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Communiqué to the national and international public opinion

Statement of IPC's Board of Directors regarding the management of Gerardo Vega Medina at ANT.

Regarding the public debate arising from the management of Gerardo Vega Medina in the direction of the National Land Agency - ANT - from the Instituto Popular de Capacitación - IPC - we would like to make three considerations:

First. The question of the real possibilities of making significant progress in the materialization of the Agrarian Reform in the current government, the first progressive government in national history, is not a minor one, since the issue of land tenure and political power is historical, and in Colombia, not even the liberal reforms set forth in laws since 1936 have been possible.

However, what has happened is the dispossession of more than nine million peasants displaced from the countryside, the millions of hectares dispossessed, indigenous peoples and Afro-Colombian and black communities dispossessed of their lands and hit by their collective identity.This occurred largely after the 1991 Political Constitution, a period in which a blood-and-fire counter-reform has materialized, accompanied by total impunity and silencing. 

To this can be added the meager results after seven years of the most important Peace Agreement of recent years, signed between the extinct FARC - EP guerrillas and the Colombian State, which committed the government to deliver three million hectares to the peasantry and ethnic peoples, with no or insufficient land, and to formalize seven million hectares.

Second. From Gerardo Vega and the Forjando Futuros Foundation team, we can attest to the real commitment and at the risk of his own life, of at least 20 years of struggle for the right of peasant families to land and the reparation of dispossessed victims. Many of these struggles have been shared by the IPC in alliance with the Forjando Futuros Foundation and other organizations in the country, with the conviction that land and territory are a material reality for all the dispossessed and uprooted.

Third. Below, we list some important moments in the struggle for land in the recent history of the country, of which Gerardo Vega and the Forjando Futuros Foundation have shown their integrity and commitment to the social movement for peace, human rights and peasants. With this we give testimony of the leadership of Gerardo Vega in the vindication of the rights of the victim population of the armed conflict:

  1. In the framework of the discussions prior to Law 975 of Justice and Peace (2004-2005) regarding the dispute over the issue of the Truth about land dispossession, Gerardo Vega led the frightened voice of the peasant families of Urabá to make land dispossession visible to the country. In addition, he encouraged and supported the creation of the Peasant Roundtables, a fact that earned him and the peasant leaders multiple threats, smear campaigns and ultimately the murder of 26 land claimants in Urabá and Bajo Atrato.  
  2. Later, from the Coordination in Antioquia of the National Commission for Reparation and Reconciliation CNRR (2006), promoted the issue of asset restitution with emphasis on land. From that scenario, the institutional framework recognized the dispossession of land and even some of the specific strategies of dispossession supported by a corrupt agrarian institutional framework, such as Incoder in Urabá and Córdoba.
  3. Similarly, in the process that preceded the enactment of Law 1448 on reparation to victims and land restitution, Gerardo Vega contributed to the final recognition of the territory as a victim, the inclusion of land restitution in the reparation measures for victims of dispossession and the creation of the Land Restitution Unit.
  4. The development of allied campaigns in which the IPC also participated, such as theThree cents per box of bananas exported for reparations to victims in Urabá  referring to the company Chiquita Brands, which between 1997 and 2004 supported the paramilitaries by contributing three cents on the dollar per box of bananas exported and which was condemned in the United States to pay a fine of 25 million dollars for these acts. The idea of the campaign was to set up a reparation fund for the victims of the paramilitaries in Urabá through the same mechanism of contribution from the banana companies. This campaign was also led by Forjando Futuros and Gerardo Vega. 
  5. Similarly, the development of policy proposals for the national government that were disseminated and published for the collective reparation of land through administrative channels in the municipalities of greatest dispossession in the country (2012). Actions that always sought reparation for the victims of land dispossession in Urabá and that represented new threats and political smear campaigns.
  6. Subsequently, the Forjando Futuros Foundation undertook the task of implementing land restitution litigation, first in Urabá and then throughout the country. With this, came political and media power campaigns from business sectors related to violent land dispossession, and administrative and regulatory blockages that prevented the materialization of land restitution, one of them called at the time "targeting" and the requirements to achieve it. A clear example is the case of Urabá, a region in which land restitution did not advance because "it did not present conditions to implement restitution". Despite this, they persisted in maintaining the banners of land restitution, with a broad level of recognition at the national level.
  7. The contribution made by Forjando Futuros and other organizations to the new transitional justice mechanisms, such as the JEP and the CEV, emanating from the Peace Agreement should also be highlighted, which materialized in the presentation of reports on violent dispossession in the subregion of Urabá to favor judicial and extrajudicial truth processes.

For all of the above, we recognize the work developed by Mr. Gerardo Vega in the National Land Agency, we support his questioning of the arsenal of "legal" artifices to frustrate the agrarian reform and we share his questions to society, to public debate and to the agrarian technocracy:

Do indigenous, Afro-Colombian, black and peasant communities really not have the right to enjoy the same citizenship as city dwellers? Is it technical that not even with the political will demonstrated by the government can land be acquired for the expelled and excluded? Is it really impossible to change the rules and customs that facilitated the massive dispossession of land?

Finally, we agree that peace is required to advance in agrarian justice and this requires new political agreements and alliances with those who have the land -the 40 million hectares owned by the large landowners-, so that the State fulfills the social function of redistribution through purchase, because it cannot expropriate in compliance with the old Law of 1936.

We hope that, as on many other occasions, Mr. Gerardo Vega, who is also a partner of IPC, will come out ahead of the investigations recently opened against him by the Attorney General's Office. We are aware of his personal integrity and regret that the national government no longer counts on his trajectory and commitment for the difficult and almost impossible task of materializing the Agrarian Reform in our country.

The IPC reaffirms its commitment to pursue this utopia of peace, democracy and justice in all territories.

Board of Directors IPC

March 7, 2024 / Medellín, Colombia