The Colombian government and the FARC have come to an agreement on land reform. But it will only be implemented when the final accords are signed in Havana.
Agriculture Minister Francisco Estupiñán said “rural reform,” as it has been termed, requires much investment in irrigation and draining, as well as technical assistance and subsidies to farmers. Further, it includes a poverty eradication plan that will include rural health and education initiatives. Fiscal adjustments have been made to accommodate such large spending.
The goal is to transform the countryside into a modern competitive form of agriculture that makes use of free trade agreements.
(Of interest about the state of the countryside: The observations of Former President Lleras in 1946 seem relevant today.)
Despite that there has not been a census of rural Colombia in 50 years, the agriculture minister said the reform will only use land owned by the State, as well as land the State has claimed from illegal armed groups who stole it from its rightful owners.
President Santos said the agreement respects private property. He said, “the vast majority of people in the countryside have nothing to fear. Who has acquired their land legally has nothing to fear.”
But implementing the rural reform faces great challenges.
There will be a higher tax on land that is not utilized to its maximum, and that will likely cause political strife with the cattle ranchers who support President Uribe, the opposition.
In fact, analysts all ready conclude the agreement could initiate the next cycle of rural bloodshed. Violent landowners are hiring neo-paramilitary gangs to hold on to stolen land.
According to the agriculture minister, to this day, there have been more than 13,000 hectares that the State has returned to its rightful owners. But there remain 32,000 petitions to return 2.2 million hectares.
At least 700 people who hope to reclaim their land have been threatened so far in 2013. The National Protection Agency (La Unidad Nacional de Protección) calculates it will have 1,000 people under its protection by the end of 2013.
The State has provided protection for 425 people, but many said the cars have mechanical failures, and the cell phones, bullet proof vests and bodyguards offered are not the most appropriate forms of protection in the countryside.
Moreover, seventy percent of land destined to be returned is in areas planted with land mines, said Ricardo Sabogal, director of the government’s Land Restitution Agency (Unidad de Restitucion de Tierras).
Below are some recent headlines from Colombian media: