Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos signed Tuesday the regulatory decrees of the Victims and Land Restitution Law, which takes effect January 1.
In terms of administrative compensation, each victim will receive between $4,760 and $10,900. “This does not compensate for the loss of a loved one, we would like to give them more but it is physically impossible,” said Santos.
Overall, the government estimates that it will cost approximately $26 billion to compensate an estimated four million victims over the next decade.
Victims will have four years to register, free of charge, to be able to benefit from the assistance and reparations. Claims will be accepted from as far back as 1985 as that was one of the more violent periods in Colombia’s recent history. During that year, guerrillas from the now-defunct M-19 rebel group stormed the Palace of Justice and left more than 100 dead in the standoff.
Santos announced that special tribunals will be set up to settle the stolen land claims that authorities estimate will consist of about 2,000 initial claims at the beginning of next year.
Furthermore, systems will be put in place to prevent at-risk populations from becoming conflict victims for a second time.
“Now there will be no more pats on the back [and empty words] for our displaced and dispossessed compatriots,” said Santos during the decree-signing ceremony at the presidential palace, Casa de Nariño.
The head of state continued, “Until yesterday we were talking about the what and the when, and today we are presenting the how … the precise tools to make the law a reality, in order to transform a past of pain into a future of hope and prosperity.”
The goal of the Colombian government is by 2014 to return nearly five million acres of stolen land, where many mercenaries now work as muscle for the land thieves.
Santos attacked the indifference of Colombians to others in need saying it is shameful that society has allowed displaced people to be reduced to begging at traffic lights.