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A progressive piece of legislation in 1993 granted collective land rights to Colombia’s black communities living in the rural areas of the Pacific coast region. This measure aimed partly to support sustainable development strategies in the region through territorial empowering of local communities. Yet 14 years later, the escalation of the country’s internal conflict into the Pacific region has created unprecedented levels of forced displacement among rural black communities. Once referred to as a ‘peace haven’, the Colombian Pacific coast is now characterised by new spaces of violence and terror, imposed by warring guerrilla and paramilitary groups, as well as the armed forces. This article examines the nature of the externally induced violence in the region and shows how specific economic interests, in particular in the African Palm sector, are colluding with illegal groups that are used to spread fear and terror among local residents, to make them comply with the requirements of these economic actors.

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