Edilberto Daza

Colombia

Right to peace, defence of the land and environmental justice.
Fundación por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos y el Derecho Internacional Humanitario del Oriente y Centro de Colombia (Fundación DHOC) y asociación campesina Agrogüéjar-Cafre.

“I am today 51 years old; when I was 13 I started working with the communities, with the groups of communal action, with the youth… and I liked it a lot”. Edilberto Daza responds this when he is asked about how he started his commitment with the defence of human rights. Rural leader of the regions of Meta and Guaviare, Edilberto has suffered himself forced displacement, a violent attack and several illegal detentions. Once, a paramilitary group retained and tortured him for three days.

Like Silvia Berrocal, Edilberto is in Catalonia, part of the frame of the Catalan Programme for the protection of human rights defenders. His candidacy was endorsed in Catalonia by the association International Action for the PEACE –Acció Internacional per la PAU (IAP Catalunya), in Catalan– and by the Catalan Association for the peace –l’Associació Catalana per la Pau i Intersindical-CS, in Catalan–. In Colombia he gained the support of the Foundation for the Defence of Human Rights and the humanitarian international law of the East and Centre of Colombia – Fundación por la Defensa de los derechos Humanos y del Derecho Internacional Humanitario del Oriente y el Centro de Colombia (Fundación DHOC).

This is in fact, one of the entities through which Edilberto develops his work for the defence of human rights. The Foundation DHOC works, in the event of the peace process, in the verification of the accomplishment of the cease of hostility and the correct implementation of the agreements. He also carries out actions on peace pedagogy and protection of social leaders, like the defence of the land and the environmental justice.

In his commitment with DHOC, Edilberto adds his participation in the rural association Agrogüéjar-Cafre, in the municipality of Puerto Rico. It is his root organization. Agrogüéjar-Cafre works in the creation of a rural reservoir in the municipality of Puerto Rico, and also, of a great rural reservoir in the Area of Special Management of the Macarena – AMEM, its acronym in Spanish.

After over three decades of commitment with human rights and social justice, and despite the violence suffered, he keeps rising his voice firmly. “Every day we convince farmers and the citizenship of the need to report, because it is the only way”, he insists.

» Interview

>Colombia has had a problem with the distribution of land for decades.
The peace agreements include an agrarian reform, but it’s a very complicated issue. Lands are owned by a very small group of people in Colombia and, because of paramilitaries, many people have been expelled from their lands. For a peasant, to get a title over her lands it’s a long and complicated procedure and, at most, he will get rights over 80 hectares of land. Instead, there are some landowners, like the former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe Vélez, that own more than 30,000 hectares of land. So you wonder, why can he legally own so much land?
The treaties foresee the creation of a land fund, to be distributed among landless peasants. But to get this started a new problem has arisen. Peasants who have work their land for 40 or 50 years are having their ownership annulled because they have grown coca. They intend to expropriate their lands and give them to other people through the fund. So we have a double displacement.

>The Fundación DHOC verified the implementation and compliance with the peace agreements. How do you assess the process since the signature of the deal?
The last 14 months of process we have seen many difficulties arise. When the first phase of concentration of the FARC was completed, we came to the realisation that zones where the members of the guerrilla had to meet were not ready. The government had not even started the construction of the necessary infrastructure. Theoretically, people from the FARC should have found housing, working and study rooms, health centres… but when they got there, there was absolutely nothing there. Willing to get on with the process, people from the FARC were ready to collaborate with the construction.
But it is not only that. At this moment, many former fighters have not yet been able to legalise their documents, they have not yet received the first payment, they are pending of bancarisation, etc. In some areas, those who had gathered there had to leave because there were no safety guarantees and the paramilitary threat was ever present. In fact, in many places they have left because the government is not keeping up with food, health, education…

>How is the substitution of illicit cultivation being managed?
Communities have shown they are ready to reach agreements with the government, but the authorities have not kept their promises. In some districts, only two or three days after an agreement was signed with the government, communities have been visited by four or five police helicopters, ESMAD [riot police], prosecutors, etc. So there’s a problem. People have organised, every vereda [administrative section of Colombian municipalities] has gathered its group of people and have gone to defend the crops so the little they have is not pulled out. There have been clashes with the government forces, injured peasants, murders, etc.
Las week they went to the town of Puerto Rico. AntiDrugs went to some cambullones [rudimentary workshops where the coca leaf is processed] and they set them on fire. But as it is summer there, 250 hectares have burnt already. They have not only burnt the cambullones they have also burnt the crops, the pastures…

>Another of the missions of Fundación DOHC is to educate on peace to socialise the agreements.
We have organised trainings of one to three days for the communities. We tell them how the peace processes has been carried, which agreements were reached in Havana.

But it is not easy. We are a non profit organisation and we only have resources from some projects and international organisations that support us. The Colombian government has not invested a single peso to educate on peace. That’s why most people don’t yet know what was agreed and signed in the peace deal.

>Both Fundación DOHC and Agrogüéjar have had the support of the international organisation IAP. Which impact have these actions had?
It has been really important, because this has reduced persecution and stigmatisation for us. Every time we go somewhere for a workshop or visit the communities and we are with someone from IAP, we don’t find many problems. In this sense, it helps reduce lashes against leaders and human right defenders.
The support of international organisations has a great impact, both in regard to the personal support there, in the regions, and in Europe. Yet, sadly, many of the economical resources that have been sent from the European Union have not reached the communities. We should consider ways in which to establish direct relationships between international organisations and the Colombian entities that work on the field.

>How is the substitution of illicit cultivation being managed?
Communities have shown they are ready to reach agreements with the government, but the authorities have not kept their promises. In some districts, only two or three days after an agreement was signed with the government, communities have been visited by four or five police helicopters, ESMAD [riot police], prosecutors, etc. So there’s a problem. People have organised, every vereda [administrative section of Colombian municipalities] has gathered its group of people and have gone to defend the crops so the little they have is not pulled out. There have been clashes with the government forces, injured peasants, murders, etc.
Las week they went to the town of Puerto Rico. AntiDrugs went to some cambullones [rudimentary workshops where the coca leaf is processed] and they set them on fire. But as it is summer there, 250 hectares have burnt already. They have not only burnt the cambullones they have also burnt the crops, the pastures…

>Another of the missions of Fundación DOHC is to educate on peace to socialise the agreements.
We have organised trainings of one to three days for the communities. We tell them how the peace processes has been carried, which agreements were reached in Havana. But it is not easy. We are a non profit organisation and we only have resources from some projects and international organisations that support us. The Colombian government has not invested a single peso to educate on peace. That’s why most people don’t yet know what was agreed and signed in the peace deal.

>Both Fundación DOHC and Agrogüéjar have had the support of the international organisation IAP. Which impact have these actions had?
It has been really important, because this has reduced persecution and stigmatisation for us. Every time we go somewhere for a workshop or visit the communities and we are with someone from IAP, we don’t find many problems. In this sense, it helps reduce lashes against leaders and human right defenders.
The support of international organisations has a great impact, both in regard to the personal support there, in the regions, and in Europe. Yet, sadly, many of the economical resources that have been sent from the European Union have not reached the communities. We should consider ways in which to establish direct relationships between international organisations and the Colombian entities that work on the field.