I just published an op-ed entitled “Colombia’s Rebels and Land Reform” in the The New York Times Global Opinion Page (International Herald Tribune) with co-author, Mike Albertus at the University of Chicago. Based on some of our recent academic research, we highlight the challenges and hopes surrounding the primary issue on the negotiating agenda of the soon-to-begin peace talks between the Colombian Government and the FARC rebel group in Oslo: land reform.
There is usually much optimism associated with land reform. We note that prior reforms failed to stem the insurgency and alleviate grievances because of bureaucratic capture of land reform policy by landed elites. Colombia’s new Victims Law offers hope for improved land titling, but there is still a big gap between what’s in the Victims Law and the FARC’s demands for “integral reforms” since many families still have tenuous landholdings. However, there is also reason for hope today. With increased bureaucratic capacity, military actions against “anti-restitution” criminal armies, and strong support from President Santos, the government is also better positioned than it has been to deal with the land issue and (hopefully) also land a peace agreement.