Of the thousands of claimants for land restitution, the Colombian government said Tuesday that 38% stems from rebel group FARC pressuring farmers to abandon their land.
According to government figures, there have been 23,199 claims for restitution under the Victims and Land Restitution Law, covering approximately 1,754,275 hectares of Colombian land. Of these, the Ministry of Agriculture attributes 7,946 claimants and 662,468 hectares to the misdeeds of FARC guerrillas.
Of the land allegedly stolen by FARC, 70% has been sowed with explosives, such as land mines, according to Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo.
The Victims and Land Restitution Law, which went into effect January 2012, seeks to compensate victims of the country’s 48-year armed conflict. The bill is meant to help victims affected by the violence of guerrilla and paramilitary groups rebuild their lives with the help of payments of up to $11,000, as well as provide land restitution to people displaced by violence.
Over the past 30 years, lands that were abandoned or forcefully seized have added up to nearly 6.65 million hectares. The highest concentration of these cases have occurred in the departments of Bolivar, Magdalena, Sucre, Cesar, Tolima, Meta and Norte de Santander.
President Juan Manuel Santos promised Monday the first properties usurped by FARC guerrillas would be returned to victims this week as part of the process of land restitution and reparation for victims of the armed conflict. “The government has made it very clear: the [Restitution] Law is applied for the whole world. This is a law that we are going to apply for the FARC,” he said.
Figures from the Agriculture Ministry, regarding land restitution, have recently been in question. On August 27, Colombia’s comptroller transferred evidence to the Prosecutor General’s office after finding false information in a follow-up study of the launch of the Victims and Land Restitution Law.