The Supreme Pontiffs of the Catholic Church only visit Colombia every 20 years and on this occasion, the presence of His Holiness Pope Francisco, constitutes support for the peace process in the country. Correspondingly, at the negotiating table in Quito, we prepare a bilateral ceasefire agreement which will contribute to creating a complete peace in Colombia.
This temporary bilateral cessation, in addition to the suspension of offensive actions between the government armed forces and the National Liberation Army, includes a cessation of actions that affect the non-combatant population, in order to provide humanitarian relief to the communities who suffer most from the conflict.
We have reiterated that the dominant regime in Colombia maintains a repressive crackdown against all alternative political and social forces that oppose its economic model and its political system. State oppression is reinforced by both legal and illegal means that operate in coordination.
An example of legal actions is the Judiciary Task Force integrated between the Prosecutor’s Office and the military, who compile charges and gather witnesses against community leaders, accusing them of being “subversives.” International human rights organizations denounce this political persecution by the regime after social leaders, detained in prison for years, were released for lack of evidence.
The illegal arm of paramilitarism threatens and kills human rights activists, community leaders and environmentalists, who oppose the economic and political plans of the ruling elite – that is tantamount to political genocide , similar to that perpetrated by the regime three decades ago, against the Patriotic Union and other leftist movements.
Faced with this type of dirty war, paramilitary at the service of the state, the spokesmen of the regime have expressed that “paramilitarism does not exist”, that they are “neo-paramilitary” or simply that they are criminal bands with which the state says it has no ties. Colombia, over the last half century, is profuse in historic examples where the dominant minority entrusts counterinsurgency tasks to paramilitaries in exchange for ignoring their thriving mafia activities.
The illegal arm that exterminates social leaders in Colombia is so unmanageable that the Human Rights Report of the US Department of State, of March this year, documented collaboration of the state military with illegal armed groups. The Prosecutor has stated that “there will be no tolerance or impunity for their crimes or for those of the state who intend to protect them .”
All Colombia is asking why there is no combat between the military and paramilitaries in regions where the massive presence of both forces is public, or why they do not hold military and police commandos accountable where paramilitaries murder social leaders?
At this point in the talks in Quito, to reach a bilateral cessation agreement, it is up to the Santos government to cut off the regime’s links with paramilitarism to neutralize the genocide which is ongoing against alternative forces, which oppose the plans of the ruling minority.
The objectives of this political process to resolve the conflict are explicit: “to agree to transformations leading to peace and equity” and “to eradicate violence”. Therefore, it is urgent that the regime make concrete efforts to end the political persecution , which continues to create thousands of displaced, confined, exiled, imprisoned and threatened, and hundreds murdered and disappeared.
To remove violence from politics means not to criminalize alternative forces, to allow social protest and to make provision for the struggle for power to continue, by putting aside violence against the adversary. This would allow us to to pass a definitive stage in the Colombian conflict.
These are historical moments which demand historical decisions of both parties. But the most recalcitrant sector of the ruling classes still shouts the slogans of Laureano Gomez, launched 7 decades ago, when he began this phase of the internal conflict: “we will not give in the elections what we have won in the war.”
A decision by the ruling elites to renounce illegal repression as a weapon of political persecution, would be a sign of sincere desire to remove violence from politics, and would be taken by Colombian society as the the dawn of a genuine political solution. Their failure to do so would prolong the arrival of “complete, stable and lasting peace.”