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A Colombian court wants to investigate banana companies in Uraba for financing paramilitary groups

The Specialized Chamber for Land Restitution of the Superior Court of Antioquia requested the Prosecutor's Office investigate the three most important banana companies in Uraba, Uniban, Banacol, and Bananeras de Uraba SA, for their alleged criminal association and voluntary financing of paramilitary groups, which was declared a crime against humanity by the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation.

They also requested the Prosecutor's Office investigate the businessmen Rosalba Zapata and Felipe Echeverri Zapata for creating an alleged plot of land dispossession that would have favored the Bananeras de Uraba SA company, which would have unduly occupied and exploited the land.

The court ordered the restitution of 11 properties to peasant families in the village of California, in the township of Nueva Colonia, Turbo, a recognized banana area in the north of Antioquia.

The complaints of the claimants indicate that, at the beginning of this century, Felipe Echeverri Zapata called the farmers to a meeting in the village of La Teca, located in Nueva Colonia. The meeting was attended by Rafael Garcia (aka El Viejo) and Antonio Arboleda, two recognized paramilitary leaders of the Banana Bloc of the United Self-Defense Forces, which was in turn led by Raul Emilio Hasbun (aka Pedro Bonito). According to the peasants, the paramilitaries arrived armed "seeking to intimidate the farmers so that they would pay four million pesos per each hectare of their land, to supposedly achieve land ownership," the court says.

The claimants indicated that they were forced to pay the money in instalments through Banacol, the company with which they marketed the bananas they grew on the plots. "Banacol discounted the money on a monthly basis and the money ended in the accounts of the family of paramilitary commander Raul Emilio Hasbun," according to the court's ruling.

“The evidentiary material gathered by the Land Unit is more than enough for this Chamber to rule that the claimants and their family nuclei were displaced from their lands by the phenomenon of regional violence. Thus, the Chamber considers that the entire panorama of violence that the paramilitary groups carried out in the Vereda California, Nueva Colonia Corregimiento of the Municipality of Turbo (Antioquia), where the assets object of the restitution request are located, has been proven,” the Court's ruling states.



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