Santos withdraws controversial Colombia land reform bill

Juan Manuel Santos (Photo: President's Office)

Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday withdrew a controversial, but already approved land reform bill that had been criticized by farmers and human rights groups as a means for “land accumulation.”

Santos wrote on his Twitter account that the bill would be withdrawn while the government “guarantees that it is adjusted to the principals we have established for the development of the countryside.”

The law’s principal proponent, Agriculture Minster Ruben Lizarralde, said the law’s main objective was to increase access and effective use of unused lands.

The reform, that already had been ratified by Congress, would also have modified a 1994 law reserving state-owned land for sale to rural farm workers.

Criticism of the reformed centered on the measure that would have created “interest zones for economic and social development” that opponents said new law would open public land to larger investors, including foreign companies.

MORE: Colombia farmers, human rights groups reject ‘land accumulation’ reform bill

It is unclear how the proposed bill would have interacted with the first accord reached during peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebel group, which addressed unequal land distribution in Colombia, a problem experts say has created widespread poverty and is one of the main catalysts to conflict in the Colombian countryside.

Following the announcement of the bills retirement, Senator Jorge Robledo, an opponent of the land reform, claimed to Colombia’s RCN Radio that Lizarralde would be placing his resignation over irregularities in his handling of the reform bill.


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