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LATIN AMERICA

Colombian government officials reach land deal with FARC guerrillas

Agreement is the first area of six proposed issues aimed at ending insurgency

FARC negotiator Pablo Catatumbo (l) shakes hands with Colombia's government negotiator Frank Pearl in Havana Sunday.rn Ampliar foto
FARC negotiator Pablo Catatumbo (l) shakes hands with Colombia's government negotiator Frank Pearl in Havana Sunday. REUTERS

After six months of negotiations, the Colombian government on Sunday announced that it had reached an agreement on one of the six issues being discussed in Havana with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The FARC and officials from President Juan Manuel Santos’s administration agreed to the terms of a land-reform program that they hope will stimulate the country’s agriculture sector and give jobs to people living in rural areas. The plan includes a scheme of government subsidies, loans and technical assistance for farmers and ranchers as well as nutritional aid for poor rural workers.

"What we have agreed will usher in radical transformations of the rural and agrarian sector of Colombia, which will include equal and democratic distribution of land,” read a press release, which was announced at the Havana Convention Center, where the talks have been taking place. “It focuses on the people, the small producer, access and distribution of land, combating poverty, stimulating agricultural production, and economic recovery for the country.”

The Colombian government and the FARC, Latin America’s oldest insurgency, have been holding talks since November 19 to find a way to conclude the 50-year-old guerrilla war. The talks are being sponsored by Cuba, Norway, Venezuela and Chile.

President Santos praised the agreement on his Twitter account: "We indeed welcome this fundamental step in Havana to end half a century of conflict," he wrote.

For his part, Humberto de la Calle, the head of the government’s delegation, called it historic because it "dramatically transforms the rural reality of Colombia." But he also clarified that what was hammered out in Havana was done with "full respect” for private property owners and in accordance with current laws. “Legal land owners will have nothing to fear,” he said.

The agreement also states that “the largest number of landless rural people,” or those with insufficient land, will now be able to acquire it through the government’s initiative. The Santos administration will create a so-called “Land Fund for Peace,” and the government will progressively grant lands titles for plots it owns to peasants in Colombia.

This marks the furthest that the FARC and the Colombian government have come in terms of reaching an agreement. The last peace talks broke down in 2001.

The negotiations will continue to focus on the five remaining areas, including the demobilization of the guerrilla group and political participation of the FARC in the future.

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