Colombia begins historic process of land restitution


More than 11,000 acres of stolen land was returned are displaced families as Colombia’s historic Victims Law came into effect Thursday.

“Today we begin the Great Agrarian Revolution of Colombia,” proclaimed President Juan Manuel Santos at a ceremony returning the “Las Catas” estate to 304 families who will use it to farm rubber, cocoa and bananas.

The land, in the northern Colombian department of Cordoba, had been taken over by William and Gerado Moncada, brothers who worked for Pablo Escobar before the drug lord killed them in 1992.

In a speech published on the presidential website, Santos told the families, “Las Catas, in a certain way, is an example of the history of our country. It belonged to an illustrious Antioquian, Dr Uribe Botero. Then, when drug trafficking arrived, it became aware of the best lands in Colombia, and the henchmen of Pablo Escobar, the Moncada men, became the bosses of this land, more than 11,000 acres, displacing many people, killing people left and right.”

The Colombian leader said the land restitution process had enemies across the political spectrum, “but the legal process was accomplished and we finally got it through Congress.”

The Ministry of Agriculture esimates that 350,000 families will be entitled to claimed back around five million acres of land under the new law.

In order to have the rights to stolen land returned, claimants will have to prove they will use it for something useful, such as farming.

The Victims and Land Restitution Law, which offers reparations to those who have suffered human rights abuses or been displaced as a result of Colombia’s decades-long conflict, was signed last June.

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