By: Hannah Griggs, CIB Americas Desk
Analytical Question: Will the Peace Treaty between the Colombian government and FARC hold in 2017?
Following the 27th murder of a Colombian community leader this year, Colombian officials and former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) met to discuss the implementation of the peace treaty and its obstacles. This may lead to improvements in the peace process, but it is still too early to determine with high confidence if the talks will lead to actual changes.
The conflict between the FARC and the Colombian government began in 1948 during a period called la Violencia, a time of civil war between liberals and conservatives. The conflict was sparked by the assassination of the liberal presidential candidate, Jorge Elicer Gaitan. Due to his popularity among the rural population and his campaign against the oligarchy that had been ruling Colombia for decades, Gaitan’s assassination was answered with a large-scale riot that caused grave damage to the country’s capital, Bogota. What followed was a period of fighting between the two parties that ended in 1958, with the signing of the National Front Agreement which split political power between the two parties every four years. Following the implementation of the agreement, former guerilla leader Manuel Marulanda led groups of citizens that held anti-establishment views to the countryside where they formed their own communities. Following an attack by the Colombian military, the communities came together and officially declared themselves a guerilla group. On May 1966, the group officially took on the name FARC and declared that its primary purpose was to provide protection, medical, and educational aid to small villages. The FARC used kidnappings and the cocaine trade as their primary means of funding those activities. Nearly forty years later, President Manuel Santos initiated the peace talks shortly after he took office in 2011. After four years of negotiations, the peace treaty was narrowly rejected in a public referendum, but passed in a Congressional vote a month later.
On March 25, 2017, a hundred days after the signing of the original peace treaty, the FARC and the Colombian government met to reevaluate the peace process (Alsema 2017). Many of the problems with the implementation of the peace process, such as the insurgence of other paramilitary groups within former FARC territory and the regular assassinations of community leaders, were discussed during the two-day meeting (Abierta 2017). Despite the difficulties with the peace process, and the insistence of former president Alvaro Uribe’s that a second referendum should take place, Santos and the former rebels have rejected the possibility of a second renegotiation of the treaty. Furthermore, both sides presented a list of priorities that aims to lead to an increase in both the speed of the implementation of the peace process and popular support for the deal. However, most of the pressure rests with the Colombian government. The government has promised to complete the demobilization zones and in turn the FARC has agreed to hand over a list of all its former members, including those that were not part of the guerilla units (Alsema 2017).
This second meeting between the two parties was prompted by the worsening conditions within Colombia, which were in turn prompted by the peace process itself. The most notable of those are the territorial wars sparked by the power vacuum the FARC left behind in the countryside. Also, despite it being one of the conditions of the treaty, the Colombian government did not occupy this vacuum, mostly due to their military being too slow and inefficient (Maas 2017). This meeting was convened to solve these growing problems. Some of the obstacles that the peace process was facing have already been solved in response to the meeting, such the passing of the transitional justice system. The transitional justice system was originally rejected in Congress, as it will be prosecuting not only FARC guerillas, but also Colombian officials that were involved with the paramilitary group. However, after the meeting, the votes in Congress in favor of the transitional justice system rose, and it was officially approved (Alsema 2017).
This instance only further-highlights how effective the regular meetings between the two sides have become, and how it could result in a more peaceful Colombia. Therefore, the continuing talks between the FARC and Colombian officials could lead to an improvement in the speed and effectiveness of the implementation of the peace process. Based on evidence from several independent news sources, along with testimonies from both FARC and government officials, it can be stated with high confidence that both sides have committed to a more successful peace process (Santos 2017). However, it is still too early to assess with anything above moderate confidence whether the promises made by the two sides during the meeting will be upheld, or if they will ultimately improve the conditions of the peace process.
Abierta, Verdad. “Colombia Port Town in Bloody Battle Over Former FARC Turf.” InSightCrime | Organized Crime In The Americas. N.p., 24 Jan. 2017. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
Alsema, Adriaan. “Colombia’s Congress approves transitional justice system in 2nd round.” Colombia News | Colombia Reports. N.p., 28 Mar. 2017. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.
Alsema, Adriaan . “Santos and FARC evaluate Colombia’s 100 days of ‘peace'” Colombia News | Colombia Reports. N.p., 27 Mar. 2017. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.
Maas, David. “Colombia military taking it easy as paramilitaries and drug lords overrun FARC territory.” Colombia News | Colombia Reports. N.p., 18 Feb. 2017. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.
Santos, Juan Manuel. “Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos).” Twitter. Twitter, 29 Mar. 2017. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.