Colombia’s federation of cattle ranchers, representing the country’s large land owners, on Friday rejected a recently made agrarian deal with the FARC that according to the agricultural businessmen includes Venezuela-like expropriations of private property.
Jose Felix Lafaurie, president of FEDEGAN, said the joint report from the negotiating table in Havana “generates more questions than answers,” and opens the door to legally acquired land being expropriated.
— José Félix Lafaurie (@jflafaurie) June 28, 2013
His letter to chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle Lombana also warns that FARC and other illegal armed groups are concentrating land ownership, saying that ranchers will not accept losses of land while illegal groups benefit.
Lafaurie is a loyal ally of former president Uribe and strong critic of Santos. Mired in corruption scandals several times, he has managed to continue his political career while also running significant business interests of his own.
While Lafaurie accepted that illegally taken land should be returned, his letter expressed concern that the ability to expropriate legally owned, but unused lands to give it to small farmers would “open a Pandora’s Box” in which legal land owners would become targets of a process in which the government agencies would have too much discretionary power.
However, FEDEGAN cattle ranchers have been accused of being some of the chief propagators of paramilitary violence in Colombia, and Lafaurie himself has admitted to FEDEGAN paying AUC paramilitaries, the main perpetrators of massive land theft.
The landowner representative reserved his full fury for the government’s negotiating position with the FARC, saying that the government has “acquiesced” to the FARC’s ideological position that “a communist utopia of equality is achieved by redistribution.” He also criticized the idea of creating more Farmers’ Reserve Zones, saying they could act as a cover for FARC guerrillas.
The government has in recent years seized much land and many other assets belonging to the FARC and drug-trafficking groups. However the national paramilitary network AUC was also known to be involved in land theft from small farmers that, through corrupt government officials, then legally handed up in the hands of large landowners. It is unknown how much of this land has been seized or returned.
The joint report of the negotiators in Havana on the issue of land in Colombia was the first such report produced as part of the peace process and is intended to form the basis of the final peace deal.
- Los ganaderos tienen miedo a la expropiación (El Espectador)
- Carta del Dr. José Félix Lafaurie, al Jefe del Equipo Negociador del Gobierno Nacional, Dr. Humberto De La Calle Lombana (Blog post of full letter)
- José Félix Lafaurie (La Silla Vacia)