Bogotá, FARC reach deal on land reform

Negotiators from Colombia's government and the FARC rebels on May 26 signed an agreement on agrarian reform, the first and reportedly the hardest of three issues that must be tackled before a final deal to end nearly 50 years of civil war. In a joint press conference, the two negotiating teams said they had reached full agreement on points including "access and use of land," "non-productive lands," "formalization of property," and the "agricultural frontier and protection of reserve zones." Accords were also announced on technical assistance and credit for poor farmers. The pact calls for creation of a "Lands for Peace Fund" into which millions of illegally held or underused hectares will be placed for eventual redistribution to landless peasants and displaced populations. The negotiators said the deal will lead to "radical transformations of Colombia's rural and agrarian reality with equality and democracy." The remaining two issues are political participation and drug trafficking. (Colombia Reports, LAT, El Colombiano, Colprensa, May 26)

"False positives" continue
Colombia's security forces in 2012 executed 52 civilians who were then presented as enemy combatants killed in combat, according to a report by the human rights group CINEP. According to the report, the southwestern Cauca and Valle del Cauca departments and northwestern Antioquia department were the most hard-hit by extrajudicial executions. Indigenous and rural peasants continued being the most common victims of this practice, euphemistically dubbed "false positives" by the government. The figure did drop from 85 in 2011—and from far higher figures in previous years. According to data by the Prosecutor General's Office, in 2007 for example, at least one in five of the 2,703 reported combat kills were in fact assassinated citizens. The Colombian government disputed the report's findings, denying there had been cases of false positives in 2012. According to August 2012 statistics from the Prosecutor General, more than 2,997 civilians have been killed in "false positives."

The CINEP report found that paramilitaries were the perpetrators of most human rights violations last year. The NGO said that 565 cases of rights violations in 2012 were committed by groups that emerged after the demobilization of paramilitary organization AUC. Colombia's National Police force was blamed for 268 cases of rights violations, and the army for 187. Rebel groups like the FARC and ELN were  not mentioned in the report as human rights violators.

In regard to the violations of international humanitarian law, the neo-paramilitary groups were also the primary perpetrator with 493 cases, followed by the FARC (347 cases) and the army (118 cases). (Colombia Reports, May 24)

Soldiers busted with cocaine —again
Three soldiers transporting some 300 kilos of cocaine were arrested in northern Colombia, local media reported May 22. According to the reports, the two active soldiers and one retired major were arrested in the municipality of Plato, Magdalena department. They were allegedly seeking to deliver the coke to guerrilla-turned-narco "Megateo," one of the most prominent drug traffickers along the Venezuelan border.

This is but the most recent such case; in January, two soldiers were arrested when caught with half a ton of cocaine at a checkpoint in Valle del Cauca department. Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón and armed forces commander Gen. Alejandro Navas have announced an investigation to establish whether a "drug trafficking cartel" is active within the armed forces (Colombia Reports, May 23; InSight Crime, Jan. 21)