Colombia Makes Peace with FARC after 49 Years of Armed Conflict
On Sunday, just a few days before the rebel group FARC’s 49th anniversary, the Colombian government and the FARC peace negotiators jointly announced an agreement for “radical transformations” in the Colombian countryside, a major breakthrough in peace talks that could end the half a century of conflict.
The peace talks between the parties have been taking place in Havana, Cuba for the past six months.
The FARC has long asserted that the land redistribution issues were the main reason they rose up against the government in the mid-1960s, claiming to fight on behalf of the country’s peasants. According to the UN Development Program reports, 52% of farms are in the hands of just over 1% of landowners in the country, giving Colombia one of the most unequal land distributions in the world. Between 1985 and 2008, 6.5m hectares of land were stolen, abandoned or forcibly changed hands in other ways as a result of the conflict.
During the 1960s, the Colombian government implemented a policy called Accelerated Economic Development (AED) where thousands of peasants were forcefully evicted from their farms and had to migrate to the cities. The dispossession of farmland turned small farmers and peasant land owners into workers of the industrial labor pool. By 1969, over 400,000 landless families were scattered throughout Colombia.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—Ejército del Pueblo, FARC–EP and FARC) was established in 1964. The group claims to be a peasant army with a political platform of agrarianism and anti-imperialism inspired by Bolivarianism. It operates in 25 of Colombia’s 32 provinces and is estimated to have approximately 8,000 guerrillas in its ranks.
Specific points of the agreement were not made public, but as part of the deal, the country will create a land bank through which farmland would be redistributed and farmers could receive loans, technical assistance and marketing advice as well as legal and police protection.
According to a report in the Guardian, the Farc has said it wants to see 9m hectares of land set aside for “peasant reserve zones” that would enjoy some autonomy from national government control. The government rejected the idea of autonomous zones but said they could be the focus areas of rural development programs.
The negotiation rules state that no single deal is final until the entire negotiation process draws to a close. FARC’s chief negotiator says there are some land reform details that remain unresolved.
Delegation will meet again in June 11th to start working on the second agenda: Political reintegration of the rebels.
Video: Courtesy of Al Jazeera: Titled “Is the war in Colombia coming to an end?”