Colombia’s finance minister said $1.2 billion has already been set aside as part of this year’s budget to begin funding a project recently approved by Congress to compensate victims of the country’s long-running guerrilla war.
Finance Minister Juan Carlos Echeverry also guaranteed the government will be able to deliver all the financial support Congress deems necessary each year to continue funding the 10-year project.
“In terms of what’s needed, we’ll come up with it,” the finance minister told Caracol Radio late Wednesday, adding the funding shouldn’t require additional deficit spending.
The Law of Victims and Land Restitution was under discussion for years before lawmakers gave final approval to the measure Tuesday. President Juan Manuel Santos called it a “historic” moment for the nation.
Colombia’s government has been battling leftist guerrilla groups since the mid 1960s in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions more. In recent decades, the conflict widened to include right-wing paramilitary groups that fought against leftist rebels.
All of the groups involved in the conflict, including the military, right-wing fighters and leftist rebels, have been accused of human rights abuses. The reparations law would provide restitution to all victims regardless of the aggressor. Reparations would be possible for victims and families of victims of a variety of crimes related to the conflict, including homicide, kidnapping, extortion and sexual abuse.
Hundreds of thousands of victims have already applied to the government for reparations and some lawmakers say some 4 million people may have legitimate claims to some type of payment. Precise payment amounts are yet to be established.
A key part of the bill also aims to return millions of acres of land taken from peasants by illegal armed groups.