On Friday and Saturday around 2,000 farmers will gather in San Vicente de Caguan to discuss the future of the Peasant Reservation Zone, a government land-redistribution initiative. According to the mayor of San Vicente, the conclusions of the meeting will be recorded and sent to Havana, Cuba, where they will be taken under consideration by negotiators in the peace talks between the government and rebel group FARC.
The mayor guaranteed that the meeting would be safe and that the Colombian forces will be present to keep out illegal armed groups after a guerrilla hinted that the FARC would be present at the meeting.
FARC negotiator, Rodrigo Granda, said from Havana that the rebels will be present “in some form” at the meeting in San Vicente “whether the government like it or not.”
In response Senate President Roy Barreras said that if the FARC attends the meeting in person “they will be captured” and suggested that Granda “was probably referring to a presence in the form of documents expressing their opinions.”
Meanwhile, the diector of the Colombian institute for rural development (INCODER), Míriam Villegas, said to a crowd of 1500 farmers at the forum on Friday that the government did not support a collective territory, or zones with administrative autonomy. Rather, the Peasant Reservation Zone “has to be open, so that it can be accessed by the rest of society.”
Villegas’ statement was in keeping with the government’s position. Last week, Colombia’s agriculture minister rejected a FARC proposal to increase the Peasant Reservation Zone by 22 million acres during the peace talks process.
The peace talks in Havana have been suspended over the Easter holiday period, and will resume on April 2, in teh hopes ofreaching an agreement on land reform.