Colombia will redistribute farmland of some 11,500 square miles – an area larger than the state of Massachusetts – as part of an eventual peace deal with the country’s largest rebel group FARC, newspaper El Tiempo reported Sunday.
If and when an agreement is finalized, the land will be given to some 250,000 farmers who had lost their land at some point in Colombia’s almost-50-year armed conflict between rebels, paramilitaries and state, said the daily. The agriculture land reform of 3% of Colombia’s national territory is reportedly to be executed in a period of 10 years.
Colombia’s land redistribution
The Colombian government has already begun the redistribution of 7,700 square miles of farmland as part of the program to return land to displaced who had their land stolen by illegal armed groups, who then either kept the land or sold the land legally through corrupt government officials to ranchers and businesses.
At the same time, the agrarian reform discussed by the negotiators in Havana, Cuba will include an increase in access to public services by Colombia’ impoverished rural population.
According to El Tiempo, the nearly complete deal goes further than the return of stolen land, and will include redistributing land legally owned by ranchers, but considered underused. The United Nations in 2011 recommended such land reform to decrease extreme poverty in rural Colombia.
A source close to the peace talks assured El Tiempo that no land will be granted to the FARC which legally and illegally has acquired large plots of land over the past decades.
“The land bank will be for farmers, not for guerrillas. It’s not that they’re going to say: ‘We’re going to give them 50,000 hectares of such and such estate,'” the newspaper quoted its anonymous source as saying.
Another part of the reform, El Tiempo says, is an increase of land property tax – another U.N. proposal. The increase of taxes on land is supposed to force large land owners to sell unprofitable land, making it available for smaller farmers, hopefully diminishing inequality as a consequence.
According to the newspaper, the negotiators are expected to announce a deal on agrarian reform as soon as this week. Both parties last month already said to be “close” to a deal.
If the government and the FARC reach an agreement on land reform, the negotiators will proceed to discussing the participation of the FARC in Colombia’s politics.