Colombia: new peace deal agreed

colombia august 2016

‘Like a bomb, the insurgency blew in Colombia after noble people were living in humiliation, some decided to take on the guns to do something for their nation, but if you want to fight and do not have guns you have my words, and acts of love that can penetrate the minds of the people, ’cos today we are asking for the liberation of our nation, of the workers, justice is coming, we can hear justice coming.’ (Rap lyrics of Jhon Steban Pérez, FARC guerrilla)

The 2 October 2016 referendum rejected the much-heralded Peace Accord of 26 September between the Colombian government and FARC-EP. The result, 50.2% versus 49.8% of voters, rested on the thinnest margin of 54,000 votes out of almost 13 million ballots, in a turnout of fewer than 38% of the 32.8m voters listed. International backers of the agreement were shocked. Leaders from the US, Mexico, El Salvador, Uruguay, Cuba and the UN had attended the signing. Most outlying provinces voted in favour of the agreement, with those nearer the capital and inland voting against, although the capital Bogota voted ‘Yes’. The neo-fascist rancher and ex-President, Uribe, led the opposition. Appealing to ignorance and bigotry he repeatedly called Santos a ‘Castro-Chavista’ and the Marxist FARC ‘narco-terrorists’.

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Colombia: Peace Accords rejected

Colombia peace talk

On 26 September 2016 the Colombian government and the leadership of FARC–EP signed the agreements that they have negotiated over the last four years. During these years, FARC declared unilateral ceasefires to undermine excuses made by the government not to negotiate, while the Colombian state continued to target and kill key FARC leaders. The two sides were joined at the signing by leaders from the US, Mexico, El Salvador, Uruguay, Cuba and the United Nations. Days later, the referendum on acceptance of the Accords was rejected by a small majority.

The agreement, signed in Cartagena, Colombia, was preceded by a special, tenth, Congress of FARC delegates from throughout the country. Held in Yari in the Selva of south west Col­ombia, over 200 delegates discussed the Havana Accords for a week and agreed on the steps to follow the Accords. Invited guests included Imelda Daza, leader of the Patriotic Union, which would have again played a vital part in the struggle for socialism in the towns and cities. They would have had five seats guaranteed in the two chambers of the 2018 Con­gress, the 102-seat Senate and the 161-seat House of Representatives. These are based on the votes cast for the Patriotic Union before thousands of its members, leaders and cadres, were butchered in the 1990s by establishment assassins. This evolving poli­tical party will have little time to consolidate its influence before the July 2018 Congressional election.

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Colombia the continued struggle for peace and justice

On 23 June, after three and a half years of negotiations, the US-backed Colombian state and its armed communist opponents, the FARC, finally signed ‘a bilateral and definitive ceasefire, cessation of hostilities, and laying aside of weapons’, to end the armed class struggle waged since 1964. In the last year the FARC held to a unilateral ceasefire despite continued attacks, killings and provocations by the Colombian military. Cuban President Raul Castro declared the peace agreement a ‘victory for the people of Colombia’.

The governments of Chile, Cuba, Norway, and Venezuela were hosts, mediators or observers in the process. However, the peace accords have yet to be fully finalised and will be subject to a binding referendum, perhaps in September. Disarmament should take place immediately after the final peace accord is signed. In January 2016, the UN Security Council agreed to send a mission of 350 unarmed representatives, mainly from the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which excludes the US and Canada, to oversee redeployment by FARC troops to 23 ‘temporary hamlet zones for normalisation’. Once the FARC lists the combatants in each hamlet zone, the government will suspend all outstanding arrest warrants for them. Weapons will be surrendered to the UN over a 180-day period.

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Colombia peace talks: make or break

The Santos government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) set 23 March 2016 as the deadline to sign a final peace agreement, but negotiations in Cuba have stalled in past months over the last question on their agenda – decommissioning FARC’s armoury and demobilisation. On 10 March both sides announced that they aim to reach a deal by the end of the year. Since November 2012 – in long negotiations punctuated by government killings of FARC leaders – agreement has been reached on approaches to land reform, political participation, the illegal drugs trade and transitional justice. Alvaro Michaels reports.

On 21 March in Havana, US Secretary of State John Kerry again urged the Colombian government and FARC to reach a peace accord. Obama will ask the US Congress for $450m (£312m) as a sweetener after completion. To back Santos’s final shift against opponents from the large landowning class and sections of the military, Kerry defended the Santos-FARC talks by pointing out that it is not the FARC, but ‘right-wing militias’ that are currently ‘increasing the violence’. FARC quickly pushed for the State Department to remove the guerrilla army from its list of ‘foreign terrorist organisations’. When a peace agreement is reached, a referendum will be held for its approval.

President Santos has now discarded ex-President Alvaro Uribe as a useful bargaining tool in his negotiations with FARC, finally approving the arrest of Uribe’s brother Santiago on 29 February. He is accused of involvement in murders and forced disappearances in the 1990s. The family’s dealings with the drug trade (father, cousins, in-laws), known to US intelligence, made President Uribe pliable to US pressure when in office.

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Colombia: negotiating the future

President Santos (left) and FARC’s chief, Rodrigo Londoño (Timochenko) shook hands after a meeting facilitated by Raul Castro (centre)

On 23 September a further step in the class struggle in Colombia was reached when the FARC and the Colombian President Santos, accompanied by President Raul Castro, announced in Havana that they expected to conclude a peace agreement by March 2016. They have agreed on a formula for transitional justice for those accused of crimes committed in the conflict such as kidnapping, murder, forced displacement, disappearance and torture.

FARC leaders had hoped the Pope would agree to meet the negotiating teams on his visit to Cuba, but the Vatican rejected the notion. However while there Pope Francis’s warned that failure was not an option, a message already made on several occasions, including directly to President Santos at the Vatican. This deal on justice, along with previous agreements made since November 2012 on rural development, political participation for demobilised guerrillas and drug trafficking, now means agreement on four of the six points of negotiations. It remains to agree how FARC will demobilise and decommission their weapons, and how to implement the final accords.

FARC’s chief, Rodrigo Londoño (Timochenko) said that a ‘propitious environment’ had been created to reach agreement on remaining points. Special tribunals, to include international judges, will judge crimes related to the conflict committed by participants or non-combatants. Voluntary confession will result in confinements – though not prison – of up to eight years. Immediate guilty pleas will mean reduced prison sentences. Those convicted without admission face the longest sentences. Membership of FARC, currently a political crime, will be pardoned, and this should apply to some 15,000 FARC members.

US secretary of state Kerry welcomed the step and let it be known that US drug trafficking charges, and extradition requests targeting FARC leaders will not be used by the US to obstruct the deal. It is clear to everyone that, despite every effort, the ruling class in Colombia cannot physically eliminate FARC’s armed opposition, which arises out of the terror applied by the state itself. The US is anxious to intensify its commercial exploitation of Colombia after the end of the civil war, as well as regaining lost political ground in Latin America. Former president Alvaro Uribe, representing the decaying, family landowning class claimed the deal will ‘generate new violence’ in the country.

Alvaro Michaels

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  1. Colombia’s Killing Fields: Peace is War - James Petras article
  2. Colombia: Army provokes an end to FARC’s ceasefire
  3. Colombia: FARC ceasefire under threat
  4. Colombia: negotiating progress
  5. Colombia: FARC peace talks stall in Havana
  6. Colombian elections: a vote for the peace negotiations
  7. Colombia the changing form of class war
  8. Colombia War and negotiation/FRFI 235 Oct/Nov 2013
  9. Colombia: Negotiating for the future
  10. Colombia – the struggle for peace /FRFI 229 Oct/Nov 2012
  11. Colombia: renewed state onslaught on FARC/ FRFI 224 December 2011/January 2012
  12. Colombia: a new phase in US global militarization / FRFI 211 Oct / Nov 2009
  13. Colombia: FARC – 45 years of fighting for peace / FRFI 209 Jun / Jul 2009
  14. Colombia: who are the terrorists? / FRFI 163 Oct / Nov 2001
  15. Colombia: US backs new terror campaign / FRFI 166 Apr / May 2002
  16. Colombia: US intervention and rising popular resistance / FRFI 167 Jun / Jul 2002
  17. Colombia: total war / FRFI 169 Oct / Nov 2002
  18. Repression and resistance in Colombia / FRFI 172 Apr / May 2003
  19. Colombia: a long struggle against imperialism / FRFI 174 Aug / Sep 2003
  20. Colombian ruling class – under US orders / FRFI 183 Feb / Mar 2005
  21. Colombia: terror deepens / FRFI 186 Aug / Sep 2005
  22. Colombia: Multinationals in collusion with state terror / FRFI 196 Apr / May 2007
  23. Colombian civil war: Uribe’s bankrupt road / FRFI 198 Aug / Sep 2007
  24. Colombia: President Uribe caught in his own trap / FRFI 199 Oct / Nov 2007
  25. Colombian elections: a setback for Uribe / FRFI 200 Dec 2007 / Jan 2008