Thursday, October 3, 2013

The rural-urban dynamic in Colombia's 50-year war

Thomas Mortensen reports for The Independent under the headline, "Colombia's 50 year-war:  An end in Sight?"  Here are some excerpts that highlight rural-urban angles in that long-standing conflict.
At the heart of the conflict is land. Five decades of fighting have left 5.7 million people displaced, the highest number in the world. Those who fled left behind six million hectares of land, much of which is now held by armed groups and their allies, or has been bought by big business concerns.

Efforts to return it to its original owners, as is already being seen in some areas, is likely to meet entrenched resistance, including recourse to the courts, and on occasion, recourse to violence.  
* * * 
[T]he peace talks some months ago agreed the first item on the agenda - the “new Colombian countryside”. 
With rural poverty one of the root causes of the conflict, initial agreement was reached that there would be better access to land and services such as health, education and housing, as well as access to credit.

All very promising, but implementation, of course, hinges on the rest of the agenda being agreed. It also begs the question of whether, after ignoring rural needs for so many years, the government really has the political will to change its priorities. 
Recent protests that partially paralysed the country show how urgently rural people want reform.
Mortensen notes that political participation is another issue that must be addressed, with the "poor and vulnerable excluded from a political system dominated by a traditional elite." 

This story reminds me of a number of conflicts around the world in which the rural-urban divide is a significant factor.  See a related post here regarding protests in Turkey this year, with embedded links to other posts.  

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