A five-month investigation has revealed around 250,000 acres have been given away under court orders to largely unknown third parties in the central states of Casanare and Meta, according to the Superintendent of Notary and Registration.
According to Superintendent Jorge Enrique Velez, his regional departments are in disarray and don’t know how to address the flood of ownership requests of land they see as state-owned. Despite the notary’s initial rejections of the requests, court orders are forcing them to produce the papers giving ownership of the land to unknown third parties.
In addition to the land being given away in Casanare and Meta, land around the city of Cartagena in the state of Bolivar is also being handed away, which Velez calls “some of the most expensive land in the country,” according to an interview with W Radio.
Velez cites several problems with the land handovers:
- The lands have sparse or no history of ownership which one then assumes the land are ‘baldios,’ or unused land under state protection
- Most of the demands for registration are filed with “unknown third parties” which is improper for an ownership proceeding
- At no time was Colombia’s Institute for Rural Development (INCODER) called upon to defend the state’s right to those ‘baldios.’ The institute is the only agency capable of speaking on the government’s behalf on the issue
- Most of the titles for land given out by judges exceed the amount outlined under the United Family Agriculture law which stands at 7,400 acres in the eastern plains of Colombia.
According to an interview with Caracol Radio, Velez states “These lands do not have a tradition of papers, and do not exist in the registry and unfortunately we have lost more than 100,000 hectares due to these judicial decisions. Additionally, our regional offices in some parts of the country have refused to register these lands but through court orders, the offices have been forced to register them.”
El Tiempo revealed the case of a landowner, Carlos Contreras Valero in the central state of Casanare that got over 27,000 acres thanks to a court order from Monterrey Judge Manuel Alberto Pardo Notary that forced regional notary offices to register Valero as the legal owner.
“I work following the law,” declared Judge Pardo in defending his actions, “the lands have been planted with rice and worked for 50 years by the owners who also pay taxes. One is a famous emerald lord, Victor Quintero.” Judge Pardo also said the law demanding the consultation of INCODER has not gone into effect in the state of Casanare yet.
However, the notary office was sure that many of those acres were “baldios.”
El Tiempo reported to have found 51 similar cases where third parties were given on average around 11,000 acres.
Superintendent Velez along with the Institute for Rural Development are preparing appeals to keep the lands under state ownership, and charge the accused judges with perverting the course of justice and procedural fraud.
- ‘Hay jueces que están feriando baldíos que son de la Nación’ (El Tiempo)
- Investigarán a jueces que están “feriando” baldíos del Estado (W Radio)
- La tierra y cómo repartirla: el caso de la Unidad Agrícola Familiar (Razon Publica)