Peace in Colombia: A Long but Possible Process

Odalys Troya Flores
https://cdn.cfr.org/sites/default/files/styles/full_width_xl/public/image/2017/03/Colombia_Peace_Deal_RTX2TVFG.jpg?h=2475ff28On November 24, 2016, then-President Juan Manuel Santos and the head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People’s Army (FARC-EP), Rodrigo Londoño, signed the Peace Agreement that ended Latin America’s longest-running armed conflict.

It was a historic step towards a stable and lasting peace, and the end of a longstanding conflict that left more than 260,000 dead, tens of thousands of missing persons, some seven million people displaced, rapes, kidnappings and other calamities. The document that supports the Agreement, of almost 300 pages with 578 concrete measures, includes the protection of those returned to civilian life, which would be done through a security commission.

It also endeavored to bridge the abyss that exists between the countryside and the city, and thus end the poverty in which millions of Colombians live, who due to abandonment and lack of opportunities were caught between the conflict and lawlessness.

In this sense, an investment plan was agreed upon for the countryside with programs for access to land, goods, productive services and infrastructure in order to give peasants real opportunities for development and quality of life, among other measures that deepen structural changes in the country.

But, four years later, the causes of this war in Colombia persist, such as the assassination of political and social leaders, massacres, as well as social inequality.

THERE ARE REASONS FOR SERIOUS CONCERN

In an interview with Prensa Latina, via the Internet, former Colombian President Ernesto Samper (1994-1998) stated that after the signing of the Peace Accord there were positive advances such as the demobilization, laying down of arms, reintegration and conversion of the FARC-EP into the new political party, the Revolutionary Alternative Force of the Common (FARC).

Furthermore, the agreement allowed for the creation of a transitional justice system to judge the armed actors who participated in the conflict, both on the part of the Colombian Armed Forces and the guerrillas themselves, he added.

However, the former secretary of the Union of South American Nations and member of the Puebla Group also stressed that “there are reasons for serious concern”.

Regarding this, he specified “the political misunderstanding of the current government with respect to the sustainability of the agreements themselves, which translates into the abandonment of its most sensitive programs such as the reparation of victims, the paralysis of the agreements on social substitution of illicit crops, and the fulfillment of the commitments acquired with respect to the delivery, restitution, and titling of land”.

In the former governor’s opinion, one of the most important points of the Agreement is perhaps the creation of the Transitional Justice System through a Jurisdiction for Peace, a Truth Commission and a Unit for the Search of Disappeared Persons.

This system, through a new scheme of restorative justice based on truth, justice and reparation for victims, should allow the armed actors to reintegrate into civil society and the victims to work through their grief over the harm caused to them and their families during the long nightmare of the armed conflict that lasted more than half a century, he stressed.

Samper believes that the biggest problem with the Peace Accord is that the government of President Iván Duque, except for some specific programs such as those related to the development of productive projects for reintegrated guerrillas, has been very elusive in appropriating the economic resources needed to finance fundamental programs such as reparations for victims, which barely meets 10 percent of its objectives.

Recent figures from the Comptroller General’s Office indicate that the levels of execution of the funds needed to finance the peace process are below 50 percent, he told Prensa Latina.

In addition to this passive attitude, the government headed by the head of state and the party that accompanies him, the Democratic Center -presided over by former president Alvaro Uribe (2002-2010)-, is dedicated to publicly questioning the Jurisdiction for Peace, the tribunal in charge of applying the restorative justice scheme that will allow Colombia to move from conflict to post-conflict.

Colombia is considered an example for America and the world for reaching the Peace Agreement, however, in the last two years there has been an increase in violence in the country and a resurgence of armed groups.

In this regard, the former governor said that he knew before the signing of the so-called Havana Agreement that some of the fronts of the FARC-EP would be removed from it.

On the other hand, he said, it is clear that the Duque government’s failure to comply with its commitments is leading to the reactivation of the armed conflict in some areas of the country, such as Catatumbo, Tumaco and Chocó.

In these areas, the same combination of activities and interests of drug trafficking, guerrilla and paramilitary groups is generating metastatic effects of the national conflict that we had for half a century. The risk is that these specific developments will not serve as a seed for reproducing the national conflict in a few years.

INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT

As for the role of Cuba and Norway as guarantor countries, he stressed that international support for the peace process is what keeps it going today.

Within this support, the role played by the two guarantor countries should be highlighted, which, “even though they rowed against the current Colombian government, have known how to interpret the spirit of the agreements and defend them with the effective assistance of the United Nations Security Council and its representatives in Colombia”.

“Those of us who have had state responsibilities in Colombia have been witnesses of the permanent interest of Cuba, even paying high international costs, to accompany us in the incessant search for peace that has been the dream of half a century of all Colombians”, he emphasized.

Our mission, he emphasized, “is to continue fighting with the help of Cuba and the countries that want to accompany us, so that that dream becomes a reality sooner rather than later. It is a long but possible process”.