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Colombia: The Displaced People of Ituango

Ituango is a small town located in the mountains north Antioquia, 195 kilometers from Medellín, Colombia. Its residents have been suffering time and again because they have had to abandon their lands, as a sort of forced displacement due to guerrilla and paramilitary hostilities. Ituango is a rich region, but poor at the same time because its residents have had to face controversy with the hydro-electric project of Pescadero-Ituango in which the government has been attempting to hand it over to foreign companies. This project would also provide Colombia additional contributions to the generation of electricity, which is also another region why armed groups want to take control of this natural region.

Photo of the displaced by Adriana Jaramillo and used with permission.

For more than 30 years, the residents have been forced to abandon their homes and seek refuge in the schools and central areas of Ituango. This year on April 2, there was a displacement of more than 1,600 residents. After signing a pact with local authorities of Ituango, in which the displaced were guaranteed security, the majority have been returning little by little to their lands, but there are still many in the improvised shelters.

Some bloggers that live in Ituango and belong to HiperBarrio have written about their concerns in the matter. For example, Roxana of the blog El Rincón del Pensamiento [es] describes the situation in Ituango.

Se espera que esta triste situación se solucione pronto ya que esto no afecta solo a los desplazados sino que nos afecta a todos, por que es realmente triste ver a tanta gente lejos de sus tierras debido al poder del hombre.

There is hope that the sad situation is solved soon because it no longer only affects the displaced, but it affects everyone, because it is really sad to see people far from their lands as a result of the power of man.

Adriana in her blog Ituango: Tesoro por Descubrir [es] writes about the displaced and questions the situation.

No les parece que es injusto que se tengan que ir y dejar todo una ves más, para muchos es la quinta, para otras quizás han habido mas, debe ser horrible tener el miedo de que en cualquier momento te toca dejar todo de nuevo, nadie quisiera estar en ese lugar, me decia una señora “es preferible tomarse una agüita con sal en la casa de uno, que estar en un alberge esperando a que te den algo.

Don't you think that it is unfair that they have to go and leave everything one more time, for many it is their farm, for others maybe it is much more, it must be horrible be scared that at any moment you must have to leave everything, no one wants to be in that place, a woman told me “it is better to drink salt water in one's house, than to be in a shelter waiting for someone to give you something.

The blog Hiperbarrio Ituango, La Belleza Oculta de Ituango [es] highlights the displaced:

El Estado les ha brindado un buen apoyo, con múltiples ayudas. Y aunque la gran mayoría ha podido regresar a sus casas, algunos aún se encuentran en la cabecera municipal, aunque en menor cantidad que la que había anteriormente.

The State has provided them good support and a lot of help. Even though a large portion have been able to return home, some still find themselves under municipal care, even though there are less than there were before.

The blog La Colonia de Ituango [es] has been writing about what has been going on there and explains the problem:

Año tras año, los habitantes de la zona urbana asisten con desconfianza y hasta miedo a la llegada de cientos de familias campesinas que se instalan en albergues temporales, sin pensar en más que la inseguridad que pueden generar o lo feo que se ve el municipio con desplazados; sin contemplar las consecuencias de fondo que generan estos desplazamientos forzados que vienen presentándose desde hace 13 años, época de la primera incursión paramilitar en la zona. Fenómenos como la desocupación de territorios; pérdida de cosechas, animales, semillas nativas; reducción creciente de la soberanía alimentaria del municipio; empobrecimiento de los habitantes; deserción escolar; proliferación de enfermedades tropicales…

Nos tendría que cuestionar el hecho de que esta situación se repita año tras año, y en lugar de buscar el culpable entre los campesinos que vienen desplazados, nos debiéramos preocupar por el extenso territorio que desde unos treinta años atrás se encuentra en disputa en el municipio de Ituango. El Parque Paramillo comprende el 53% del área total del municipio, su zona de amortiguamiento cerca de otro 10% y para la construcción de la represa Pescadero-Ituango y la vía paralela, intervendrán la zona rivereña del río Cauca, en predios de 10 veredas del municipio.

Year after year, the residents of the urban area are suspicious and are even scared of the arrival of hundreds of peasant families that stay in temporary shelters in regards to the insecurity that can be created or to see the municipality full of the displaced; without thinking of the consequences that are created by the forced displacements that have been taking place for 13 years ever since the first paramilitary incursion in the region. Phenomena like the abandonment of the land; loss of harvests, animals, native seeds, reduction in food security in the municipality; impoverishment of the people; school desertion; and the spread of tropical diseases.

We have to question the fact that this situation could be repeated year after year, and instead of seeking the guilty ones among the peasants who are displaced, we should we worry about the vast territory that has been in dispute for the past 30 years in the town of Ituango. Paramillo Park comprises 53% of the total municipal area, its buffer zone around another 10% and for the construction of the dam Pescadero-Ituango and parallel road, they will intervene in the area around the Cauca River in the fields of 10 villages of the municipality.

In another post, the blog writes about the return of residents of Ituango who were located in the urban center of the city:

Con el retorno de los campesinos que salieron de sus veredas en El Cedral y La Miranda, comenzará hoy el proceso de retorno de más de 1.500 ituanguinos que desde hace dos semanas permanecían en el casco urbano del municipio por la presión de los enfrentamientos que se vienen dando en sus regiones. (…). Este sábado regresarán los campesinos provenientes de Santa Ana y durante el fin de semana, hasta el martes, continuará el proceso gradual que ve terminar una situación de emergencia humanitaria que tenía ribetes muy difíciles de superar.

With the return of the peasants who left their villages in El Cedral and La Miranda, the process of returning more than 1,500 ituanguinos begins today and that for two weeks ago they remained in the urban area of the municipality because of the pressure of the clashes that occurred in their regions. (…). This Saturday and during the weekend, the peasants from Santa Ana will return. This will continue through Tuesday in a gradual process that will end a humanitarian emergency that was very difficult to overcome.

This is the reality of the people of Ituango.

Translation by Eduardo Ávila

3 comments

  • Hi Lully, this is a very sad situation, I like to share you this post written by Angelesituango, I think that it shows another point of view of the situation:

    http://cambiojuvenil.wordpress.com/2010/05/07/por-un-problema-de-otros-desplazados/

    Cheers and greetings.

  • hola a todos…
    me alegra mucho ver este escrito, habla de la injusticia que se ha cometido en Ituango y es muy importante que la gente se de cuenta de esto, ya que muchos desconocen la triste realidad de los demás…pero de Ituango hay mucho que conocer..aparte de lo anterior…

    chao¡

  • […] hacía referencia a esta frase, frase que posteriormente fuera compartida en Global Voices en Inglés, y luego traducida (por traductores voluntarios) al Español, Alemán y […]

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