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Colombian Farmers Take Back Land Stolen By Big Oil

Above photo: Screenshot from Rodrigo Vazquez-Salessi’s video report.

150 families displaced from their farms near Arauquita, Colombia 20 years ago have reclaimed their land from the Occidental Petroleum Corporation.

The story of multinational corporations taking land and resources from working people can be found all over the world. In Colombia, farming families have joined forces to reclaim their stolen land and defend it from local security forces acting on behalf of the Occidental Petroleum Corporation. The Real News reports from Arauquita, Colombia, on the frontlines of a land defenders’ campaign that stretches back decades.

Watch Part 1 of this story here.


Rodrigo Vazquez-Salessi (Narrator): In Arauquita, Northeast Colombia, 150 farming families were displaced from this land 20 years ago. It’s been exploited by the Occidental Petroleum Corporation ever since. However, the farmers returned to reclaim their land.

Farmer: Try to pass motherfucker!

Rodrigo Vazquez-Salessi (Narrator): So, the oil company pressured the local authorities and the security forces to evict them once and for all. Although the farmers won the first legal challenge the corporation turned to the mayor of a nearby town to attempt a new eviction by force

Jose Ordaz (Farmer): We’ve always been threatened by the oil company. They think they own the land but it’s not true, they don’t. We’re Colombians and we have the right to our land.

Rodrigo Vazquez-Salessi (Narrator): Riot police were dispatched to the area to facilitate the police inspector to issue and oversee the eviction order on site. However, the farmers allege that the mayor has no jurisdiction in their area.

Yesid Robles (Ngo Joel Sierra): You lived here for 24 years. You have your deeds. They can’t evict you.

Rodrigo Vazquez-Salessi (Narrator): Encouraged by their previous victory, they’re determined to resist the eviction by all means necessary. The local security forces have been instructed to proceed with the eviction, once the police inspector certifies that she has jurisdiction in the area. But the farmers stand on the border where their land begins.

Riot Police Officer (to the walkie talkie): Colonel, here there’s a junction.

Riot Police Officer (to the farmers): Good afternoon, how are you? Where’s Arauca, that way?

Farmer: This is not Arauca – it’s on the other side of the road. We’re standing in Arauquita.

Riot Police Officer: Where you’re standing…

Yesid Robles (Ngo Joel Sierra): This is Arauquita. Your station is in Arauca, not your jurisdiction.

Riot Police Officer (to the walkie talkie): The people are already blocking the path.

Yesid Robles (Ngo Joel Sierra): Let them come to us…

Eduardo Rios (Police Colonel): We need the Public Attorney. And the topographer?

Maria Clemencia Abril (Arauca’s Police Inspector): I’m the inspector who’s been commissioned to carry out a judicial proceeding. All of you listen up!

Farmer: How much did the company pay you, old fart!

Farmer 2: You wait! You son of a bitch!

Ana Ordaz (farmer): We’re displaced people here, my lady.

Maria Clemencia Abril (Arauca’s Police Inspector): The company proposed a solution. The Public Attorney is here!

Farmer 3: You won’t steal again what you stole 20 years ago!

Ana Ordaz (farmer): You’re trying to push us out, in cahoots with a multinational! Shame on you!

Farmer 4: We’ll make a human wall.

Rodrigo Vazquez-Salessi (Narrator): The farmers are determined not to allow the police and the topographer they brought onto their land.

Farmer 2: You won’t pass, ever!

Farmer 3: You must respect the farmers!

Riot Police Officer (to the farmers): I’ll take one measurement.

Farmer 5: No sir! No sir! You’re wrong!

Farmer 6: We’re ready to die, son of a bitch! Ready to die!

Farmers (shout):  Ready to die!

Farmer 5 (to the Riot Police Officer): Don’t come in here brother!

Farmer 6: We’re ready to die!

Farmers (shout):  We’re ready to die!

Ana Ordaz (farmer): We have the deeds for this land! It’s officially documented! We pay taxes for it!

Farmers: Get out!

Farmer 5: Nobody gets through! Get out from here.

Farmer 6: Try to pass motherfucker! Try it scumbag!

Jose Ordaz (Farmer): I also wore that fucking uniform! I also used that shit!

Farmer 4: You’ll have to kill us! This is not your district!

Maria Sogamoso (farmer):  This is Arauquita and you will leave us alone! You stole this 20 years ago, now you come to attack us! To hurt us?!

Ana Ordaz (farmer): You’re ignoring the official documents!

Jose Ordaz (farmer): Go ahead, kill us. We won’t let any policemen through!

Francisco Araya (farmers’ lawyer): I suggest you suspend the proceedings to protect the integrity of the farmers, the journalists and the policemen.

Marcela Cruz (farmers’ lawyer): The issue is that… this is where the border with Arauca is, right here. This whole place would be in the Arauquita district.

Farmer 7: The other side of the canal is in Arauca; this side is in Arauquita.

Rodrigo Vazquez-Salessi (Narrator): The inspector doesn’t relent but the topographer seems unable to read the official maps.

Farmers’ topographer: So, where’s that crossing? The crossing. Where are the coordinates?

Miguel Antonio Salazar (freelance topographer hired by the Police): The coordinates for this crossing…

Rodrigo Vazquez-Salessi (Narrator): The topographer appears to be incapable of performing the job.

Public Ombudsman: Who establishes the limits? A government agency. We can only work with official data.

Rodrigo Vazquez-Salessi (Narrator): Unable to certify that she has jurisdiction in the area, the inspector concludes the proceedings. The farmers win the legal challenge once again.

Farmer 6: The riot policeman came and said: “Thank God!”. I asked “why?” He said, “Because with that you could skin me alive!”

(The farmers laugh).

Rodrigo Vazquez-Salessi (Narrator): Successive appeals by the oil company have been rejected by the authorities of all districts. The farmers from this community have been able to remain on their land and continue farming. It’s a rare victory for displaced farmers in Colombia’s 60-year-long armed conflict.

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