The first properties usurped by FARC guerrillas will be returned to victims this week as part of the process of land restitution and reparation for victims of the armed conflict, announced Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos on Monday.
“This week, the minister of agriculture and his team of land restitution will be in Tolima, also presenting a claim, this time not just of paramilitaries but also of FARC, of land that the FARC have obtained in a violent and fraudulent form. 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, for the paramilitaries and and all those who have obtained land in an illegal manner,” said Santos.
Between the southwest departments of Cauca, Caqueta and the south of Tolima, all zones of guerrilla influence, at least 370 thousand acres of land have been stripped during the last 20 years, reported Caracol Radio. While justice will determine those responsible for the theft, the Superintendent of Notaries Jorge Enrique Velez did not rule out that it is mostly the FARC that have influence on these crimes.
In agreement with information found in the computers of the killed FARC leader Jorge Briceño, alias “El Mono Jojoy,” the FARC had at least 96 pieces of land under their ownership, reaching to approximately 121,000 total acres, including an additional 66,595 animals and a total cost estimated at over $36 million.
According to Caracol Radio, the Land Consolidation and Reconstruction Unit has indicated that there are between 12,000 and 104,000 acres of land under the hands of FARC guerrillas. The Ministry of Agriculture is also currently evaluating an alleged 21 thousand claims that make up part of nearly four million total acres claimed by displaced people.
Santos’ announcement was made just two weeks before peace talks between the government and the country’s largest guerrilla group are set to begin with intentions of ending Colombia’s 48-year-old armed conflict. Originally planned to begin on October 8 in Norway’s capital of Oslo, the talks have been pushed back by at least two to seven days because judicial authorities have been delayed in suspending arrest warrants of rebel negotiators.
The agricultural reform will be one of the points of agreement during negotiations that will later be moved to Cuba’s capital Havana.