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Cablegate: Pdas Farrar Meets Colombian Land Officials

VZCZCXYZ0018
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBO #4825/01 1871322
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 061322Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6803
INFO RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 9145
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ JUL LIMA 5215
RUEHZP/AMEMBASSY PANAMA 0435
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO 5812
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L BOGOTA 004825

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/06/2017
TAGS: PTER PGOV PREL ECON CO
SUBJECT: PDAS FARRAR MEETS COLOMBIAN LAND OFFICIALS

REF: BOGOTA 3855

Classified By: Political Counselor John S. Creamer.
Reason: 1.4 (b,d)

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Summary
-------

1. (C) DRL PDAS Jonathan Farrar met with officials of
Colombia's rural land development agency (INCODER) and the
Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MinAg) in a
June 24-29 visit. INCODER and MinAg officials described
provisions in the new rural development law that protect the
rights of vulnerable groups. They also discussed GOC efforts
to return land occupied by African palm producers to
Afro-Colombian communities in Choco. Officials at INCODER
and the MinAg admitted a development plan for Afro-Colombians
had not been formulated in accordance with a 1993 law (Law
70), but claimed their work facilitated Afro-Colombian
economic development. End Summary.

2. (U) On June 26, DRL PDAS Jonathan Farrar met with the
Rodolfo Campo Soto, the head of Colombia's rural land
development agency, the InstitutoColombiano de Desarrollo
Rural ("INCODER"). Soto was accompanied by Assistant Manager
Luis Orozco. On June 28 Farrar met with MinAG officials
Marcela Uruena, Director of Rural Development, Eugania
Mendez, Director of Legal Affairs, and Lorena Garnica, a
special advisor to the MinAG. Farrar was accompanied by DRL
desk officer Jennie Munoz and poloffs.

---------------------------
A New Rural Development Law
---------------------------

3. (C) INCODER's Soto and the MinAg'sGarnica said the
biggest change introduced by the new rural development law
(septel) is that multiple government agencies will assume
responsibility from INCODER for helping vulnerable groups
with land related issues. Accion Social will be responsible
for land issues for displaced persons, the Ministry of the
Interior and Justice's Office of Ethnic Affairs will be
responsible for land issues for ethnic minorities, and the
Office of Disasters will be responsible for land issues for
victims of natural disasters. Garnica explained that the
responsible agencies will decide on solutions to land
problems which INCODER will then execute.

4. (C) Soto and Garnica admitted the transition in
responsibility will be a huge challenge. The provision was a
last-minute addition to the law and lacks details.
Implementing regulations will be required, but developing
them may be a contentious process. The agencies were not
involved in developing the provision, and all lack the
personnel and resources to meet their new responsibilities.

--------------------------------------------- -----------------
Displaced Afro-Colombian Communities in Curvarado and
Jiguamiando
--------------------------------------------- -----------------

5. (C) Farrar asked Soto and the MinAg'sUruena about the
status of the Curvarado and Jiguamiando cases in which
displaced Afro-Colombian communities in the department of
Choco returned home to find their lands occupied by African
palm plantations (reftel). Uruena described the cases'
background and detailed the different types of legal claims
involved. The cases are complex because of the mix of
legitimate private properties and illegal claims within
different Afro-Colombian communal territories, and the lack
of well-defined property boundaries. Soto said INCODER
expects to identify conflicting land claims and boundaries
within months, and that lands could be returned to
Afro-Colombian communities by the end of the year. Still,
litigation over land ownership in the area is likely to
continue.

6. (C) INCODER's Orozco said a key question is whether
Afro-Colombian communities and palm plantations will
reconcile their differences and cooperate. He noted that
African palm cultivation was one of the few viable
livelihoods available to Curvarado and Jiguamiando residents,
and there were good examples in other areas of local
communities working together with palm companies. Orozco
worried that "radicals" in the two communities would attempt
to destroy all the plantations. Uruena noted that if
Afro-Colombian communities did not want palm plantations on
their land, they could "bulldoze" the plantations without
providing compensation. Orozco said a reconciliation would
require the involvement of the government, human rights
groups, and the international community.

---------------------------
Afro-Colombian Development?
---------------------------

7. (C) Farrar asked whether there was a development plan
for Afro-Colombians in accordance with 1993's Law 70. Orozco
andGarnica explained that necessary implementing regulations
had never been developed. Orozco suggested Afro-Colombian
communities are partially at fault for not working with the
government to develop regulations. Orozco and Garnica said
their agencies facilitated Afro-Colombian development, but
noted that banks will not accept Afro-Colombian communal
territories as collateral because they are legally
inalienable. Garnica said the MinAg was working on that
issue and that government agrarian institutions might be able
to guarantee future loans.

8. (U) PDAS Farrar cleared this message.

Drucker

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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