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Last weekend, in Havana, the first series of agreements between the insurgent guerrilla of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Colombian government was agreed in the framework of the dialogues that have been taking place in the Cuban capital for several months and that is linked with the agrarian issue.
The agreements achieved by the parties after six months of negotiations address six issues and are gathered in the 16th joint statement called “Towards a new Colombian countryside: integral rural reform”, as reported by Cuban news agency Prensa Latina on May 26th.
According to statements made at the Conventions Building in Havana, the agreements are focused on the people, the small producer, on ensuring access to land and land distribution, on the struggle against poverty and the reactivation of economy in the countryside. In addition, they propose that a larger amount of rural inhabitants, without lands or enough lands, can access them through the creation of a Fund of lands for peace.
The first issue on the agreement is related specifically to the access and use of land, and includes unproductive lands, the formalization of ownership, agricultural borders and the protection of reserve areas.
Development programs with a territorial approach were also addressed, in addition to the issue of infrastructure and land adaptation.
The fourth issue addressed was social development, with emphasis on education, health, housing and the eradication of poverty, while the fifth is related to the promotion of agricultural production with the facilitation of technical aid, subsidies and credits.
Lastly, the agreements focus on food and nutritional policies. In addition, the parties announced that the national government will progressively formalize the situation of the lands occupied or owned by Colombian peasants and will create mechanisms to solve potential conflicts over use.
Colombian organizations linked to the rights of peasants welcomed the news, although their optimism is clouded by the reaction of big landowners to these agreements.
Jorge Restrepo, lawyer and head of the Resource Analysis Center in the context of Colombian Conflicts (CERAC) said in an interview with Contagio Radio, an alternative radio station of the country, that the agreements clear up any doubt about the inefficacy of the dialogues taken by the Cuban and Norwegian governments, joined by Chile and Venezuela.
He believes the agreement addresses the “Gordian Knot” of the Colombian conflict and does so with “creative solutions” that could benefit the thousands of people who have been displaced from their lands.
However, he also criticized the statements by the governmental delegate at the Dialogues, according to whom lands will not be expropriated for distribution.
Restrepo believes that a fundamental aspect of the agreements is the one linked to the “closing of the agricultural border” which would imply “the protection of many of the richest and most vulnerable areas of the country in environmental terms”, and that empty fields existing today can be redistributed to landless peasants. “The main landowner in Colombia is the State itself”, said Restrepo.
The lawyer also analyzed the National Development Plan that promotes mining exploitation, which is softened by the content of this first peace agreement that would put peasant production as a key for rural development.
Restrepo announced that the main opponents to this agreement will be the big private landowners of the country and that the society should be prepared for that. He also considered that the dialogues should be accelerated in order to avoid a boycott by the forces that do not want peace in Colombia.
“Este triunfo de Uruguay debe ser un llamado urgente a analizar, revisar, renegociar o anular cuando corresponda todos los tratados bilaterales de comercio y de protección de inversiones que ha suscrito el país, antes de exponernos a nuevas demandas en las que podemos correr con distinta suerte que en la recién finalizada”.
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