Colombia: Santos pledges to return 6 million hectares to displaced

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Aug. 28 promised to return 6 million hectares of farmland stolen by paramilitary groups after the original owners were forcibly displaced. The president said he will soon present congress with a Land Restitution Law aimed at restoring lands to the displaced, who now number more than 3 million. (Colombia Reports, Aug. 28)

The Colombian government calculates it will have to allocate at least 40 trillion pesos ($22 billion) over the next ten years to compensate victims of the country's armed conflict. Colombia's congress ratified a Victims Law last year, obliging it to provide restitution to victims of political violence. Justice Minister German Vargas Lleras on Aug. 28 pledged that victims of state forces will be included in this law. The original bill signed by then-president Alvaro Uribe excluded victims of state violence.

With the proposed amendment of the law, all those who became victims of violence committed by state agents, paramilitaries or guerrillas after 1985 will have the right to compensation. Liberal Party congressman Guillermo Rivera told reporters that the total sum for the reparation of all these victims will be in between 40 trillion pesos ($22 billion) and 50 trillion pesos ($27 billion).

According to a count by the Catholic church, forced displacement has led to 4 million victims. It is estimated that tens of thousands of Colombians were murdered by one of the armed actors in the conflict. (Colombia Reports, Aug. 29)

On Aug. 27, a member of the FARC guerillas, convicted for a 2002 massacre that killed 119 civilians, was arrested in the Urabá region. Harbey Torres Ayala AKA "Isaias" will have to serve a 37-year term for the mortar attack on a church in Bojaya (Chocó department) on May 2, 2002. The