By the end of the year, 115,000 people could be helped by the Victims and Land Restitution Law, a bill that seeks to compensate Colombia’s victims of armed conflict, said President Juan Manuel Santos Thursday.
Santos reiterated that he would continue to support the controversial law, which went into effect in January. The law offers payments of up to $11,000 for the estimated four million people affected by violence committed by guerrilla and paramilitary groups since 1985, and it also looks to provide land restitutions to displaced people.
“If we repair our victims, Colombia will be a different country, one with more hope and a better future,” Santos said at a gathering for the launch of the book “The War For Victims,” by Senator Juan Fernando Cristo.
Santos said that within four years the government hopes to have compensated 380,000 victims. In terms of land restitution, the government revealed that it has already received 15,000 applications. The claims represent more than 2,470,000 acres of land, according to a news release.
Santos said the Victims Law does not only provide payments to victims, but also is comprehensive enough “to help victims rebuild their lives in such areas as education, housing, land and production projects.”
The law, however, has received criticism for its definition of what constitutes a victim—people injured by landmines have been excluded—as well as the manner in which proof of victimization needs to be provided. Former President Alvaro Uribe has fiercely criticized the inclusion of victims of state violence, saying that it will make the law unaffordable. Land redistribution activists have faced intimidation and been killed by armed groups, and much of the land intended for redistribution is still under their control.
On Friday, Santos vehemently defended the law, which could take up to 10 years to implement completely.
“The enemies should know, whether they are out in the open or hidden criminals,” Santos said, “that we will defend the law with soul and life.”