More than 1.5K land restitutions over last 13 months: Govt

(Photo: Defensoria Del Pueblo)

More than 1,500 displaced Colombians have seen their stolen lands returned in the last 13 months, according to the government whose restitution program has internationally been criticized for its alleged lack of effectiveness.

The land restitution program’s Deputy Director Adriana Fuentes told Radio Santa Fe that exactly 1,573 Colombians have had their land legally returned to them.

Fuentes added that the program was reviewing more than 50,000 additional cases of alleged land theft.

The announcement comes a few days after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos gave a speech in support of the land restitution program which he signed into law in 2011.

Santos told an audience in the state of Antioquia that more than 350,000 displaced persons had been helped by this program since it was initiated in January 2012.  He added that “anyone who dares to threaten or prevent proper restitution of land will meet with the strength of the authorities and the law.”

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Santos has come under fire in the past for the shortcomings of the land restitution program.  In September 2013, the government had allegedly issued 666 legal land restitution orders but only three families had actually returned to living on their lands.

One of the reported reasons that such a small percentage of displaced Colombians are returning to their land is due to threats from armed actors.  Between January and September 2013, 700 people who had applied for land restitution reported threats to authorities. Since 2008, a reported 43 murders have been linked to land restitution attempts.


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