Colombia: Tensions over Land Tenure Escalate

Actions to recover land by indigenous and peasant communities have intensified in some territories of the country since mid-August. The big landowners and the media call these actions “invasions”; implying that those who recover the territories are not the legitimate claimants of those lands and that they are not their territories because they do not belong to them.

In at least 7 departments of the country, land recovery actions have been promoted to accelerate the commitments of access and restitution of land to peasants and ethnic communities. The reaction of the large landowners has been to create “solidarity reaction groups”, promoted by the Cattlemen’s Federation (Fedegan), a union headed by José Félix Lafaurie, involved in land dispossession and the creation of paramilitary groups. At the same time, Álvaro Uribe, a landowner whose family has illegally appropriated the nation’s empty lots, has stated that the “invasions” of land justify the appearance of “private justice”, alluding to paramilitary and the “anti-restitution armies.”1

On September 18th, in the framework of a day of protests by ranchers in Magdalena, a video of the parade circulated on social media in which a private security group was in vans. Men in camouflage could be seen in it, who organized in that union to, according to them, be ready to defend their lands against possible invasions such as those that have been reported in Cauca.2

The Government has had a timid reaction to the situation. The Minister of Agriculture has demanded to stop all “invasion” of private property, as well as all self-defense mechanisms.

The declaration of the Ministry has generated controversy among the indigenous and peasant communities that articulate these exercises of taking, recovering, and liberating land to mass mobilization in favor of agrarian reform.

In this regard, the peasant organizations have been emphatic in pointing out that the recovery of land constitutes a historical struggle of the indigenous, Afro-descendant, and peasant communities that take place with the objective of returning to the lands that have been seized legally and illegally by the landowners, businessmen, and transnationals in complicity with the different governments in power.3

The actions of land recovery are reclaiming exercises of the collective rights of the land that for years have been manipulated, usurped, and used indiscriminately by the different colonialist actors who have considered American lands as large wastelands.

1 CNA. Hay que impulsar del país a los verdaderos invasores de tierras. Available at:

2 Infobae. Video: inquietud por el desfile de camionetas de un grupo de seguridad privada de ganaderos contra invasores. Available at:

3 El Heraldo. Campesinos rechazan ultimátum del Gobierno por invasión de predios.