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Colombia: State Seizes Narco-Lands from FARC

Bill Weinberg

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Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos on July 18 announced details of an operation to seize nearly 278,000 hectares said to have been illegally usurped by the FARC in Meta region, on the eastern plains. "Operation Yari" was led by the military's elite Task Force Omega, although it was not clear if any actual combat was involved. Santos said the lands were a mixture of private predios (collective peasant holdings) and "vacant" state lands. While Santos named the FARC's East and Southern fronts as controlling the land, there was some ambiguity as to how they had been usurped. He said: "These lands had been acquired illegally, because the titles were not legal or because they were occupations of vacant lands" that pertain to the state. He said the former predios would be turned over to the government's Banco de Tierras for redistribution to expropriated campesinos, as mandated by the terms of the peace process now underway. He said the lands were used by the FARC both for cattle ranching and processing cocaine. Many of the lands were in La Macarena, an area the government has especially targeted for coca eradication. (MiRegión, La Macarena, El Espectador, Bogotá, Radio CaracolReuters, July 17)

The FARC, which ended a unilateral ceasefire in May, has now announced a new one to begin on July 20. However, the guerrillas are keeping up relentless attacks in the lead-up to the new ceasefire, according to a round-up on Colombia Reports. On July 16, presumed FARC guerrillas blew up the main road connecting Medellín to the Caribbean coast in Antioquia region. Hours earlier, guerrillas reportedly set fire to an oil well in Yondó, also in Antioquia. Also that day in southern Cauca region, guerillas blew up part of the Pan-American Highway that connects all Colombia's major cities with Ecuador. The day before, guerrillas blew up an power pylon in Cauca, cutting electricity to the town of Caldono. Also in Cauca that day, guerrillas attacked a police post in the village of El Mango, injuring seven officers. The officers had only just returned to the post after being expelled from the village center by locals who feared a pending attack. One July 13, one officer was injured and 20 homes damaged when presumed FARC guerrillas threw a grenade at a police post in Florida, Valle del Cauca. The deadliest of attack took place in Montañita, Caqueta, where FARC guerillas on July 10 killed two soldiers.

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