Colombia: The Just Cause for Peace and Unity

“Out of all the risks that peace implementation presents, I think the gravest is the paramilitary phenomenon.”  –  Piedad Cordoba

By Javier Calderón Castillo / CELAG

Former Senator and peace activist, Piedad Cordoba.
Former Senator and peace activist, Piedad Cordoba. | Photo: CELAG

Piedad Córdoba is one of the most well-known women in Colombian politics. She managed to squeeze a conversation with CELAG on many issues in current Colombian affairs into her busy schedule. More than just an interview, it was a reflexive dialogue with the sensitivity this moment in politics requires. The former senator and fighter for peace shared her point of view with us on what lays ahead for Colombia. In this conversation, flavoured with a Buenos Aires breakfast, she spoke to us about several subjects and concerns, which we synthesised for the readers.

Piedad clearly and precisely expresses her thoughts on the Peace Agreement between the Colombian State and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ;- Army of the People (FARC-EP, by its Spanish acronym): she realistically identifies the envisioned risks that could impede on the implementation of peace, speaks of moving forward with transformation in the midst of the current situation in Latin-America and outlines the possible setting to construct alternative politics in the near future of the country. Furthermore, at the end she will respond to the question on many people’s minds: Will she be a candidate in the 2018 presidential elections?

Piedad, as a connoisseur of the peace process considering your background and the regressive changes that the Latin-American region is living, how do you perceive the role of the international community regarding the implementation of the Peace Agreement signed on 26 September?

Piedad Cordoba: Although during these past years right-wing forces have brought about significant changes in the region, there are still alternative projects that have survived such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia, countries that have had much to do with the peace process and will always advocate a political solution to the conflict in Colombia. The role that will be performed in the implementation of peace will be critical, as agreed CELAC will be part of the verification commission of the turnover of arms and future reintegration of FARC members. Moreover, many leftist organizations of these countries have expressed their availability in ensuring that the agreements made are realised. This means that the Colombian social and popular movement will rely on this support in the struggles following the signing. It is in this sentiment that the international community and alternative projects will be crucial for implementing peace and simultaneously certain aspects of the implementation will help strengthen unity in Latin-America since the Colombian armed conflict has been a strategic platform to destabilise alternative governments in the region.

What potential risks could the peace implementation pose and how could processes of change in Latin-America influence them?

PC:  Out of all the risks that peace implementation presents, I think the gravest is the paramilitary phenomenon; with the previous dissolving of the Patriotic Union, we know how much the peace process may cost and how far back it may move. If the State does not take measures to resist the advancement and strengthening of this phenomenon, the third point on the ending of conflict would be in jeopardy and subsequently, so will the other points agreed upon as well. Another serious danger facing the peace implementation is if the Colombian Government fails to carry out the fundamentals of the Final Agreement and if they manage to overtake the Latin-American leftists’ role stemming from the solidarity we would cultivate to strengthen the fight for the movement of the Colombian people to demand that the agreements be achieved.

There are those in the world that view the deal reached of little importance, they are views of some Colombian and international leftists that have minimised the developments of the Havana treaty. What is your opinion on the importance of the peace deal for Colombia and for the transformative projects in Latin-America?

PC:  If we liken the causes and effects of the Colombian armed conflict with the agreements signed in Havana, we realise that they are something small compared to this magnitude. However, we have to recognise that the Final Agreement is the point of departure for the construction of Peace in our country and after so many years of war it is something historic, and as a result, this Agreement will provide tools for the country to move towards the necessary changes. There is an aspect of the Final Agreement that I believe is the most important for alternative Latin-American projects: the transformation of FARC in a political party or movement, in order to amplify the political spectrum in the country and give them a push towards the social and popular movement in Colombia and to position them as a political force with opportunities to be in power and in government. Without a doubt, this will contribute to Latin-American unity and bolster the already existing political alternatives.

The ELN has released a public statement differentiating the peace agreements from those of FARC, which makes the development of the Government-ELN peace process agreed upon on 30 March seem distant, how do you see this peace process with ELN become independent or move forward? What could happen if this process does not commence?

PC:  I believe that the context of the implementation of the Final Agreement could be a great opportunity for government and the ELN to open a table of negotiation. If this fails to occur, it could become an obstacle to be able to complete that which was agreed upon in Havana, since the military confrontation of these two actors could be detrimental to the 23 transitory rural areas to be officialised, places where the turnover of arms will be carried out for the integration of FARC members. Hopefully, the government and ELN will understand this and adhere to each other’s resolve to continue moving forward towards Peace.

With peace drawing closer, what could be the alternative political project that Colombia constructs? How do you think the FARC members would facilitate an alternative political project?

PC:  With the integration of FARC members, there are several opportunities to strengthen the Colombian social and popular movement; we cannot forget the origin of this insurgency is political and has built up a fight giving other shades to the political setting, not only to achieve the demand for implementation but also reforms that the agreements did not address and are crucial for the consolidation of Peace in our country.

2017 will see the start of presidential campaigns to succeed Santos, and there is a question on many people’s minds: How do you perceive the electoral context in 2018 for alternative sectors? How do you view yourself in this context and will you be a presidential candidate?

PC:  The electoral situation in 2018 will have a vast array of political expressions and although we have distinguished some of them, this sphere is currently more uncertain. However, I feel that now more than ever the left has to mould true unity, which is already at play in the Peace consolidation and in this sense, we must emphasise that which unites us and forget the matters that separate us; thus my candidature will depend on the discussions and the spaces that the left forces will create to make a favourable decision regarding our course of direction, Peace.