Cablegate: Trip to Curvarado Highlights Community Divisions,


DE RUEHBO #3855/01 2962027
P 222027Z OCT 08

C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 003855


E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/26/2008


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

1. (C) The GOC effort to restore land--which has been
illegally occupied by palm oil firms--to the displaced
communities of Jiguamiando and Curvarado continues to move
slowly due to community divisions and legal hurdles. Despite
a military presence in the region, security is also a serious
concern as shown by the murder of community member UcoHoyos
by unknown gunmen on October 14. Community members charge
that African palm oil firms--with the backing of some in the
GOC--are paying some community members in an effort to divide
the communities and protect the palm firms' interests. GOC
officials told us the legal issues in the land dispute have
largely been resolved in the communities' favor, but said the
communities now need to obtain a judicial order instructing
the security forces to remove the firms from their land. End

2. (U) PolCounselor and Poloff traveled by helicopter to the
remoteCamelia Humanitarian Zone in Curvarado municipality on
October 10 to meet with representatives of the Afro-Colombian
communities of Jiguamiando and Curvarado in Choco department.
The meeting was organized by the Inter-ecclesiastic
Commission for Justice and Peace (Justicia y Paz). The two
communities dispute control of the land with thirteen African
palm firms--some of which have been tied to former
paramilitary leaders Vicente Castano and Freddy Rendon by the
Prosecutor General's office (Fiscalia). The firms began
exploiting the land after local residents fled paramilitary
violence in 1997. Justicia y Paz has played a key role in
organizing the communities and providing them legal counsel.

3. (U) The Superintendent of Notarization and Registration
completed the resolutions revoking the palm oil company land
titles (reftel A) in September, 2008. The GOC decided the
next step is to map out what plots of land are currently
being occupied, especially by palm oil plantations, to
facilitate the removal of illegal occupiers and to monitor
the return of the valuable palm land. A government and civic
committee has completed this mapping work in Curvarado. Vice
Minister of Interior and Justice (MOIJ) Maria Isabel Nieto
said the process for mapping in Jiguamiando will start in
November and will only take two weeks as Jiguamiando only has
about 200 hectares of palm oil, as opposed to the 4500
hectares in Curvarado. She says half of the palm has already
died from a disease.

4. (U) Nieto explained that MOIJ is also conducting a census
of the communities, which will be conducted by consultant
Andres Calderon, to determine who are the rightful
inhabitants. Calderon told us his team completed
consultations with the communities on the census methodology
and decided that community leaders would review census forms
and determine who was a true community member, citing
documentation when possible. Calderon said the census would
begin in November and end in three weeks. It would also
involve traveling to neighboring communities to include
displaced community members who had not yet returned to the

5. (C) Ministry of Agriculture (MinAg) Special Advisor
Catalina Riveros said she is trying to convince the
communities to file an extraordinary legal action to remove
the illegal occupiers from the land. This legal request
needs to be made by the communities themselves to a local
court in Apartado. Nieto said she is confident this legal
action will lead to a judicial order instructing the
Colombian National Police (CNP) to remove the palm companies
from the land, but conceded that an earlier attempt to obtain
such a legal order by human rights group Justicia y Paz had
failed. She speculated that the affected plan firms are also
using political influence to obstruct the on-going Fiscalia
criminal investigation of their activities.

6. (C) ACurvarado councilman told us they distrust the

GOC, and in particular MinAg, due to ties between the palm
oil companies and MinAg officials. A recent press report
revealed ties between the Fiduagraria President Maria
Fernanda Zuniga and the palm companies in the area. Zuniga
served on the board of a palm company occupying land in
Curvarado and her father is a shareholder in another. She
denied wrongdoing, but later resigned. Nieto said the MOIJ
disagrees with MinAg's insistence that the communities be
urged to reach a deal with the palm firms that would allow
continued African palm cultivation. Many community members
do not want to be associated with the crop.

7. (SBU) Calderon said internal community tensions would
likely escalate before the upcoming community council
elections in December. A community councilman said Curvarado
has 23 minor councils that work under the major council;
Jiguamiando has 11 minor councils. He noted that the
elections would be particularly important, since the elected
leaders would play a key role in community decisions on what
to do with the lucrative palm oil plantations. Nieto said
the census is important, because it will prevent outsiders on
the palm oil payroll from participating in the elections and
electing councilmen favorable to the plan firms. The
community council representative from Jiguamiando told us
they thought the MOIJ census would help deter outside
intervention, but noted that they had "already conducted
their own census."

8. (C) Medellin-based UNHCHR official Felipe Sanchez said
the communities of Jiguamiando and Curvarado are divided
between those who support Justicia y Paz and those who do
not. He has received complaints that Justicia y Paz has
brought in mestizos from Cordoba to occupy the Afro-colombian
communal lands. Uraba CNP Commander Jorge Murillo sharply
criticizedJusticia y Paz for being conflictive, refusing to
file formal complaints against aggressors, or to deal with
local authorities. He said they are organizing land
invasions supported by "foreign agitators." Justicia y Paz
representative Sister Cecilia Naranjo claimed that the paras
and palm oil companies have started a smear campaign against

9. (C) Nieto told us the anti-Justicia y Paz group is led
by palm oil-paid Manuel Moya, who also had "long-standing
paramilitary ties." Nieto said MOIJ used to treat Moya and
associates as community representatives, but due to recent
confirmation of his palm oil ties, it would not longer do so.
A Colombian news program Noticias Uno reported that former
General RitoAlejodel Rio, a former military commander in
Uraba accused of paramilitary ties, was recorded conversing
from jail with former MOIJ Minister Fernando Londono. MOIJ
Nieto said the recording implicated Londono in the palm
firms' seizure of the communities' land, and also indicated
thatMoya and associates AdanQuinto, Jaime Beitar and
Graciano Blandon have engaged in a smear campaign against
Justicia y Paz in part because of the group's human rights
complaints against the Uraba-based 17th Brigade.

10. (C) In July 2008, the Embassy received a communication
from the self-described "real" community members of
Jiguamiando and Curvardo--signed by Moya, Quinto, Beitar,
Blandon and others--accusing Justicia y Paz of bringing in
mestizo outsiders and misleading the communities. MAPP/OAS
Representative in ApartadoEleuterioCahuec told us Quinto
negotiated the sale of land to Urapalma, Multifruit and other
palm firms behind the communities' back in the late 1990s.
He claimed Manuel Moya--with Accion Social's support--is
playing this role now. He said the palm companies' strategy
is clearly to divide and conquer the communities. MAPP/OAS
refused an invitation by Accion Social to participate in the
trips to Puerto Lleras and Pueblo Nuevo, preferring to travel
to these communities in a less-politicized context.

11. (C) Accion Social's Mario Gaviria, brother of
presidential advisor Jose ObdulioGaviria, told us Justicia y
Paz brought in peasants from Cordoba who are now occupying
the land to the detriment of the rights of the original
inhabitants led by Moya and Beitar. He said many community
members would like to work with the palm companies to
continue to produce palm oil for a profit, but feel they are
blocked by Justicia y Paz which has its own ideological
agenda. Gaviria said Accion Social is committed to promoting

social and economic development, but reiterated that their
work has a "political" component--to win the hearts and minds
of the communities. He has identified 450 displaced
Afro-colombian families from Curvarado/Jiguamiando who now
live in Apartado. These families' rights must also be
protected, Gaviria said.

12. (U) Sister Cecilia Naranjo Curvaradoexpressedconcern
about threats to Justicia y Paz and other community leaders.
On October 14, community leader Uco Alberto Hoyos Rivas was
gunned down near Cano Manso in Curvarado. Hoyos was a
witness in the paramilitary murder of Orlando Valencia,
another Afro-Colombian leader and advocate for the return of
the displaced to their lands. Hoyos was not accompanied by
his MOIJ protection program bodyguards. MOIJ has requested
information from the Department of Administrative Security
(DAS), the agency responsible for his protection, on how this
occurred. This was the second attempt on his life; Poloff
visited him in the hospital after he was shot in September

13. (C) Community members from Jiguamiando and Curvarado
voiced concern over military and police collusion with the
palm oil companies. Medellin-based CNP Colonel Cardenas told
us notorious narcotrafficer and former paramilitary Daniel
Rendon (Don Mario) has a significant presence in the Cuvarado
region. 15th Brigade Colonel Mejia told us his unit
maintains 150 troops at all times around the humanitarian
zones in Jiguamiando and Curvarado. The Brigade does not
interfere in land issues and makes efforts to build positive
relationships with the community, including training officers
on working in humanitarian zones. CNP Uraba Commander
Murillo said the CNP has no outposts in these remote
communities, but maintains 70-person detachments in Belen de
Bajira and Rio Sucio, The two posts are about 25 kilometers
from Cano Manso, where Hoyos was killed. Jiguamiando totals
549 square kilometers, with few roads.Curvarado is 460
square kilometers in size.

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

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