Colombia to house flood victims on drug lords' land

Flooded farmland in southern Colombia Large areas of Colombia remain flooded

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The Colombian government says it will relocate thousands of people left homeless by torrential rain and floods to properties seized from drug dealers.

Minister of the Interior German Vargas Lleras said the government had drawn up a decree that would allow flood victims to temporarily live on land confiscated from drug lords.

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes in the worst floods in Colombia for four decades.

A state of emergency remains in effect.

'Prime properties'

The Colombian government has passed a raft of measures to raise extra funds to finance the rehousing of those left homeless by the torrential rains and the floods that followed.

The government hopes the drugs-land rule will allow it to relocate some of them quickly and cost-effectively.

Under the new decree, land seized from drug traffickers can be used to build camps and shelters, whereas before it had to be used profitably, such as for agriculture or cattle-grazing.

Juan Carlos Restrepo, who heads the Colombian Anti-narcotics Agency, a government body that controls assets seized from drug traffickers, says these "narco lands" are perfect for housing flood victims.

"These are some of the best properties in the whole country, because the drug traffickers never bought inferior land," Mr Restrepo told the BBC.

"Hardly any of it has flooded, because the narcos made sure to buy land far away enough from the flood plains," he added.

He said some of the landholdings were huge and would allow the government to house many of those displaced by the rains.

Those relocated will not be able to take over the land for good.

But the government has promised it will let flood victims stay for as long as it takes for them to find more permanent homes.

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