Posted by: Paula Delgado-Kling | July 18, 2013

In Havana, talk of demobilized FARC guarding returning farmers

According to the Human Rights Watch 2013 World Report, “abuses against displaced land claimants and their leaders in recent years – including threats, forced displacements, and killings – have created a climate of fear for those seeking restitution in several areas of the country.”

At least 45 leaders of the land restitution process were assassinated from 2002 to 2011, according to the 2011 annual report of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights.

In the peace agreement now being negotiated in Havana, farmers who were displaced from their land will get land titles, bank loans, technical assistance, help with irrigation systems and road and school improvements, and the government will conduct a complete inventory of rural lands to rule out out fraud, Peace Commissioner Sergio Jaramillo said. A property tax plan also will be imposed to discourage land from lying fallow, he added.

Jaramillo added that after a peace treaty, demobilized FARC fighters will work as security guards in the countryside, alongside some sort of international supervision.

It is difficult to decipher what, exactly, is being negotiated in Havana, and it makes me nervous. It should make us all nervous because of its secrecy and lack of transparency.

The idea to have demobilized FARC guarding returning farmers is an outrage — according to the Agriculture Ministry, of the 35,846 requests it has received nationwide for land restitution, at least one in three is blamed on the FARC, although FARC leaders have denied stealing land. The government says besides stealing from farmers, the FARC stole huge expanses from the State, mostly in remote regions where the State was absent.

Another third of the 35,846 requests were blamed on paramilitaries, and the rest on unspecified criminal bands.

Hence, to turn a demobilized FARC force into security guards for returning farmers is to arm the victimizers to protect their past victims.

Will this demobilized FARC force have any human rights training? Where is the guarantee that this demobilized FARC force will not end up as another government-sponsored militia akin to the paramilitaries? The paramilitaries — which have now become a big threat to the State — started out as landowners’ private militias, supported by the government’s army.

Anyhow, becoming guards to farmers will hold little appeal to the demobilized FARC. While many FARC guerrillas have little to no formal education, they are respected and even revered in their predominantly rural communities, and they are more likely to continue on the path of drug trafficking or illegal gold mining which, will they have learned, awards them cash and position.

Moreover, paramilitary groups have not dismantled in areas where farmers are supposed to return, and they have created “an anti-restitution army” to resist the return of the lands. Paramilitaries assassinated at least 55 land reform activists since 2008, human rights groups say.

“I know that in places such as Cordoba, Uraba, Magdalena and southern Cesar, the paramilitary gangs are rearming, or rather reactivating – as they never disarmed – and the argument they have is that they will not give the land to the guerrillas,” said sociologist Alfredo Molano.

There is a deep hatred between paramilitaries and FARC that by now goes back at least one generation. To return farmers to these areas is to again put them in the crossfire between paramilitaries and FARC, the very reason why a lot of these farmers abandoned their land in the first place.


International journal Stability of Security and Development: What if the FARC demobilizes? By Enzo Nussio and Kimberly Howe.

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