In November 2016, one of the cruelest conflicts in America began to die down. This Wednesday Colombia recalled the five years of the agreement that disarmed the FARC, with an unprecedented meeting between protagonists and critics in the presence of the UN chief.
The peace signatories, the victims, the UN Secretary, Antonio Guterres, and President Iván Duque, who unsuccessfully tried to modify the historic agreement, were together on the same stage for the first time.
The assistance of Duque, an assiduous critic of the benefits obtained by the guerrillas involved in heinous crimes, loaded with symbolism the central act in Bogotá, at the headquarters of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP).
Arising from the agreements, this court judges the worst crimes in a conflict of more than half a century that leaves nine million victims among the dead, maimed, kidnapped and disappeared.
“We insist on apologizing to the victims of our actions during the conflict, the understanding of their pain grows daily in us and fills us with grief and shame,” said Rodrigo Londoño, the former commander of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ( FARC).
Also known as Timochenko, Londoño highlighted the commitment of the vast majority of the 13,000 ex-guerrillas who surrendered their rifles and remain within the peace accords, despite the violence. In these five years, almost 300 ex-combatants have been assassinated.
“Nothing and no one will be able to undermine our conviction that the path taken is the correct one,” said the also president of Comunes, the party that emerged from disarmament.
Diana Martínez, daughter of an electrician who disappeared in 2002 in the hands of the rebels, asked for more support in locating the disappeared and regretted that it is still not possible to speak effectively of a “post-conflict”.
But “in the face of so much adversity, we are still dreaming here,” he said.
Except for the meeting at the JEP and the presentation of a choir with children of ex-combatants who were born after the agreement, the fifth anniversary of the peace with the FARC did not generate much enthusiasm among Colombians.
Former President Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018), who won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating with a guerrilla who struck militarily, presented a “positive” balance on the progress of the commitments he signed with Londoño.
“The peace train that so many have wanted to derail or stop is continuing its course, continues to advance,” said Santos, before greeting with “satisfaction” the support of Duque, one of his main political adversaries.
“The president (…) got on the peace train,” he highlighted in his speech.
Later, he was seen smiling with Londoño, sharing a couple of beers made by ex-combatants in the bar ‘La casa de la paz’, in Bogotá.
The agreement allowed a peasant force raised in arms under the influence of communism, in the middle of the Cold War, to hand over their rifles in exchange for exercising politics and having a minimum representation in Congress for a time without going to elections.
It also contains political and agrarian reforms – land ownership was what triggered the internal war – and formulas against drug trafficking that in theory should be implemented until 2031.
Although it significantly reduced violence, the pact with the former FARC did not completely extinguish the conflict.
Drug trafficking and illegal mining feed new or old forces that together number more than 10,000 members and have murdered dozens of ex-combatants, human rights activists and indigenous people in Colombian fields.
And five years later, the agreement continues to divide a country where just over 50% of its citizens rejected the text negotiated in Cuba in a plebiscite, which forced the parties to make adjustments before signing it with the support of the UN.
This Wednesday, the Secretary of the United Nations warned again about the “risks to peace” that are embodied by “armed groups in connection with drug trafficking.”
He also called for “redoubling the protection efforts” of the ex-guerrillas “to assure them this second chance in life.”
On his side, Duque advocated a “total truth” and “not adapted” for the victims.
A frequent target of criticism from the right wing in power, the JEP prepares the first sentences against the former rebel command for more than 21,000 kidnappings. It is also advancing in the trial of the military who killed some 6,400 civilians to pass them off as fallen in combat.
The peace agreement establishes that those who confess their crimes, make reparation for their victims and commit themselves to never again exercise violence may receive alternative sentences to jail. Otherwise, they face penalties of up to 20 years.
“All of us present here want to see an effective, timely and real justice,” Duque insisted.
The antagonistic governments of the United States and Cuba also sent their messages of support for the peace agreement in Colombia.
vel / lv / dga
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Colombia remembers with renewed promises the five years of peace with FARC