Colombia Unveils Major FARC Breakthrough


Colombia made a deal with the devil. And by the devil, I mean FARC rebels. And by deal, I mean a land reform deal.

The Colombian government joined forces with the leftist FARC rebels on Sunday to reach a breakthrough deal on land reform, the first step in a peace process launched six months ago.

The land reform deal will create a “land fund” of illegally seized land or underused acres that will be put aside to be redistributed to landless peasants. Land rights and distribution are a big deal in Colombia, where 52% of farms are in the hands of just over 1% of landowners. Between 1985 and 2008 a lot of land was stolen, abandoned or forcibly taken as a result of the conflict.

Under this new redistribution plan, farmers would receive loans, technical assistance and marketing advice as well as legal and police protection. Details about how many hectares would be redistributed remain vague at this point.

The deal was not an easy one to negotiate. A FARC negotiator said both sides had worked for two days without sleep, with both sides wanting to end the 50-year conflict. Both sides have motivation to seek peace.

On the government side, the agreement is seen as the first part of a possible peace accord that would be a major boost for Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who plans to seek reelection next year. Ending the conflict is also seen as the key to opening up the country to more investment, infrastructure projects and social programs.

On the FARC side… well, FARC hasn’t been doing so well lately. The rebel group has weakened in recent years and has been basically been kept alive with profits from drug trafficking and extortion. With the original goal of overthrowing the government and installing a Marxist regime, FARC seems to have said “FARC it” and resorted to kidnapping people and dealing drugs. FARC is thought to have some 8,000 fighters, down from about 16,000 in 2001. I guess they realized they should probably step up the peace agreements before their numbers dwindle any further.

Via: The Los Angeles Times

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