Land that was stolen by the late FARC commander Pedro Antonio Marin Marin, alias “Manuel Marulanda Velez,” was finally returned to the Colombian state after being controlled by the guerrilla group for close to 30 years.
The approximately 138,000 acres of land in the southwestern department of Caqueta, primarily used as cattle ranches, were turned into the private estates of Marulanda, one of the original leaders of the leftist organization, and Victor Julio Suarez Rojas, alias “Mono Jojoy,” who was the FARC’s second-in-command until he was killed in a 2010 military operation.
“We always spoke of the people who were stripped of their property, but we did not take legal action to recover the land. And many are vacant lots where Marulanda and Jojoy forced families out of their homes to take their livestock and crops,” said one of the prosecutors accompanying the group.
Various delays have hampered the effort to restore the land to its rightful owners since 2002.
In January Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos promised to restore 1,853,000 acres of stolen land to 220,000 families over the next four years. The country’s Ministry of Agriculture called these figures “misleading,” because the government included in their estimates not only land that was stolen from illegal groups but also vacant plots.
Illegal armed groups in Colombia have historically pressured or threatened farmers to leave their land or sell it to them at prices much lower than market value, causing forced displacement figures in the country — the world’s highest — to skyrocket.