Colombia to buy land from private owners to give to the poor

Government wants to create 'land bank' using farmland that is not in use and land bought using funds from the drugs trade

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Colombia wants to buy land from private owners and redistribute it among the poor after the country’s 50-year-old is over, the government announced.

Agriculture Minister Aurelio Iragorri announced the land purchase plan in an interview published on Sunday in the El Tiempo newspaper, news agency AFP have reported.

The proposal will be presented to Congress by President Juan Manuel Santos, according to El Tiempo, while Iragorri explained that the premise is to create a “land bank” for Colombia’s most needy.

A key part of the proposal will be to acquire farmland which is not being used, which is estimated to total at least 2.5 million acres throughout the country.

The government also wants to return land to people who were forced from their homes during the conflict which has involved groups including leftist guerrillas, right-wing paramilitaries and drug traffickers.

The “land bank” will also include land bought with money from the drugs trade, which Iragorri says could amount to nearly 5 million acres.

The recent peace talks, which have been held in Havana, have already led to agreements on the redevelopment of rural areas and the establishment of a Truth Commission.

The “land bank”, however, may take longer to implement with hopes that purchase plans will get underway this year in 10 of the country’s 32 departments.

Iragorri told the newspaper: “We are not talking about expropriation, because one priority is the protection of private property.”

The Colombian government has been in peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia since November 2012.

The conflict originates from the 1960s when landless farmers began uprising over country’s stark divide between rich and poor.

The conflict is reported to have left over 200,000 dead and forced six million people to flee their homes.