Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Colombia, FARC Reach Historic Peace Deal

One of the bloodiest and most violent chapters in Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict could soon come to a close after the government and the FARC rebels reached a historic final peace agreement on Wednesday.

“Today we have reached the finish line,” declared lead government negotiator Humberto de la Calle who also claimed the agreement will “open doors” to a more open and inclusive Colombian society.

“We can proclaim that the war of arms is over and the debate of ideas begins,” proclaimed alias “Ivan Marquez,” top FARC envoy.

The agreement was announced in the Cuban capital city of Havana following nearly four years of often-tense negotiations between government envoys and representatives of Colombia’s largest and oldest guerilla faction. Thus far, both sides have agreed on subjects including land reform, justice for the victims of conflict, and disarmament.

According to RCN Radio of Colombia, the final details of the deal bar the FARC from any form of amnesty unless they lay down their arms and a strategy to reincorporate guerillas into civil society. Another point purportedly grants the FARC judicial guarantees while the deal goes to a plebiscite and subsequently for congressional review. Speaking of the federal legislature, the deal allegedly allow for the rebels to have up to seven Congressional seats as part of their potential political participation.

“There will be no impunity!” thundered Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos regarding doubts over justice against the rebels and following the historic announcement in Cuba.

He further mentioned that the pact would allow the guerillas to end as a rebel army and enter political life by participating in Congress but as non-voting members.

Santos, who has championed the negotiations despite it occasionally costing him political capital, also said the FARC must provide reparations to victims of armed conflict.

“This deal allows us to close the door of war with the FARC and open the new door of peace,” the president noted.

De la Calle alluded to the division the negotiations have caused among the Colombian populace including critics claiming that the deal does little to bring rebel commanders to justice for human rights abuses, kidnapping, massacres and other crimes. Yet he emphasized that the deal will allow the state to aim its resources at other major problems hurting the country.

“The FARC will finish their lives in war and will enter society with all legal guarantees. Meanwhile, we will deepen our combat against a corruption that is a cancer consuming public life,” de la Calle said.

Among those many actors Santos expressed his gratitude towards, he thanked several of his predecessors including Álvaro Uribe who was president while Santos served some years as defense secretary. Uribe, who is currently a senator and one of the main figures of the neoconservative Centro Democratico party, has been a vocal and outspoken opponent of the talks with the FARC.

“To approve the illegitimate referendum would mean accepting impunity... instead of deterring crime it makes it bigger and sets an example for more and new violence,” said Uribe days ago as part of the campaign to defeat the plebiscite scheduled for October 2nd.

Recent polls show most Colombians would back voting in a plebiscite for a peace deal with the FARC though support varies from a little more than half to as high as 67%.

Despite the divisions caused by the negotiations and the deal, the discussions were held with strong support from the international community including figures like Pope Francis, United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon, and heads of state worldwide.

“Those who will be giving the most for peace are the same ones who gave the most for war,” observed Gonzalo Sánchez, director of Colombia’s Centre for Historical Memory, regarding the White House supporting the talks and seeking $450 million in aid years after the United States provided billions of dollars in military funds under Plan Colombia.

Attitudes over the discussions among victims of the conflict vary from deception to hope.

“Most wars have led to too much bloodshed but after living through it for so long I believe Colombia needs to resolve it differently…We want to give a better country for our sons and granddaughters” said Ariadna Diazgranados, a victim of gang rape by FARC rebels who backed the bilateral ceasefire agreement signed last June.

“As a man who fought I know the best war is to seek peace,” mentioned former army soldier Evis Alberto Paternina Barreto who was paralyzed following a battle against FARC troops. “But the ceasefire is a vile lie since (the rebels) have never had as much firepower as they currently hold,” he added.

Even if the peace deal is backed by enough voters in the plebiscite and ratified by congress, Colombia’s conflict will not come to a complete end due to the presence of other armed actors such as neo-paramilitary “bandas criminales” and small-scale drug traffickers. Peace talks with Colombia’s second-largest guerillas, the ELN, have stalled amid kidnappings and other acts of violence.

YouTube Source – AFP

Online Sources (English) – Colombia Reports, teleSUR English, The Guardian

Online Sources (Spanish) – El Nuevo Siglo, El Heraldo, RCN Radio, Caracol Noticias, Twitter

No comments: