View Count: 108 |  Publish Date: May 27, 2013
Land reform first stage to peace

Pressure for agreement: Rebel and government representatives meet to discuss a peace deal in Havana. Photo: AFP
In a milestone first step in efforts to end Latin Americas longest-running insurgency, Colombias largest rebel group and the government have agreed on land reform – the first of six points that would make up an eventual peace deal.
The agreement on agrarian reform, considered crucial to any broader accord, is a boost for President Juan Manuel Santos, who last year took the risky political move of restarting peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The previous effort ended in failure in 2002.
Both sides are motivated to seek peace. The FARC is a much weakened military force kept alive with profits from drug trafficking and extortion, analysts say. The government sees resolving the half-century conflict as the key to opening up the country to more investment, infrastructure projects and social programs.
Real opportunity: Humberto de la Calle, head of the Colombian governments delegation to peace talks with the FARC. Photo: AFP
In a communique issued by the FARC and government, they said they had agreed on integrated rural reform. Among its features is a land fund into which millions of illegally or underused hectares will be put for redistribution to displaced people and peasants. Advertisement
In a statement he read at the Havana convention centre where the talks have been held since November, the governments lead negotiator, former president Humberto De la Calle, cautioned that there will be no peace deal until all six points have been agreed on. Then the final package will be put to a referendum for approval to ensure national participation and transparency.
Mr De la Calle acknowledged criticism from some Colombians, including former president Alvaro Uribe, who have argued for a military solution. Mr De la Calle called the criticism a sign of a healthy debate but insisted the talks are yielding solid advances.
Now we have a real opportunity to reach peace through negotiations after 50 years of armed conflict, Mr De la Calle said.
FARC negotiator Carlos Fernandez Cossio said the formation of the land bank called Land Fund for Peace will be the vehicle by which farmland is redistributed. Farmers would get technical assistance and marketing advice as well as legal and police protection. In recent months, several leaders of displaced farmers groups have been killed by suspected criminal gangs allegedly involved in land grabs.
Pressure was on both sides to come to an agreement, with many Colombians patience taxed by the failures of previous peace talks and by suspicion that the rebels were talking only to buy time to regroup and improve their international image. The government, however, has refused to declare a ceasefire in military operations against the rebels.
Before the announcement, FARC negotiator Rodrigo Granda said negotiating teams for both sides had been up all night the past two days.
Other negotiating points still to be tackled involve the FARC giving up drug trafficking, reparation for victims, the logistics of ending the conflict and how to implement an agreement.
Los Angeles Times

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Time: 16:14  |  News Code: 268593  |  Site: brisbanetimes
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