provides protection
to Petro. He said the GOC is working in Bogota on a security
plan for the two communities to facilitate residents'
return, but added that the local CNP is not yet involved in
this process. Murillo emphasized that it will be difficult

to maintain a police presence in the region given the lack of
basic infrastructure.

--------------------------------------------- -
COMMUNITY AND LOCAL LAND OWNERS RAISE CONCERNS
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (C) Petro, who owns 150 hectares and has strong ties to
Justicia y Paz, told us the local military favors the palm
firms and does not protect him or the road that passes
through his property. He alleged that the AguilasNegras
--supported by the palm firms--maintain a presence in the
area and that the military does nothing to stop them. Petro
explained that he donated 10 hectares of his land to other
displaced residents to create a "humanitarian zone,"
believing the additional people would give him added
protection and political influence. He noted that while he
returned to the area in 2001, his wife and seven children
remain in Bajira due to security concerns. Petro claimed that
the palm firms continue to clear forest, invest in seedlings
and greenhouses, and to build irrigation ditches--despite
recent administrative decisions that the land belongs to the
communities. Petro asked that we push the GOC to resolve
outstanding land title issues, provide better security, and
compensate the communities for lost livestock.

7. (C) Curvarado and Jiguamiando community leaders complained
to us about the delays in resolving land disputes, military
harassment, and GOC issuance of arrest orders for members
based on trumped up evidence of FARC membership. They
reviewed the history of paramilitary violence and
displacement in the region, and noted that their legal
representatives have received death threats. Several members
called for the granting of collective titles for all
residents, prompting comments that it is impossible to divide
the communities along ethnic lines because "we are all mixed
up." The community leaders said they do not participate in
the Justice and Peace Law process, arguing it favors the
formerparamilitaries. Justicia y Paz representativessaid
GOC authorities.includingAccion Social, have provided no
assistance to displaced residents who have returned to the
area.

--------------------------------------------- ---------------
ACCION SOCIAL OPERATING IN REGION DESPITE SECURITY SITUATION
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

8. (C) Accion Social officials in Apartado rejected Justicia
y Paz's claims that they are not willing to work in Curvarado
andJiguamiando. Regional Accion Social director Luis Mario
Gaviria, brother of presidential advisor Jose Obdulio
Gaviria, said they have provided 500 agricultural start-up
kits and roofing material to over 600 families that returned
to the region over the last two years. Gaviria conceded
Accion Social does not work with the "humanitarian zones,"
but attributed this to ideological resistance from Justicia y
Paz. Gaviria noted that Accion Social is trying to promote an
agreement between the communities and the palm firms to
spread the benefits of African palm cultivation more widely
and to preserve more than 1500 jobs in the industry. Still,
he admitted that prospects for a deal are poor, since many
humanitarian zone residents consider the workers to be
settlers brought in by the companies from elsewhere.
Brownfield

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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