The Washington Post | 3/24/2009 12:00:00 AM
Colombia Orders Return of Stolen Farmland
Mar 24 -- As with so many crimes of war, what happened here in the dense, humid jungles of northwestern Colombia more than a decade ago might easily have been forgotten. Illegal militias forced hundreds of poor black farmers off their land, which politically connected businessmen then seized and turned into lucrative palm oil plantations.
The government, however, is motivated as much by self-interest as altruism, say human rights groups, which also charge that state negligence coupled with aid for the palm oil companies helped facilitate the land seizures. President Álvaro Uribe's administration urgently wants a free-trade agreement with the United States, and Democrats on Capitol Hill have made clear that the pact is contingent on human rights advances in Colombia, particularly for blacks and other marginalized groups.
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