Land Concentration and Land Grabbing in the Colombian Frontier

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Diego Lugo

2017 Barrett Prize Winner
Best Dissertation on a Latin American or Caribbean Topic
November 8, 2017

This presentation will examine phenomena of land concentration, land grabbing, and intensive uses of soil in peripheral regions in Colombia categorized as New Frontiers of Land Control between 2000 and 2016. Land distribution has been one of the mechanisms linked to the armed conflict in Colombia either as a cause, as a consequence or as a parallel condition. Following that, different struggles around land have evolved since 1990s when this country entered the hardest era in the escalation of the conflict. And although peripheral regions share a number of economic, social, political and to a lesser extent cultural conditions regarding the presence of minorities, phenomena of land concentration and land grabbing have followed different paths during the last two decades.

By employing Maximum Likelihood Estimations (Beta-Distribution MLEs) and Spatial Data Analysis in a 246-municipal- and a 14-year panel data sample, as well as 125 Semi-structured interviews applied in three departments selected as case studies, I argue that the combination of 1) semi-institutional forms of territorial control by armed actors, 2) a fragile property regime along with its conflictive uses of soil, as well as 3) a historically weak State presence that has been subjected to processes of cooptation and corruption in the light of entire systems of violence (Richani, 2013), have produced different scenarios in terms of land accumulation. 

This goes from 1) likely cases of land concentration via neo-paramilitary criminal bands –in the middle of an ongoing conflict– while promoting extractive illicit industries to 2) cases of land grabbing under extensive economies in ceasefire and de-escalated contexts.