Colombia: Election Outcome Endangers Peace

The Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, the FARC, is worried that Duque’s victory could hurt the historic peace process.

After Colombia’s President-elect Ivan Duque announced he will review the peace agreement reached between the government and the demobilized insurgent group, the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, the FARC, expressed their willingness to meet Duque and keep working on peace.

“Good judgment is necessary now; the country is asking for comprehensive peace that will lead us to the expected reconciliation, based on well-being, truth, justice, integral repairment for the victims of the conflict and a promise it won’t happen again. Ignoring that purpose can’t be a government plan,” said the FARC in a press release published Sunday adding “…now more than ever unity is urgent between every sector that believes in the possibility of a future different from the road the nation has taken since the declaration of our independence.”

The communique also recognizes the fact that this was the most peaceful electoral process in Colombia in decades, which they praised as a result of the agreements and a new reality in the country, and said that the campaign of Gustavo Petro, the center-left candidate, represented a growing discontent within the Colombian population towards the traditional political elites and their economic policies.

Many think that the victory of Duque and Uribism could represent a great setback for the peace agreement reached between the government of President Juan Manuel Santos and the former guerrillas, as Duque has repeatedly promised to “review” it.

If the agreements are not respected and enforced, the communique says, the nation could enter “a new cycle of continuous violence.”

The National Liberation Army (ELN), which has also been in peace talks with the Colombian government, had announced a unilateral ceasefire during the elections so citizens could exercise their right to vote.

Just a few days before the elections, the ELN expressed their concerns regarding Duque’s stance on the peace processes, which could undermine efforts between the guerrilla group and the government.

Alirio Sepulveda, a delegate of the ELN’s peace commission, said it is important to remember who is behind Ivan Duque. “It’s Alvaro Uribe Velez and Alvaro Uribe Velez, when he was governor of Antioquia and then president, those were the times of the biggest massacres in the country and when leaders and a part of Colombian society were persecuted and sentenced.”

Regarding the peace process with the ELN, Duque has said that the talks should focus on disarmament, demobilization and reintegration into society, while the insurgent group is asking for a more comprehensive process involving different actors: participation of society in peacebuilding, democracy for peace, transformation for peace and ending the armed conflict.

“Today we’re all friends with the ones that want peace and peace must allow the guerrilla base to reintegrate into public life. That peace we’re craving for needs corrections so the victims are at the center of the process and we can guarantee truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition,” the new president said.


The Dark Legacy of Ivan Duque vs Peace in Colombia

Colombian President Ivan Duque is a formula that spells more conflict and bloodshed.

Julian Cola

Duque, like Uribe, rallied behind the ‘No’ vote during the 2016 plebiscite on the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the former guerrilla insurgency turned Revolutionary Alternative Force for the Commons (FARC) political party.

In the same vein, Duque was the main plaintiff in the case that led Colombia’s Constitutional Court, in May 2017, to remove much of the legislative ‘fast track’ authority required to pass laws to implement the accord. It’s one of the key reasons so many of the legal commitments have not been enshrined in law, according to

Duque has referred to Chapter 4 of the peace accord, which deals with the coca crop-substitution plan, as the “disastrous chapter.” Instead, he supports a return to widespread forced eradication employing toxic aerial herbicides that destroy other crops and poison the environment and people in general.

Duque has also called the legal process of reintegrating former FARC guerrillas into civil society as being too lenient, hence a “monument to impunity.”  He  promised new stringent measures that weren’t negotiated during the peace talks.

Last August, the Constitutional Court ruled that the coming three presidential terms are required by law to adhere to the terms detailed in the peace agreement and cannot alter it. However, a Duque electoral victory may signal that all bets are off and years of peace negotiations between the Colombian government and FARC representatives in Cuba would have been for naught.

Reneging on the 2016 peace accord could throw the country into even greater turmoil: greater in a sense that rural violence has not subsided since the agreement was signed. At least 60 former FARC members and more than 200 social leaders and human rights defenders have been murdered in Colombia since January 2017. This has been the case during the presidency of Juan Manuel Santos, someone who actively supported the peace process.

Duque has also promised to scrap peace negotiations with the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres, who lived in Colombia for a decade while serving as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, weighed in on the matter during a visit to the country in January. “There’s no excuse for armed violence at all.  Peace is the only answer to development and poverty problems.” He also addressed the number of human rights abuses, which have continued to climb despite the presence of a special UN political mission on the ground.

However, the Colombian government denies the existence of paramilitary groups, which are often accused of murders and other human rights violations. And if one follows the money, follows the connections, it soon becomes apparent that Duque has received support from individuals with links to such groups.

Take his benefactor, Uribe, for example. He’s embroiled in ongoing court cases involving crimes against humanity, as well as alleged links to paramilitary groups. When Carlos Areiza – a key witness in a case against the former president – was murdered in April, Uribe tweeted that he was “rightfully dead.”  Out of the 12 key witnesses in the investigations against him and his brother Santiago Uribe, nine have been killed so far.

Take Luis Alfredo Ramos, Duque’s campaign manager. He spent over three years in prison for aiding paramilitary groups. Colombia’s Supreme Court requested that he serve a total of nine years, and could tack on six more years to the original sentence.

The Supreme Court concluded, in 2006, that a whopping 33 per cent of the country’s senators and 15 per cent of representatives were linked to narco-paramilitarism groups responsible for massacres, the displacement of people from rural areas and other human rights crimes. It was also revealed that multiple state institutions had been infiltrated by these groups.

The foundation of Colombia’s skewed social fabric dates back to Spanish conquistadores, followed by colonial elites, running roughshod over territory named in honor of Christopher Columbus. The process gave birth to the latifundios: immense amounts of land in the hands of the few. And it stands firm today, after more than half a century of civil war, which claimed the lives of over 220,000 people and displaced about seven million more.

Another historical fact is a good indicator to foresee what a Duque presidency would entail. That history was acknowledged by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who in 2016 admitted state responsibility for the murders of thousands of Patriotic Union (UP) party members three decades prior. The leftist political group was formed from members of the FARC guerrilla movement who agreed to a previous peace treaty in the mid-1980s.

Approximately 5,000 UP members and supporters were killed by right-wing paramilitary groups, often working in tandem with the state.

“That tragedy should never have happened, and we must recognize that the government didn’t take sufficient measures to impede and prevent the assassinations, attacks and other violations even though there was evidence the persecution was taking place,” Santos said. He promised to “take all the necessary measures and to give all the guarantees to make sure that never again in Colombia will a political organization have to face what the UP suffered.”

Despite his pledge, former FARC members – at least 60 – and human rights defenders continue to be assassinated.

Duque, unlike Petro, has not even whispered the words ‘land reform’ as part of his government plan to help solve one of Colombia’s most pressing problem, whereas Petro publicly stated that, if elected president, he would embark on a program of “democratization of land in Colombia,” which will “allow us definitive peace.”

Duque has played his part in trying to can the FARC peace deal and vowed to end peace talks with the ELN if a ceasefire is agreed.