Colombia remembers with symbolic act the five years of peace with the FARC

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Bogota (AFP) – One of the cruelest conflicts in America began to die down five years ago. Colombia recalled this Wednesday the peace pact that made possible the disarmament of the FARC guerrillas, with a meeting between protagonists and critics in the presence of the UN chief.

For the first time, the peace signatories, the UN Secretary, Antonio Guterres, representatives of the victims and President Iván Duque, who unsuccessfully tried to modify the agreement, considering it benevolent with the guerrillas implicated in crimes, coincided in the same scenario. atrocious.

The presence of the president loaded with symbolism the act that took place at the headquarters of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the court that judges the worst crimes in a conflict that in half a century leaves nine million victims among the dead. mutilated, kidnapped and missing.

“We insist on apologizing to the victims of our actions during the conflict, the understanding of their pain grows in us daily 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 renewed the commitment of the vast majority of the 13,000 men and women who remain faithful to the peace accords after surrendering their rifles, and despite the violence against former combatants. Almost 300 have been killed since 2016.

“Nothing and nobody will be able to undermine our conviction that the path taken is the correct one,” said the president of Comunes, the left-wing party that emerged from disarmament.

In his speech, former President Juan Manuel Santos, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for sitting at the negotiating table a guerrilla that he had beaten militarily, offered a “positive” balance of the five years of the agreement that he signed with Londoño.

“The peace train that so many have wanted to derail or stop continues its course, continues to advance,” said Santos, before greeting with “satisfaction” the gesture of Duque, one of his greatest political adversaries.

“President Duque got on the peace train as we have seen him with great satisfaction lately,” he said.

In essence, the agreement allowed a force of peasant origin, raised in arms under the influence of communism, in the middle of the Cold War, to hand over their rifles in exchange for being able to exercise politics.

It also contains political and agrarian reforms – since land ownership was at the origin of the internal war – and formulas against drug trafficking, which in theory should be finalized until 2031.

The UN notice

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, which, according to independent estimates, number some 10,000 combatants.

Ex-combatants, indigenous people and human rights activists have been assassinated in points far from the big capitals.

And five years later, the deal remains deeply divisive.

Just over 50% of Colombians opposed the text negotiated for four years in Cuba in a plebiscite, forcing the parties to make adjustments before signing it with the support of the United Nations.

As he did the day before, the head of the organization once again warned about the “risks to peace” that “armed groups in connection with drug trafficking embody.”

“It is not too late to reverse this trend, concentrating all efforts (…) in places where violence is most intense,” Guterres said, renewing “the full support” of the UN.

On his side, President Duque advocated a “total truth” and “not adapted” for the victims.

A frequent target of criticism from the right that Duque represents, the JEP prepares the first sentences against the former rebel command for more than 21,000 kidnappings. It also judges the military for some 6,400 executions of civilians who were presented as killed in combat to inflate their results in the counter-guerrilla struggle.

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.

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Colombia remembers with symbolic act the five years of peace with the FARC