I went to one of the Transitional Zones where FARC-EP ex-combatants are concentrated. Further than mentioning the conditions in which they live or what they eat, what is striking is that for the FARC there is no going back.
The facts show that there is willingness to lay down its weapons and to continue in the historical and current struggles of the Colombian country-side, land and other issues that demonstrate the historical debt that the Colombian State has with rural populations, even though the Government or State policy pillars don’t contribute to peace or reflect the actual needs of the country – such as educational policies, extractive economy and social protection in general.
That is why the interpretation must now be different; it’s a complex and irreversible process. If the parties comply with the new deadline, it will be clear to the country that peace with the FARC is very close to being a fact and that we must continue to shield it for the good of Colombia, bringing more people to surround the implementation process. Because the Peace Agreement, more than giving concessions to the “terrorists”, is based on taking Colombia out of war and the enormous inequality that the deep, forgotten and abandoned Colombia lives in as a consequence of the exclusion that it has lived in for 53 years.
One might well conclude that the delays on the part of the National Government in the implementation of the Agreement and the constant obstacles would have as a purpose to demoralize the FARC, but they forget that the FARC is precisely a force of resistance that already resisted a conflict of 53 years and that will be able to resist all feuds regarding the peace of Colombia.
The population has to understand Colombia is all of us together. If we want to have a viable country it is necessary to begin a process of normalization of something as basic as tolerance to different thinking. Because it is very difficult to communicate and learn from others if we continue to think that the only way to be normal is following the judgments of the media. These are no longer credible; they are auctioned to the highest bidder. It is better if we all learn to listen and understand each other without exceptions; we must live though mutual respect and treatment for each other.
Beyond preaching interference in one’s life, everyone deserves respect and generosity; because whoever dares to look beyond what the media say will be able to see how the guerrillas live, as they have always lived: without salary, in makeshift tents in the open, without services, only with a few possessions to appease the most basic needs, which contrasts with what the warlords say: that they are full of drug money, living with luxuries; because it is them –the warlords- who are the ones that benefit from an endless war. At this moment, reality discredits these lies. If they –the FARC- had as much money as the right wing says they do, they would not fight for peace; they would not leave their weapons to do politics in the legality. Is there any doubt that that what is called the ruling class in Colombia is no more than a gang whose only purpose is illicit enrichment?
The population is still governed by the fear of recognizing that the FARC are willing to lay down its weapons, put their security and lives at risk in order to adhere to the Constitution. But they –the FARC- know very well what awaits them: the uncertainty regarding the future of ex-combatants who are at mercy of a corrupt State, of a country that is genetically conservative, administered from its independence by the same families that are always ready to wage another war -like the one that we are trying to end- in order for everything to continue the same and thus keep intact its fortunes and its privileges.
We live in a country where it is believed that the approval of a constitutional reform to declare illegality of paramilitarism is a triumph of the FARC and a moral defeat for the country, where the population normalized the paramilitary speech, hatred and violence; this reflects that paramilitarism was indeed a State policy. That is what keeps our country in the worst backwardness and the reason why many are still governed by indifference. This agreement began with the purpose of healing a wound and it would be absurd to end up with a bigger one. Colombians have a stronger war within their souls than in the territories.
The whole of the Colombian people must live up to this historic moment. Although few Colombians want to face the disinformation that floods the media, perhaps approaching a Transitional Zone or daring to listen to the opinions of those who have never had a voice may start generating changes. It has been thousands of people who have lived in the underground, in the jungle, excluded because of their thinking; the defense of their lives has been their only option.
According to what the FARC members that I talked to said, it was not hard for them to live in the jungle, since when they were peasants they also lived in these conditions or worse because of the incessant insecurity. The same happens with soldiers of the Colombian Army, they are people of scarce resources from the country-side and the cities. If military service were voluntary -which currently isn’t, and all male citizens have to serve in the military for about a year at least- there would be no war, no one would want to take a weapon to go to places far from their families to kill other Colombians with the excuse of defending the country, when in fact they are actually protecting only the interests of a few. If it were for the good of the country, then the Colombian State would not force its soldiers to kill other Colombians.
The good thing is that now it is being each time more clear that the real problem of the country is not the guerrilla. In the ex-combatants one can see simplicity and kindness; one can see the longing for peace of the FARC. No one wants to be dismembered by the war, no one wants to lose a partner in the battlefield, no one wants to see mothers crying for their children who never came back home. The guerrillas are aware that it’s the poor who have paid the consequences of this conflict, because it is soldiers and guerrillas who shed their blood.
The failure of the government to comply and the lack of understanding of the people who don’t recognize the effort being made by the guerrillas and the communities that depend on them is demotivating. The FARC, which for half a century fought against the State, today put their lives, their physical and legal security in the hands of the State, this is an act of confidence and trust in the peace process, which is something that the people of Colombia must recognize. In the guerrilla, they hope that a large part of Colombia put their eyes on the Transitional Zones since they are located in historically neglected regions, and for people to actually see how the guerrillas really are, that’s their motivation.
The ex-combatants are optimistic regarding the decommissioning of weapons, but very distressed about the Government’s partial non compliance and the rise of paramilitarism. Although they knew that it would not be easy, that paramilitarism has many ways of expressing itself because it is a political, economic, cultural project that needs to be fought; Now, from other spaces, they know that the true beneficiaries and strengthened by an eternal war are others because with war the first thing that is sacrificed is the truth. Now we must create memory, be aware of the peasant struggle that triggered the entire guerrilla uprising.
At the moment, even having serious differences and despite all the criticism that exist, we have to see the real danger that we have in front of us; that is why the whole country must contribute for the reincorporation of the FARC to be successful, because in it relies in great part for peace to be stable and lasting, as expressed in the Peace Agreement.