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Palm Oil Plantations News
Latin America

Colombia Plantations

Murders spark palm oil alert 9/18/2011 War on Want: "According to the report, Colombia's armed forces are colluding with right-wing paramilitaries killing hundreds of Afro-Colombians and displacing thousands more to facilitate plantations of palm oil, which originated in Africa. It is claimed that as much as 70 per cent of the population of Nariño's western mountain range in south-west Colombia has been forced off its land as paramilitaries capitalise on biofuels as the alternative to petroleum-based energy. The National Federation of Oil Palm Producers cites Britain as the largest importer of Colombian palm oil, with the UK buying 48.5 per cent of the country's exports."

Fuelling Fear: displacement in Colombia 9/18/2011 War on Want: "The land seizures taking place in Colombia for biofuel cultivation are not happening in a vacuum. They are directly linked to the increasing global demand for 'green' alternatives to petroleum and a reduction in carbon emissions that harm the environment. In addition to its use as an alternative energy source, palm oil and related products are also used in margarine, crisps, pastries, detergents, soap and toothpaste."

Re-demobilized Colombian paramilitaries to sign Free Trade Agreement with U.S. 5/5/2011 Pulse: "When we reached the center of Barichara, the campesinos veered toward the church and my mom and I bought a copy of the day’s El Espectador, which contained a report on the WikiLeaks release of cables from the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá confirming awareness of complaints that palm oil producers had contracted paramilitaries to illegally displace Afro-Colombian communities from their land in the department of Chocó. Of course, the palm oil-paramilitary team-up was already publicized in the mainstream media years ago, as was Uribe’s role in promoting the crop as a biofuel."

Palmeros y el fantasma paramilita 4/24/2011 El Espectador: "El conflicto por la propiedad de la tierra en las regiones de Curvaradó y Jiguamiandó y la extensión de cultivos de palma africana en estos territorios del Chocó, constituye uno de los dilemas más significativos para la sociedad colombiana en el contexto de la lucha por los derechos humanos. La prueba de ello es que entre 2007 y 2009, al menos en once ocasiones la Embajada de Estados Unidos en Colombia remitió cables diplomáticos a Washington detallando este problema y dejando ver las dificultades para solucionarlo por la polarización de sus protagonistas." [Links to wikileaks cables]

Afro-Colombian Farmers on Displacement and Resistance 1/5/2011 Upside Down World: "Activists working on behalf of Colombia’s internally displaced population are subjected to extrajudicial killings and death threats by paramilitary groups supported by the Colombian army and palm oil firms active in rural areas, Sanchez and Guzman report. "They say we're guerrillas and that they're going to kill us," says Sanchez."

The Dark Side of Plan Colombia 5/27/2009 The Nation: "In addition to the $161,000 granted to Coproagrosur, USAID also awarded $650,000 to Gradesa, a palm company with two accused paramilitary-linked narco-traffickers on its board of directors. A third palm company, Urapalma, also accused of links with paramilitaries, nearly won approval for a grant before its application stalled because of missing paperwork. Critics say such grants defeat the antidrug mission of Plan Colombia. "Plan Colombia is fighting against drugs militarily at the same time it gives money to support palm, which is used by paramilitary mafias to launder money," says Colombian Senator Gustavo Petro, an outspoken critic of the palm industry. "The United States is implicitly subsidizing drug traffickers."

Afro-Colombians fight biodiesel producers 12/21/2008 BBC: "Mr Caceido, in his early 30s, says he moved to Bogota in 2001 after being threatened by presumed paramilitaries in Tumaco, a Pacific coast region. "We have been discriminated against in three ways," he says with steely restraint. "We are displaced, we are black and we are poor." It is Mr Caceido's view that underlying the displacement of countless Afro-Colombians is a clash in values between the communities' use of the land and an initiative of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to produce more palm oil for biodiesel. For Afro-Colombians, Mr Caceido says, land use is based on cultivating a few traditional crops for subsistence - such as corn, yucca and cocoa - or for hunting and fishing. But, according to human rights organisations working in the north-west Choco province, and in dense forests along the Pacific, paramilitary gangs are seizing Afro-Colombian land to facilitate biofuel conglomerates."

Palm Oil in Colombia: Biofuel or Bioterror? 7/1/2008 Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association: "The 39-year-old Polo is vice president of the board of the Major Council, an organization of 21 communities that owns 42,700 hectares in the Curvaradó river basin in Chocó, Colombia. He is an active leader in his community’s efforts to recuperate collectively titled lands that have been occupied since 1997 by multinational oil palm companies connected to Colombia’s paramilitary. He has been the target of death threats by palm oil companies, he said, as have the legal representative of Curvaradó's Council, Ligia Maria Chaverra, and farmer Enrique Petro. Polo said, through interpreter Rocio Orantes, that he lives in a part of Colombia populated by people who were brought to the country from Africa as slaves, as well as indigenous and mixed-raced people. All have shared cultures and farmed there for many years, growing their own food and raising bananas for export to the United States."

UK palm oil consumption fuels Colombia violence, says report 5/11/2008 The Guardian: "British consumers have become the biggest export market for the controversial crop which is used in margarine and pastries as well as toothpaste, soap and detergents and cosmetics. The surge in demand has sustained a ruthless landgrab by rightwing paramilitary groups in Colombia's rural areas, War on Want, a London-based advocacy group, says in its report. "The UK, despite being one of the largest consumers of Colombia's palm oil products, remains unaware of the devastating impact of cultivation of this crop on the lives of indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities."

Colombia palm oil biodiesel plantations: A "lose-lose" development strategy? 2/18/2008 Food First: "Palm oil production for biodiesel is expanding rapidly in the global south. While not as prolific as Indonesia and Malaysia, Colombia is the fourth largest palm oil producer in the world and the largest in Latin America. The Colombian government—in collaboration with paramilitaries and palm agroindustries—is violently removing Afro-Colombian, indigenous, and peasant communities to expand monoculture palm plantations in an effort to demobilize paramilitaries and stimulate economic development in rural areas. With substantial financial backing from the US International Agency for Development (USAID) and the Colombian Agrarian Bank,2 and institutional support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB),3 the palm oil agroindustry is reaping large profits at the expense of the food sovereignty of small farmers and marginalized communities."

Massacres and paramilitary land seizures behind the biofuel revolution 6/4/2007 Guardian: "Four years ago Colombia had 172,000 hectares of palm oil," President Alvaro Uribe told the Guardian. "This year we expect to finish with nearly 400,000." "Four years ago Colombia didn't produce a litre of biofuel. Today, because of our administration, Colombia produces 1.2m litres per day." Investment in new installations would continue to boost production, he added." [Uribe is listed in a declassified DIA report as an important Columbian narco-trafficker.]

Biofuel gangs kill for green profits 6/3/2007 London Times: "The paramilitaries are not subtle when it comes to taking land,” said Dominic Nutt, a British specialist with Christian Aid who recently visited Colombia. “They simply visit a community and tell landowners, ‘If you don’t sell to us, we will negotiate with your widow'."

Colombia – Palm Oil and the consequences of development 4/20/2007 International Cry: "We were told of one case where paramilitaries displaced 25,000 people and stole from them, 30,000 hectares of land. This land was cleared and African palm plantations were sown as the paramilitary said it was not collective property. The international community challenged this and ordered the companies to return the land to the rightful owners. This was ignored. In the last 20 years, more than 3 million people have been displaced. Indigenous and Afro-Colombian people are killed by the government, paramilitaries and guerrillas."

Honduras Plantations

Carbon Blood Money in Honduras 3/10/2012 Common Dreams: "Small farmers in this region have increasingly fallen under the thumb of large landholders like palm oil magnate Miguel Facussé, who has been accused by human rights groups of responsibility for the murder of numerous campesinos in Bajo Aguán since the 2009 coup. Yet Facussé’s company has been approved to receive international funds for carbon mitigation under the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM)."

DRUG PLANE BURNED ON PROMINENT HONDURAN'S PROPERTY 9/3/2011 Wikileaks: "Post's JIATF-S TAT provided information to the HAF March 14 about a known drug trafficking flight with a 1,000 kilo cocaine shipment from Colombia, which resulted in a fruitless air interdiction attempt. Separately, a law enforcement source provided information that the aircraft successfully landed March 14 on the private property of Miguel Facusse, a prominent Honduran, who is one of the nation's wealthiest individuals, leading industrialist, and uncle of former Honduran President Carlos Flores Facusse."

Honduras: killings continue as Aguán becomes "new Colombia" 8/30/2011 WW4 Report: "African oil palms have replaced bananas as the main commercial crop in the valley, and tensions increased as landowners like Facussé saw the potential for the palms in the biofuel business, which could attract carbon credits and international financing. To maintain their estates, the landowners have hired private guards and supplied them with arms. Campesino groups consider the guards paramilitaries and blame them for most of the 51 killings of campesinos that they say have taken place in the past two years. Meanwhile, narco traffickers and other criminals have reportedly moved into the area."

Honduras Re-Admitted to the OAS: 3 killed; 2 kidnapped in the Aguan 6/16/2011 Honduras Human Rights: "There are reports that approximately 400 private security guards, employed by African palm producers in the region, are being trained in the Rio Claro base in Tocoa, Colon , home of the 15th Army Battalion. The security guards reportedly are from the Orion security company, employed by the Exportadora del Atlantico, and others are employed directly by the Dinant palm oil and derivatives company. The trainers wear Honduran military uniforms, and rarely leave the base though they have been reported to participate in forced, illegal evictions. During these evictions security guards have been reported to change into military uniforms; close collaboration between police, military and security guards has been reported. Local informants claim the trainer’s accents, stature and coloring lead people in the region to believe they are not Honduran. Many suspect they are Colombian. In October 2009, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the use of Mercenaries, Private Security and Paramilitaries reported the Honduran African palm producers were recruiting security forces in Colombia particularly among former AUC members – a right-wing paramilitary group. There have also been reports of Chinook helicopters flying to and from the Rio Claro base, which leads many to believe US troops maintain a presence on the base. On January 8, 2011, Juan Chinchilla, a Honduran land rights activist, was kidnapped and tortured. Able to escape the evening of January 9, while being moved from his illegal detention center, Chinchilla reported that participants in his torture spoke English and another language he was not able to identify." [Israeli?]

ROHRABACHER CODEL 2/24/2010 "Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) visited Honduras January 31-February 2 and called on Hondurans to "turn the page" on the political events of the summer. Congressman Rohrabacher commended the Honduran people for their commitment to democracy and said he would urge the U.S. government to re-instate revoked U.S. visas. Congressman Rohrabacher expressed concern that establishment of a "truth commission," as called for by the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, would have the effect of continuing to divide Hondurans. Congressman Rohrabacher, who was accompanied by several American businessmen and investors, endorsed US investment and particularly lauded the benefits of the development of biofuel industry in Honduras. He enthusiastically promoted a start-up biofuel company, SG Biofuels... In his conversation with President of Congress Juan Orlando Hernandez on February 1, Congressman Rohrabacher told Hernandez that he was an emissary of Honduras' friends in Congress, in particular member of Congress Ileana ROS-LEHTINEN."

Miguel Facussé: Fencing off Paradise 5/1/2005 Envio: "In Tocoa, in the northeastern department of Colón, it is said that Facussé offered 3 million lempiras to Carlos Escaleras, who ran as the mayoral candidate for the leftist Democratic Unification party (UD). Escaleras didn’t accept the offer and continued to openly criticize Facussé’s decision to set up a plant there to extract African palm oil without any apparent concern for the potential damage from vapors and chemicals to the hundreds of families living in numerous neighboring communities. A few months after the offer and Escaleras’ continued environmentally based criticism, he was gunned down by hired assassins. The crime has been lost in the thick fog of impunity hanging over Honduran justice, although human rights organizations did manage to get the case passed on to the OAS’s Inter-American Commission on Human Rights."




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