Officials complicit in massive land theft: Colombian govt

Colombian officials were complicit in allowing illegal armed groups, landowners, and private companies to steal about 100,000 acres of land, displacing its previous occupants, according to a government report.

The Agriculture Ministry, as well as the Institute for Rural Development (Incoder), the institute in charge of land restitution for Colombia‘s displaced, and the Superintendency of the Notary and Registry found 1,600 irregularities in the acquisition of land in the northern Montes de Maria.

According to the investigation, officials from Incoder, the Notary and the Registry, as well as the mayors of the region were all complicit in the violation of protection standards of land for forced displacement, the failure to ban the sale of land subject to land reform, and frauds in the transfer process of property belonging to the National Land Fund.

“The State has already mapped out the actions to remedy these irregularities,” a report from the investigation said. “The problem has already been diagnosed, and we already have begun to implement various administrative, judicial, disciplinary and criminal procedures to reverse this situation in the Montes de Maria. Starting today, there will be constant announcements of resolved cases, reclaimed land, corrected errors, prosecution of those responsible and the restoration of rights to those affected.”

In early September, Congressman Ivan Cepeda took advantage of a house debate on land restitution to call for an investigation into ex-President Alvaro Uribe’s role in land sales.

Cepeda denounced Uribe for “influence peddling” over his rulings in the cases of allocating 185,329 acres of land to 25 companies in the Montes de Maria mountains.

The legislator demanded the government intervene in the region to deal with criminal gangs, clean up state institutions, end the influence of paramilitaries in politics and to “not consider a single one of the buyers [of the land] to have acted in good faith.”

“The Montes de Maria are in the power of friends of ex-president Uribe,” Cepeda argued.

According to the report from the investigation, “the State has already recuperated more than 800 hectares [1,977 acres] of land to proceed to provide them to farmers through land grant programs.”

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