homeless get land title to former drug lord's estate: Columbia

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Sat, 18 Apr 1998 10:06:20 -0700 (PDT)


http://news.bbc.co.uk:80/hi/english/world/americas/newsid_78000/78949.stm
FWD  BBC World: Americas  April 16, 1998


HOMELESS GET FORMER DRUG BARON'S LAND
*Columbian President Ernesto Samper gives a land title to Marta Montoya, a
refugee*


The Colombian government has handed over a lavish ranch that once belonged
to the notorious drug-trafficker, Pablo Escobar, to homeless people
displaced by the country's guerrilla insurgency.

The ranch, which once contained luxurious buildings, swimming pools and a
private zoo with elephants, zebras, and giraffes, was seized by the state
nearly ten years ago.

But legal disputes held up the transfer of ownership until now, although
his  private menagerie was broken up and donated to Columbian zoos.

The government has confiscated thousands of properties bought with drugs
money over the past few years, but very few have been re-distributed.

It wasn't until the end of 1996 that the Colombian congress passed a law
allowing the government to seize and re-distribute property linked to drug
bosses and their families.

The government eventually plans to hand over confiscated property worth
more than $2bn to the nearly 1m peasants displaced by the conflict between
the government and drug traffickers.

*100 families to occupy estate*

In a ceremony, President Ernesto Samper handed over the 44 square kilometre
estate to the first 10 of 100 families that will eventually set up homes
there.

"As of today, the Napoles estate will cease to be the symbol of an era of
sorrow and humiliation and become the home of humble peasants who will sow
its lands with new fruits of hope," he said.

Escobar was killed by police in Medellin in December 1993.

He began building the Napoles estate in 1979, naming it in honour of the
Italian mafia with whom he was already doing business.

The decision to give the estate to displaced people was made despite the
fact that the local authorities said the estate wasn't suitable for farming
and should be turned into a tourist complex.

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