Retired members of Colombia’s Armed Forces have criticized President Juan Manuel Santos‘ recently passed Framework for Peace, claiming the legislation favor terrorists, local media reported Monday.
The Colombian Association for Retired Members of the Armed Forces (ACORE) made the criticism in an open letter over the weekend.
“The ‘Framework for Peace,’ pushed by [the Santos] government and recently approved by the Senate, excessively favors terrorist organizations in order to undertake an eventual peace negotiation that supposedly is already underway or is being considered,” wrote the signatories of the letter.
The letter came in response to comments made by the president during a June 12 speech to graduating members of the Military School of Cadets regarding the military’s stance on his then-developing hallmark legislation, the Framework for Peace. The initiative, passed last Friday, reformed the constitution in order to provide a set of tools for possible future negotiations with the FARC, Colombia’s oldest guerrilla organization.
Such tools include the ability to select only the worst crimes committed, abandon the prosecution of less severe crimes, and create extra-judicial institutions committed to investigating and sanctioning those held responsible.
The law has drawn the ire of numerous groups on the right and left, such as former President Alvaro Uribe and the current director of the America’s Division of Human Right’s Watch, Jose Miguel Vivanco.
Members of the armed forces, who throughout Colombia’s history have rejected compromises to Colombia’s guerrillas, had also expressed their concerns over how the Framework for Peace could affect the conflict. Talk of discontent within the military exploded almost one month ago when rumors arose of a possible military coup against the Santos presidency. ACORE rejected all speculation of such action, but affirmed that its members were un happy with President Santos’ policies.
Following those tense weeks, President Santos reminded the graduating class that the end of war was not more war, but peace.
“We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel that can immediately bring peace to the country, one that had been so elusive over the past half century. I said it to some retired officials, now in the Military School of Cadets: do not be afraid of peace, because peace is victory. In any military history, peace is victory,” stated the president.
The comments drew a fiery response from ACORE, who criticized what they believed was the president’s attempt to force a wedge between the army’s soldiers.
“This affirmation, made to the troops in an important military ceremony … constitutes a reckless, surprising and inadmissible statement, that looks to dissociate the active reserves from those who in this moment carry arms in defense of the republic,” wrote the organization in the open letter.
The group then expressed its concerns that the new peace initiatives were too favorable to Colombia’s guerrilla organizations, such as the FARC and the ELN. The signatories believed that such a framework offered a pathway to political participation and impunity for the country’s “terrorists.”
“In other words, it is exactly what a country defeated by terrorist aggression would do: hand over everything or almost everything for virtually nothing,” stated the retired members.
In addition, ACORE criticized the Santos administration’s attempts to reform the military justice system, whereby army members accused of human rights crimes would be sentenced within a normal criminal court instead of before a military tribunal. Such actions, the retired army members stated, would remove the necessary judicial guarantees for soldiers in the line of duty.