Colombia: Can the new peace deal really hold?
Colombia is greeting “a new dawn,” said La Repúblicain an editorial. After 52 years of war that have left at least 220,000 people dead and 45,000 missing, and driven millions more from their homes, the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, this week agreed on a peace deal. The plan is the work of President Juan Manuel Santos, who succeeded where his predecessors failed by pursuing two tracks at once. He used the military to pound FARC guerrillas already weakened by the loss of their Venezuelan patrons—who pulled back as their country’s economy collapsed—and simultaneously opened wide-ranging negotiations that included the leftist militants and, crucially, their victims. The deal calls for a total cease-fire and FARC’s disarmament. Militants must confess their crimes, and those who killed or committed kidnappings will be placed under house arrest for up to eight years. Other militants can immediately form a political party that is guaranteed 10 seats in Congress. Coca fields will be razed, and rebel-held areas will get government investment and services.
You won’t hear any cheering crowds, said Juan Lozano in El Tiempo. Millions of Colombians “trust neither the government nor FARC” and believe that “there is something fishy hidden in the legalese of the 297-page peace plan.” We’re supposed to vote on the plan in a national referendum in a matter of weeks, yet we are full of questions. When will kidnapped children be returned? The guerrillas haven’t yet turned in their weapons—what if they use them “to intimidate voters”? This plan represents “the triumph of criminality over the rule of law,” said opposition politician Sen. Iván Duque Márquez in Portafolio. For decades, FARC terrorists have snatched children and pressganged them into their ranks. They have raped countless women, and tortured and executed civilians. They have run a cocaine empire. Yet now they get to go free? They get automatic seats in Congress? If we agree to this travesty, we can give up any pretense that we believe in law or justice.
But we must break the cycle of war, said Eduardo Vargas in El Nuevo Siglo. Colombians have been killing one another for centuries. Spanish colonizers massacred indigenous peoples, descendants of those colonizers fought a bloody war of independence against Spain, and then supporters of the Liberal and Conservative parties slaughtered one another in the Thousand Days’ War of 1899–1902. The guerrilla struggle was simply “the continuation of the ancient armed confrontations” over land use and resources. Many of our leaders—such as Álvaro Uribe, who served as president from 2002 to 2010 and now leads the centerright opposition—“are warlords who oppose the construction of peace” because the conflict is their source of power. They tell us peace won’t last, that it will bankrupt us or turn us into a militaristic or communist country. Don’t listen. This land has enough wealth to share. Can we build a peaceful society? “Yes, we can.”