Some politicians have claimed that the trip taken on Sunday by six Colombian congressmen to meet with the peace negotiators for the government and country’s largest guerrilla group FARC is duplicitous, unprofessional, and not in step with the framework for peace.
Though the FARC labeled the trip as “very important” and that it will have “profound political implications,” Colombia’s president of the house of representatives rejected his colleagues presence at the peace talks.
“We have nothing to go and do in Havana,” said house president, Augusto Posada. The congressman said that it was outrageous that this trip was planned behind the backs of the Peace Commission and he insisted that “Congress must talk peace in November when an agreement is signed.” The latter refers to President Juan Manuel Santos‘ insistence that the talks will not go on past November.
While Posada noted that he was still optimistic about the peace process in general, others were more skeptical. Senator Armando Benedetti, for instance, claimed that the peace talks appeared to be falling prey to the same mistakes previous administrations made in their failed attempts to negotiate a peace with the FARC.
“At first, President Santos said no ceasefire, no media, no politicians [and now] he has bowed to the pressure,” said Benedetti, who promised to look into the source of the funds and resources allocated to the six congressmen.
Despite Posada and Benedetti’s insinuations, the government has not issued a ceasefire and skirmishes between the rebels and the armed forces are reported almost daily. Also, the leader of the six-person government delegation is Senate President Roy Barreras, who also happens to be the head of the Peace Commission.
The leader of Colombia’s liberal party, Simon Gaviria, however said that there was “nothing wrong” with his collegues’ presence at the peace talks. While some were infuriated that they were not consulted about the trip, Gaviria explained that “these processes require discretion.”
The conflict-monitoring NGO, Nuevo Arco Iris, was more direct. According to Leon Valencia, the NGO’s director, the trip went ahead with Santos’ approval and the disgruntled congressmen are upset because they were not consulted.
The six congressmen who made the trip are Senate President Roy Barreras, and congressmen Alfonso Prada, Juan Mario Laserna, Ivan Cepeda, Gloria Ines Ramirez, and Guillermo Rivera.
Barreras justified the members’ presence in Havana by claiming that they were there to speed up the pace of talks and to communicate the concerns of Colombians.
“Peace is desirable and is yearned for by all Colombians. While acts of peace are essential, goodwill is not enough,” said the Senate President.
The talks between the government and the country’s largest left-wing insurgency have been criticized for their sluggish pace, though both sides have said that there has been progress and an eagerness to reach an accord. If successful, the talks would bring an end to the longest-standing civil war on the continent.