The International Office for Human Rights Action on Colombia

Genuine agrarian counter-reform in Colombia That is how many analysts describe what has been happening in the Colombian countryside in recent decades. A few official statistics are enough to show the extent of the problem.

That is how many analysts describe what has been happening in the Colombian countryside in recent decades.  A few official statistics are enough to show the extent of the problem.  In 1984, 32.7% of the country’s cultivable area was concentrated in the hands of 0.5% of landowners; in 1996, 0.4% of landowners held 44.6% of this area; and, currently, 0.43% of them own 44.6% of cultivable land.  In contrast, 57.87% of landowners own barely 1.66% of the land.  Over the course of 25 years, the armed conflict has been used to increase the concentration of land ownership, Colombia being the country with the second highest number of displaced people in the world, after Sudan.  The displacement of campesinos, indigenous people and Afro-Colombians has not been simply a by-product of the conflict but rather a specific war aim.  In the banana-growing areas of Antioquian Urabá, armed men offered campesinos 250,000 pesos per hectare of land, when the price was four times this figure; those who would not sell up were threatened, suffered extortion and were frequently murdered.  The paramilitary leader known as ‘HH’ admitted to having murdered almost 1,600 people in the region in just two or three years.  Through massacres committed in full view of the population, thousands of people were displaced, with their lands falling into the hands of the killers, or those who succeeded them.  Raúl Emilio Hazbún Mendoza, another paramilitary leader and owner of a banana company, who controlled the region for over 10 years, has admitted to close and longstanding links with the army and the police, with the large landowners and multinationals which had invested in the area under his control.  Chiquita Brands was fined 25 million dollars in the United States for making payments to the paramilitaries, but its directors have never been brought to justice in Colombia.

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