By: Anastasia Moloney
Date: August 9th 2016
Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation
BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Colombia is expanding its land restitution program into former no-go areas in the country's war-torn south aiming to return land stolen from farmers by illegal armed groups, the government has said as peace talks advance.
Between 6.5 and 10 million hectares (38,610 square miles) of land - up to 15 percent of Colombian territory - has been abandoned or illegally acquired through violence and fraud by leftist rebels and paramilitary groups during Colombia's five-decade war, according to the government.
Following a historic ceasefire signed in June with rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), new areas once considered too dangerous for officials to enter, have now opened up, allowing the government to step up its land restitution program and enabling more displaced families to return home.
"We announce we are entering those municipalities hardest hit by violence," Ricardo Sabogal, who heads the government entity charged with overseeing land restitution, told reporters last week.