Colombia is desperately missing a leader to oppose a pending peace deal between the government and the FARC. This deal deserves severe criticism and must be improved because of evident vices.
The role of opposition leader is currently taken up by former President Alvaro Uribe. However, this politician’s participation in the victimization of millions and implication in thousands of war crimes makes him the worst possible option to lead a critical opposition, particularly when it comes to issues related to justice.
Uribe’s personal interests are opposed to those of the public and he has consistently opposed victims in their efforts to obtain justice or truth.
Moreover, rather than constructively criticizing the content of the deal, Uribe has tried to simply undermine the legitimacy of the talks as a whole, something entirely incompatible with reality.
However, somebody in Colombia’s politics must put the ongoing public concerns on the political agenda.
Why peace talks are good
The virtue of peace talks to end more than half a century of violence should be indisputably self-evident. Categorically rejecting the talks is simply dumb.
After more than 260,000 dead civilians and 7 million displaced civilians, there simply exists no mundane cause or combination of causes that could justify the perpetuation of this mass victimization of Colombians.
Those seeking to overthrow Colombia’s oligarchy, the FARC for example, can impossibly sustain that their revolution has had any positive effect on the country’s political and socio-economic situation.
In fact, the rebels’ and rebel apologists’ failed and corrupted revolution has traumatized the country in some of the most terrific ways conceivable.
What the FARC considers the oligarchy, a group of families that have controlled the state and rigged elects since the country’s independence, is doing as well as ever before.
Those on the other end seeking to exterminate communism or terrorism through military action can equally not sustain their purpose. It has been exactly the military effort that has caused the displacement of millions.
More importantly, the FARC are also still there. So is the ELN and so are a handful of paramilitary successor groups.
Moreover, while failing to end “terrorism,” Colombia’s state apparatus has turned into an inflated monster that if you look at the numbers most resembles a terrorist organization rather than a state.
To back up that last blunt statement; While no more than 10 thousand FARC fighters are estimated to even exist, 24,400 state officials are linked to conflict-related crimes. Hundreds of millions of dollars in Colombian tax payers’ money have been swindled into the pockets of politicians, and military commanders and contractors every year, without the Colombian public receiving sane policies or a military victory in return.
War apologists from either side must recognize they represent a small and insignificant minority. The vast majority of the Colombian public — from communists to neo-liberals — wants the conflict to be solved peacefully.
Why Colombia’s peace talks are no good
The problem with Colombia’s current process is that the two parties fighting in the conflict are not just making peace. They are also making agreements that transcend ending their war and will affect the Colombian public beyond them not being submitted to war.
But while the traditional political elite and the guerrillas are negotiating, ordinary Colombians are ignored in the peace talks as much as they have been ignored in the conflict.
This has resulted in agreements between the FARC and the Santos administration on a rural reform without consulting farmers’ organizations.
It has also resulted in political reforms in regards to peaceful opposition to politics without engaging human or labor rights organizations.
Additionally, there’s a deal about the FARC’s abandoning of drug trafficking that was drafted without consulting the coca farmers at risk of being submitted to violent turf wars may the FARC’s eventual demobilization create a criminal power vacuum.
But the most shocking of all is the level of impunity granted to both sides in the most recent deal on transitional justice. In spite of having committed tens of thousands of human rights violations and war crimes, the parties have failed to construct a fair transitional justice system that adequately punishes war criminals.
The government installed a representative Victims’ Table ahead of its announcement of a justice deal with the FARC. However, this Victims’ Table have since said to have been ignored entirely.
These are repetitions of mistakes made by the Uribe administration, which granted similar judicial benefits to the AUC a decade ago and ignored the rights and interests of civilians and victims.
The AUC deal led to only a few dozen convictions of members of the AUC that has been accused of tens of thousands of human rights violations. It also created an entire generation of paramilitary successor groups that have since become the country’s primary human rights violators.
Ironically, one of the members of the Victims’ Table, Yuli Andrea Galvis from Risaralda, was injured in a failed assassination attempt on Thursday by an alleged member of the neo-paramilitary groups the government refuses to acknowledge as violent political actors.
Norway and Cuba, inactive referees
The international hosts of the peace talks, Norway and Cuba, are apparently not taking up a role as a guardian for the rights of the Colombian people, a referee that for example obligates both parties to comply with international humanitarian law.
Instead, the host countries have only visibly intervened when the behavior of the Santos administration or the FARC threatened the eventual closing of a peace deal, potentially hurting the international public image of Cuba and Norway as global peace brokers.
This should be a lesson for future peace talks elsewhere in the world.
Apparently, the risk of two warring parties exchanging impunity while bartering peace is very real. It has happened in Colombia where the perpetrators of horrible atrocities will be able to spend not one day behind bars.
Colombia’s self-serving left
Colombia’s left has become suspiciously quiet over important issues like human rights violations and impunity that were high on their agenda when the right wing paramilitary organization AUC demobilized. They have even failed to echo the concerns of victims in regards to the justice deal between Santos and the FARC.
Bogota‘s salon socialists are so fixated on achieving a peace deal that they have become almost entirely uncritical of the process.
Unfortunately for those defending human rights, leftist political parties like the Democratic Pole have too much to gain from bridging the gap between the radical FARC ideologists and political reality.
They will also benefit from a previously announced political participation pact, which is likely to increase the left’s political power and influence in the coming decade.
Back to Uribe
Uribe, under whose watch thousands of civilians were brutally executed by state forces, is possibly the worst possible critic because, well, thousands of civilians were brutally executed by state forces under his watch.
As if that doesn’t make him enough a war criminal, it took a constitutional court order for Uribe to even admit the fact that millions were losing their homes as a direct consequence of the military offensive he was leading, and that these refugees needed humanitarian aid.
Nevertheless and in spite of his cynical hypocrisy, Uribe has been the only one to put the Colombian people’s valid concerns on the political agenda.
But only when convenient for him. Uribe has not addressed the fact that victims’ are disappointed and feel disengaged. Uribe did not urge to address the public security threat he effectively helped create.
The valid voices of dissent, those of for example the victims, continue to be excluded from Colombia’s media and are thus not put on the political agenda. And it’s exactly those voices who must be heard by their fellow Colombians, their government and the rebel group that so cynically claims to stand up for the downtrodden.