Colombia: the ‘Peace’ process

Colombia peace

The revised Peace Deal between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas was ratified by both of Colombia’s parliamentary chambers on 1 December 2016. The first laws to carry it into practice were approved by both houses on 28 December. Six FARC appointed observers now sit in Congress to monitor the passing of legislation related to the peace process. Meanwhile, across the country, as FARC’s defensive structure disappears, rural spokespersons, social leaders and members of FARC’s political party, Marcha Patriotica, face renewed intimidation and death at the hands of landowners’ agents and drugs gangs.

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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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