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COLOMBIA
Government and FARC reach first agreement
5/29/2013
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Significant progress in negotiations towards ending over 50 years of armed conflict

After six months of peace talks in Havana, Cuba, the negotiators of the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) reached on May 26 a first agreement on the land issue. Rural reform is the toughest of six points on the agenda of the peace talks that aim to end over 50 years of armed conflict.

The delegates of the government and FARC reported in a joint statement having reached an agreement on the first item on the agenda which they called “Towards a new Colombian countryside: comprehensive rural reform.”

“What we have agreed to in this accord will be the beginning of radical transformations in the rural and agrarian reality of Colombia, with equity and democracy. It focuses on the people, the small producer, access and distribution of land and the fight against poverty, stimulating agricultural production and reactivating the rural economy,” says the statement.

“We sincerely celebrate this fundamental step in Havana towards a full agreement to put an end to half a century of conflict,” President Juan Manuel Santos said on social media. “We will continue the peace process with prudence and responsibility.”

Congressman Iván Cepeda, of the leftist Alternative Democratic Pole, was quoted by the press saying that historically, land in Colombia “has been appropriated through violence and the colonization of land and territory was achieved through theft, murder, massacres and forced displacement.”

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), just over 1 percent of the population owns 51.1 percent of Colombia’s land.

Colombian non-governmental organizations estimated that illegal armed groups have stripped peasants and the indigenous of at least 2 million hectares (nearly 5 million acres). Another 4 million hectares (9.9 million acres) were abandoned by their owners in fear of violence and around 500,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) were snatched to the state through fraudulent processes.

The UNDP also emphasizes that 75 percent of Colombian municipalities are rural, that they make up 94 percent of the territory and are home to a third of the country’s 48 million inhabitants.

While this first agreement is considered significant progress, the negotiators have noted in their statement that “one of the principles guiding the process is that ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’. This means that the accords that we have been building are subject to reaching an agreement on all points of the agenda.”

The other five points on the agenda of the peace talks — that will resume on Jun. 11 — are related to  political participation, the end of the conflict, finding a solution to the illicit drugs problem, indemnification of the victims and the implementation, verification and endorsement of the final agreement.
—Latinamerica Press.


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