Alternative Development, Economic Interests and Paramilitaries in Uraba

01 September 2008
Policy briefing

The following document analyses how the Forest Warden Families Programme and the Productive Projects of the Presidential Programme Against Illegal Crops in Colombia have been used to legalise paramilitary structures and implement mega agro-industrial projects in the Uraba Region.

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The Uraba region is located in northeastern Colombia on the border with Panama and is made up of 17 municipalities in the  department of Choco and Antioquia. In Antioquia, the Uraba region extends toward the border with Panama, including the Gulf of Uraba into which the Atrato River flows.

The region includes the municipalities of Arboletes, San Juan de Urabá, San Pedro de Urabá, Necoclí, Turbo, Apartadó, Carepa, Chigorodó, Mutatá, Dabeiba, Murindó and Vigía del Fuerte. In Choco, the Uraba region is made up of the zone known as Lower Atrato, which includes the municipalities of Riosucio, Unguía, Acandí, Carmen del Darién and up until 2007 Belén de Bajirá, which now forms part of of Uraba.

The area is known for its natural resources of minerals, oil, lumber as well as its water, fertile land, and extensive biodiversity. Uraba also acts as the bridge between South America and Central America and has access to the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, and therefore offers unprecedented economic and strategic military opportunities. In the National  Development Plan (NDP) of the successive Uribe governments of 2002 and 2006, Uraba has been considered a priority zone.


• Until there is a strict monitoring of the funds earmarked for Programmes in the framework of the battle against drugs in Uraba, different international donors should impose a moratorium on the resources to the Colombian government.

• Involved donors and international organisations should examine the practice of the Presidency Programmes against Illegal  Crops in Uraba – Forest Warden Programmes and Productive Projects – from their origins as a requirement to continue the  international aid that is earmarked for them. They should also examine the ownership of the land where the projects are developed and determine who are the true beneficiaries of the Programme.

• Peasant farmers or communities linked to these Programmes should not be obliged to collaborate with the public forces. This not only increases the situation of risk that these people are living through by converting them into supporting actors in the conflict but also the Antioquia part represents an infraction of International Humanitarian Law.

• The Productive Projects they seek to develop in the collective lands of indigenous and Afro Colombian peoples must be consulted with them previously as stipulated in Law 70 of the ILO 169 Agreement. When there are denouncements about presumed ties to the paramilitary movement, international support should be frozen until there are control and follow-up mechanisms about the use of these resources.

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