Colombia and FARC rebels agree land deal

Colombia and leftist FARC rebels have reached a deal on land reform, one of the most contentious items in negotiations aimed at ending five decades of insurgency.

The agreement between Bogota and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia would compensate those who have lost land or were displaced from their property, said Cuban diplomat Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, whose country played host to the months-long negotiations.

So far, the talks at the Havana Convention Centre have focused almost entirely on land reform — the first of five agenda items to be discussed.

Land distribution was one of the triggers of the protracted conflict in Colombia, where gaping inequality divides wealthy landowners and poor peasants.

The step, the first major advance in six months of peace talks in Havana, was widely celebrated — but it is part of a larger package still being bargained.

The joint statement warns that the advance on agrarian reform is “conditioned on reaching an agreement on the totality of the agenda,” because the talks are based on the principle that “nothing is agreed upon until everything is agreed upon.”

Chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle, a former vice-president, said what the negotiators agreed upon “pertaining to the agricultural issue allows for a radical transformation of life in rural Colombia.”

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos gushed about the success in a message on his Twitter account.

“We sincerely celebrate this fundamental step in Havana towards a full agreement to put an end to half a century of conflict,” Santos wrote.

“We will continue the peace process with prudence and responsibility.”

The leftist leader of neighbouring Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, quickly congratulated the Santos administration and the rebel negotiators on the advances. “It fills us with joy,” he said during a visit to Bolivia.

Maduro’s predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, was friendly toward the FARC and supported the peace process.

In a Twitter message, Ecuador’s foreign minister also congratulated both sides.

Both delegations will take a break of several days, and then begin talks on political participation, the second agenda point.


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