European Parliament: not enough progress as regards human rights in Colombia

MEPs from the Subcommittee on Human Rights expressed concerns about the human rights situation, which seems to have worsened in Colombia since the signing of the free trade agreement, in a debate held on Wednesday November 27. Particularly worrying were the issues of land restitution in rural areas and labour conditions for the working classes, they said.

Speakers agreed that more can be done using the free trade agreement as a tool for improving the lives of trade unionists, who regularly receive death threats and persecution at the hands of paramilitary organisations. However, the longer-term solution can only come from Colombian democratic society, it was said.

Guest speakers: Juan Carlos Monge, Deputy Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner’s Office for Human Rights in Colombia, Diego Martínez, Director of the Permanent Committee for the Defence of Human Rights and national spokesperson of MOVICE, Winston Gallego Pamplona, from the Colombia – Europe – United States Coordination Group.

I met Mep Pino Arlacchi on june at the European Parliament (see photo) and we talk about human rights in Colombia; Mep Arlacchi as under secretary-general of the United Nations in 1997-2002, he led its fight against terrorism, organised crime and drug trafficking, and was one of the driving forces behind the Palermo convention (officially, the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime).

I also met MEP Jurgen Klute (Gue-Ngl) and we tolk about my new study “Movimientos sociales y luchas por la defense de la tierra en Latinoamerica”. Mep Jurgen wrote an interesting letter…

“We the Members of the European Parliament express our deepest concern about the land grabbing process currently taking place in Colombia. Large companies, including several multinationals, have been buying land in an area in the eastern part of the country known as the high plains (Altillanura), with the objective of developing agribusiness projects.

This process violates Colombian law, which states that public lands should be assigned to poor rural workers and subsequently cannot be assembled in areas larger than those given to them. We are concerned about the social fabric of the area since the purchase of land by large corporations removes communities from their traditional territories, also inhabited by indigenous groups. In addition, projects in these areas can have serious environmental consequences, affecting a fragile ecosystem characterized by high biodiversity and water resources.

European companies such as Poligrow have been involved in this land grabbing process. Poligrow bought 13781 acres, three times the legal limit. Its lands are located in Mapiripán, a town known for having been the scene of acts of severe violence such as the massacre perpetrated by paramilitary groups in 1997.

It should also be noted that other European nations have been used by these land grabbers to avoid controls of their investments. A case in point is Riopaila Castilla, a Colombian sugar producer who created an investment fund in Luxembourg to take over farms bought by a series of shell companies created with the aim of violating legal constraints on land concentration”.



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