19 February 2009


We traveled to Garzal and Nueva Esperanza, two towns along the Magdalena River whose inhabitants face forced removal from their land. After living on the land for 5 years, Colombian law states that they become the rightful owners of the land, and these communities have been here for 20 years or more. Many farmers grow cacao, which turns a pretty good profit. Plans are in the works to build an entire chocolate production plant in the area, so that the communities can manage all stages of the process themselves and greatly increase their profit margin. But the land title issue has them worried. At one point INCODER (the Colombian Institute for Rural Development) issued 64 titles to many of the inhabitants. Later, they returned and collected the titles, claiming they needed to make a few small changes, and have never returned the titles.

The Barreto family used to live in the area where they managed the region's drug trade working for Pablo Escobar. When Escobar was under attack, the Barreto family fled. But now they are interested in returning, and have had fake land titles drawn up that show themselves as the owners of the entire area. The real titles, which belong to the members of the community, are in a legal process to be revoked. Thankfully the communities have a good lawyer helping them navigate the system, but so far the odds are stacked against them.

Garzal and Simiti

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