Isla del Covado is located in the region of the Canal del Dique (or Dike Canal), between the departments of Sucre and Bolivar, the municipalities of San Onofre and Sucre, Cartagena, Turbana, and Arjona and Bloviar, in the northern part of Colombia. The island is composed of lakes, streams and lagunes which used to be part of the heritage of the Afro Colombian communities of San José de Rocha, Puerto Badel, Lomas de Matunilla, Recreo, Leticia, Pasacaballos, Labarces, San Antonio y Bocacrrada.
Since 1980, Isla del Covado have been colonialized by several shrimp companies. The arrival of these companies led to the destruction of forests, beaches, natural streams, and eventually the disruption of complete ecosystems. Consequently, the majority of flora and fauna disappeared. Colombian agribusiness Manuelita S.A. created a system of prohibitionism which limited the liberty of local fishermen to access the island.
Around 1995 the first armed groups – paramilitary and narco groups – arrived in the area, which in 1998 started an alliance with a shrimp company. Local fishermen were now completely out of work and were often forced to sell their properties and leave the area. Shrimp company Océanos has – throughout two decades – systematically attacked humble Afro Colombian fishermen, who when trying to enter the Isla del Covado, were wounded by fire arms.
Currently, Océanos S.A. and Manuelita S.A. own more than half of the island, which they acquired by illegally displacing local communities thanks to their alliance with paramilitary groups and by falsifying land ownership titles. Lakes, beaches and mangroves were privatized, destroyed, and contaminated by industrial residues. The area’s original communities, amounting to thousands of persons, were dragged into poverty due to lack of resources to provide for their families.
Global Justice Association represents members of several communities around Isla del Covado, and is seeking to hold the perpetrators of violence, illegal displacement, and environmental damage accountable. The aim is to restore the affected area to its original conditions, and to arrange for the return of illegally displace people to their rightful lands.