Colombia’s government and the country’s largest rebel group FARC signed a landmark agreement on Wednesday that is supposed to guarantee the guerrilla group’s political participation. The accord is the second of six preliminary pacts necessary to end almost 50 years of violence between rebels and state.
“We have come to a fundamental agreement about the second point of the agenda,” the FARC and government negotiators said in a joint statement read by the Norwegian delegate, one of the guarantors of the peace talks.
Just two weeks before the one-year anniversary of the peace talks taking place in Havana, Cuba, the two delegations said at a press conference in Cuba that they had reached full agreement on the following points, formulated in the initial agreement to begin formal dialogues:
2. Political Participation
- Rights and guarantees for the exercise of the political opposition in general and in particular for the new movements that arise after the signing of the Final Agreement. Access to the media.
- Democratic mechanisms of citizen participation, including those of direct participation, on different levels and diverse themes.
- Effective measures to promote greater participation in the national, regional and local policy of all sectors, including the most vulnerable population, equality of conditions and with guarantees of security.
The specific details of the deal will not be made public until an eventual peace deal — covering all six points on the agenda — has been signed, as is the case with the details of the agreement on agrarian reform made in May.
The delegates from Norway and Chile — another guarantor of the talks — called the deal “a step towards strengthening Colombia’s democracy,” at the beginning of the press conference.
Political leaders across an ideological spectrum were more than eager to weigh in on the announcement.
Former President and known critic of the peace talks Alvaro Uribe began the discussion almost three hours prior to the announcement via Twitter.
“Colombia is the only democracy that accepts negotiating its democracy with terrorism,” he posted.
Colombia es la única democracia que acepta negociar su democracia con el terrorismo
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) November 6, 2013
Ivan Cepeda, outspoken congressman of the leftist Polo Democratico party — and once a sympathizer of the demobilized M-19 urban guerrilla group — said that an agreement on political participation is fundamental to end the armed conflict. He affirmed that there needs to be guarantees that people can support opposition views of the government and that those who support such views are afforded protection so that the tragedy of the Union Patriotica does not happen again, he told Caracol Radio.
The Union Patriotica was a popular leftist political group — the FARC’s first attempt at political participation — from the 1980’s that suffered near 3,000 assassinations leading up to Colombia’s 1990 presidential elections.
Marta Lucia Ramierz, a Conservative Party presidential hopeful, hoped for specific conditions to come with an agreement on political participation. One example that she offered to radio station Caracol was that no members of the FARC who have been charged with crimes against humanity should be able to seek political office for a period of time.
Angela Maria Robledo, a congresswoman of the centrist Green Party, said that this would be a historic agreement that could put an end to the partisan violence that began before the 1960s. It could also send a strong message to silence, without a doubt, enemies of the peace process.
Senator Juan Lozano, leader of President Juan Manuel Santos’ party U Party, made sure to caution that time is running out, and the government promised speedy negotiations that have dragged on for a year now. The lengthy talks demonstrates that the government has been weak in negotiations with the FARC, Lozano told Caracol Radio.
Now that this agenda item — whose consistent delay has caused arguably the most doubt regarding the efficacy of peace talks — has finally been completed, the two most challenging ideological points have been agreed upon: agrarian reform and political participation.
Agrarian reform and political participation were especially significant because those represent the two main issues that prompted the founding of the FARC nearly 50 years ago in 1964.
There are four more agenda items left on the list, including the End of the Conflict, the Solution to Illicit Drug Issues, the Needs of the Victims, and, finally, Implementation. These are expected to fall into place after this historic agreement on the FARC’s political participation.
Additionally, a bill was finally passed in Colombia’s Congress on Wednesday morning to allow for a referendum to determine an eventual final deal with the FARC, designated a terrorist organization by Colombia, the US and the EU, among others.
This popular-vote bill has been stalled a number of times due to a lack of representative turning up to vote in the House of Representatives. Leading up to today, the government has been the major advocate of a referendum, while the FARC has been outspoken against it.
These peace talks, which began on November 19 last year and were organized primarily by the incumbent Santos’ administration, represent the fourth formal attempt at peace talks with the FARC and guerrilla groups since the beginning of the armed conflict.