Target: Juan Manuel Santos, President of Colombia
Goal: Protect female land claimants from violence and harassment and put measures in place to prevent future intimidation
The members of the Women’s Association of Rural Producers (Asociación de Mujeres Productoras del Campo, ASOMUPROCA) have recently been plagued by threats and harassment from unknown sources, all because they are seeking to reclaim lands that were wrongfully and illegally taken from them. Sign the petition and demand that the government protect the women and establish safeguards to prevent similar harassment in the future.
Sol Carranza, a member of ASOMUPROCA, was interrupted during a meeting at the Unit for the Attention and Reparation of Victims (Unidad para la Atención y Reparación Integral a las Víctimas, UARIV) by an anonymous phone call. The caller told Carranza that she would never get the land she wanted back and threatened to kill her if she set foot on the land in question. Sadly, it was not the first time Carranza had been threatened; she and other members of ASOMUPROCA have faced intimidation and threats as a result of their activism on a depressingly regular basis. Mauris Herazo López, another member of the group, has received up to sixteen threatening phone calls a day from the same number that called Carranza.
The long-standing violence and unrest in Colombia has resulted in millions of hectares of land in Colombia being forcibly removed from its rightful owners–usually indigenous and Afro-descendant people–by guerilla forces, paramilitaries, and security forces. In 2012, a law came into effect allowing for reparations and the return of stolen lands to victims, but many of the stolen lands fall into a legal loophole that makes their return difficult, if not impossible. Furthermore, there are very few measures in place to prevent the land from being retaken from its rightful owners, perhaps even by the same forces that stole it in the first place.
Right now, Colombia’s top priority must be protection for activists like Sol Carranza, Mauris Herazo López, and other members of ASOMUPROCA. But in the long term, the authorities must close the loopholes in the Victims and Land Restitution Law and provide more safeguards against further victimization of rightful landowners. Sign the petition and urge President Juan Manuel Santos to take immediate steps toward justice.
Dear President Santos,
The Victims and Land Restitution Law, which went into effect in 2012, was a promising step toward justice for the many indigenous and Afro-descendent landowners whose lands had been stolen from them by paramilitaries, security forces, and guerilla groups. However, it is only one step in what should be a series; for many landowners–like Sol Carranza, Mauris Herazo López, and other members of the Asociación de Mujeres Productoras del Campo (ASOMUPROCA), for instance–justice is still a long way off. I urge you to ensure the protection of these activists as they fight for what is rightfully theirs, and I demand that Colombia establish new laws to further the cause of justice for landowners.
Members of groups like ASOMUPROCA are no strangers to threats and harassment. Sol Carranza recently received a phone call from an anonymous caller who threatened to kill her if she so much as set foot on the lands she is fighting to retrieve, and Mauris Herazo López has received up to sixteen calls a day from the same number, harassing and intimidating her. Other members of ASOMUPROCA have also reported similar experiences.
Loopholes in the Victims and Land Restitution Law have made it difficult for some of the wronged landowners to get their property back, and there are few safeguards in place to prevent newly-reinstated landowners from having their land stolen in the same way again, perhaps even by the person or people who stole it in the first place. This major oversight in the law guarantees continued tensions and never-ending legal battles. It is in the best interest of both law-abiding citizens and the government to close these loopholes and produce a law that is fair, clear, and easily executed.
Please do what is right. Protect activists from threats and harassment and amend the Victims and Land Restitution Act to avoid similar incidents in the future.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Martin St-Amant via Wikimedia Commons