The conflict in Colombia between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla movement has been present in the lives of millions for over 52 years.
This armed conflict has not only severely affected the country in terms of violence but has also brought detrimental social and economic consequences.
The current Colombian administration took important steps into achieving a peace settlement, but after a plebiscite the Colombian people decided they would not agree on the terms of the agreement the government had negotiated.
This is what you need to know about Colombia and the current situation in regards to the peace process with the FARC:
FARC- Who are they?
The seeds of the FARC was started in 1953 when Colombia had a dictator as a leader called Gustavo Rojas Pinilla. (The group was officially founded 11 years later in 1964.)
Pinilla was against the liberal guerrillas (a group that favored the federalist system) and he was constantly attacking these groups.
As a consequence, self-defense groups formed and they “sought to protect themselves from the action of government militaries” (Leach 2011). These groups believed in a greater justice for the field.
While the FARC was at first ideologically motivated, it became more than that- involved in drug running and kidnappings to name a few.
The FARC-EP is still fighting 52 years later and as the years have gone by they have started to utilize terrorist tactics and commit gross violations of human rights, they also profit from the illicit drug trade.
Peace Negotiations and the October Plebiscite
In 2012, President Juan Manuel Santos announced that he was going to initiate peace talks with the FARC; his goals were to end the conflict.
President Santos’ strategy for implementing a peace process with the FARC had major differences compared to the ones made by former Presidents Pastrana and Uribe.
Scholars such as Meuci noted that there were three major differences of the peace negotiations that took place in La Habana, Cuba:
1) The Colombian Government was negotiating in a strong position because the FARC was extremely weak, 2) Venezuela and other neighboring countries were taken into account, 3) the peace process had a pre-negotiation stage in 2011.
The peace talks were limited to five negotiation points- these being agrarian reform, the political participation of former FARC members, the procedures and statues that would bring an end to the armed conflict, The FARC involvement in the international drug trade, and the sources of reparation for victims. (Alvira 2013)
After four years of negotiations, Santos promised the Colombian people he would release the final agreement and subject it to a popular vote.
On October 2, 2016 a non-binding plebiscite was held.
The question to answer in the vote was “Do you support the final agreement to end the conflict and the construction of a stable long-lasting peace?”
Colombians were to vote Yes or No.
Colombians rejected the peace accord and the “No” won by 50.2 percent against the “Yes” 49.8 percent.
After the announcement of the results, Santos acknowledged the results as the will of the people and called for national unity.
He talked about his commitment with achieving peace and desire to reach a consensus with Colombians that did not agree with him.
At the same time, one of the FARC leaders talked about his compromise to reach peace and to keep the cease-fire agreement in place.
The leaders of the “No” camp reassured that people were rejecting the concessions that the government made with the FARC but not rejecting peace.
They argued the government was more or less rewarding terrorist and that this emphasized the need for renegotiation and for a better deal with the FARC.
The current situation is an opportunity for true consensus through renegotiation.
Santos’ new plans are to include the thoughts from leaders of the “No” camp such as Alvaro Uribe Velez, Marta Lucia Ramirez, and Andrés Pastrana Arango.
This is essential to help mitigate the division and polarization in the country.
The next step is to truly form points of discussion and agreements that both sides (within the government) agree and then renegotiate with the FARC.
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Cover Photo Credit: Photo Credit: bixentro/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)
Sources cited in piece:
Leech, Garry. The FARC: The longest insurgency. London and New York: Fernwood Publishing, Zed Book ltd, 2011.
Meucci, M. (2013). Proceso de paz en Colombia. Posibles implicaciones para Venezuela. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 3-19. Translated by Juliana Carvajal
Alvira, G. (2013). Toward a New Amnesty: The Colombian Peace Process and the Inter- American Court of Human Rights. Tulane Journal of International and Comparative Law, 22, 119-144.