Second Illegal and Forced Eviction of El Tamarindo Community in Colombia

Peasant farmers of the El Tamarindo community established themselves on 120 hectares of land on the outskirts of Barranquilla, in northern Colombia, in the search for a safe haven from the long-running civil war taking place in the country. The community of 130 families had been violently displaced from their former homes in other parts of Colombia.

However, in 2007, the new area in which the El Tamarindo community had settled was declared a duty-free zone, granting tax exemptions on income tax and import and export duties and making the land very attractive to businesses. Ever since then, local businesses have been claiming ownership over the land and harassing the community.  The owners of these local businesses are mainly rich families, who belong to the economic and political elite of Barranquilla. The community has lived in an ongoing nightmare for years, enduring frequent forced evictions by order of local and national officials at the request of these businesses. The evictions have been illegal and often violent, and paramilitary groups have even threatened the community and its leaders.

The first forced eviction occurred in 2013. In this eviction, a portion of the community’s houses were destroyed by bulldozers and their crops damaged. Additionally, families had to leave their animals behind, losing their livelihood. The community, which continuously becomes smaller with each eviction, was relocated to an area known as El Mirador.

However, on December 9th, 2015, the community began to be forcibly evicted again. This time, the community had received a three-month stay of eviction from the federal Constitutional Court to remain on their land so that an arrangement could be worked out for them to relocate to lands adequate for their needs. Nonetheless, a local government directly opposed the national court resolution and went ahead with an illegal eviction, an action which continues this week. The El Tamarindo community, naturally, has had a difficult time remaining unified, and families are relocating where they can.

CRLN stands in solidarity with and supports the El Tamarindo community. CRLN’s Human Rights department has written letters to local officials in Barranquilla and regional officials in El Atlántico Department for years and once again prior to this current eviction. The eviction can’t be stopped now, despite many efforts from different local and international social justice organizations. Since local governments in Colombia are not cooperating at all in the effort to relocate the community, CRLN will continue to send the message to the national government to reestablish the community on land suitable for their needs. CRLN will also help publicize what has happened to the community and will point out where the United States should be held accountable. For instance, the US passed the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement despite major objections that the Colombian government is responsible for far too many human rights violations. The El Tamarindo community needs to settle permanently on land where they can live peacefully without the fear of being evicted and where they can farm safely for their livelihood.