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The reactionary right-wing forces in Colombia started mobilizing to defend their class interests as President Juan Manuel Santos and his government gather support to implement Law 1448, which calls for the restitution of land to the victims of Colombia's conflict. The Colombian Banana Growers Association (AUGURA), an important part of the reactionary camp, warned the president that his intended demonstration this coming Saturday in Necocli, Antioquia, an epicenter of land conflicts and right-wing paramilitaries, could only unleash more violence. Necocli forms part of the subregion of Uraba, known for its national and multinational banana agribusinesses such as Chiquita and affiliates.
This is just the beginning of a long and protracted battle that most likely will result in the restitution of only a fraction of the 6 million hectares usurped over the last few decades, unless President Santos takes bold steps to break the backbone of the reactionary forces. For him to achieve this goal, he has to draw on the support of a wide cross section of the democratic and progressive forces in the country, something that he is not showing any signs of doing.
More importantly, 21 leaders of the displaced and dispossessed were already killed by the end of 2011, and the campaign of killings and intimidation is not ceasing, expected to increase in light of Augura's open letter to Santos. This is a déjà vu of Colombian 20th century history where the good will of a president—if we give President Santos the benefit of the doubt—is shattered by the strong resistance of the reactionary coalition, which is made up of agribusinesses, cattle ranchers, and large landowners. Stay tuned for more coverage.
For more from Nazih Richani's blog, Colombian Cuadernos, visit nacla.org/blog/cuadernos-colombianos, or see the NACLA Report July/August 2009, "Coercion Incorporated: Paramilitary Colombia." See also "Colombia's Catch 22: Undermining the Victims' Law," by Nazih Richani, from June 13, 2011 and "Victims Law Decree Fails Afro-Colombian Communities," by Charo Mina-Rojas, from February 3, 2012.