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| 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 displaced farmers, well aware that the hundreds of thousands of people uprooted by Colombia's long civil conflict rarely returned home, thought they would never see their land again. But in this case, the government recently ordered nine palm oil companies to return thousands of acres to the farmers, and the attorney general's office is investigating the firms' operators on accusations of homicide, land theft and forced displacement.

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.
 
Read more here.
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EDICIÓN 1855

PORTADA

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