Colombia Expects to Resolve Petitions for Land Restitution in 2012

By Dialogo
December 22, 2011

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos revealed that he expects to resolve around 2,100 petitions for land restitution in 2012, under a law benefiting victims of violence that goes into effect in January.

At Nariño House (the presidential residence) on December 20, the president signed a decree implementing a law seeking to indemnify four million victims by 2014 and to return 2 million hectares seized since 1991, the majority of them by extreme right-wing armed groups and leftist guerrilla groups.

“In June, when I endorsed the Victims and Land Restitution Act, I said that we were waiting at the starting line. Well, today we’re setting off on this ten-year march,” Santos said, accompanied by ministers, members of Congress, diplomats, and officials.

The decree will enable the implementation of the law, which in its first year of implementation will have a budget of 6.1 trillion pesos (around 3.15 billion dollars) and is expected to resolve 2,100 of 13,760 claims.

The decree establishes a Land Restitution Administrative Unit, attached to the Agriculture Ministry, which will have the functions of registering claimants and returning land, among others.

This entity “will have 13 regional offices in operation by January 2012 and 17 by the end of the year,” located in the areas with the most severe problems of forced displacement, according to a statement issued by the Agriculture Ministry.

Likewise, the decree establishes “assistance and reparation measures,” providing for the administrative recoupment of victims for amounts between 9 and 21 million pesos (between around 4,600 and 10,800 dollars).

“Those sums will be given preferably to those who invest in housing, education, land, or a productive project. That is, we’re going to offer incentives to those who decide to invest in their future,” the President indicated.