Last year, the same party led a coalition of conservative forces that barely but successfully took down the peace deal with the FARC in a national plebiscite.
The party of controversial former-president Alvaro Uribe was ultimately unable to stop the peace process, however, once Congress approved a revised peace deal three months after the failed plebiscite.
Now, as Colombia’s congress is closing in on a vote for a law to implement the Special Jurisdiction for Peace transitional justice courts, the Democratic Center party is collecting signatures for a national referendum to change the law and other fundamental aspects of the peace agreement made between the FARC and government in Havana.
“We invite everyone to sign the referendum,” Democratic Center senator Paloma Valencia tweeted yesterday, to ensure that “these decisions [about the peace process] are not made in Havana by the FARC and corrupt government of [President Juan Manuel] Santos.”
“This is an initiative to give Colombians back their confidence in institutions,” the senator said in a video posted to her Twitter account.
During the campaign leading up to plebiscite last year, the Democratic Center party championed a political discourse of indignation over the fact that members of the FARC who committed war crimes may not see the inside of a jail cell.
The agreement reached between the FARC and government requires all actors involved in the conflict who committed certain crimes to confess their crimes, repair their victims, and guarantee non-repetition. If judges in the transitional justice courts find that actors fully and willingly complete those tasks, they may sentence perpetrators to alternative sanctions, which will not include jail time.
As the Democratic Center continues to reject the peace process, members of the FARC’s leadership have implied that Democratic Center politicians fear the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) because testimonies given to the new courts could reveal unsavory ties between politicians and paramilitary death squads, extrajudicial killings of civilians by the military, and widespread corruption.
Personajes que se oponen a la JEP le temen a que la verdad se conozca. Cómo dice el dicho: El que nada debe nada teme. Todos a responder.
— Rodrigo Londoño (@TimoFARC) September 28, 2017
“People who oppose the JEP fear that the truth will come out. As the saying goes: He who owes nothing has nothing to fear. Everyone must respond,” said former guerrilla commander Rodrigo Londoño on Twitter Thursday.
Another commander of the FARC, “Pablo Catatumbo,” also chimed in to the debate.
— Pablo Catatumbo (@PCatatumbo_FARC) September 28, 2017
“The #JEP will have to guarantee that all actors involved in the conflict tell the truth and repair their victims. What do they have to fear?”
During an earlier peace process initiated by former president Uribe in the mid-2000s with illegal paramilitary forces, testimonies provided to the transitional justice system ultimately revealed an immense network of ties between politicians and the illegal armed groups.
Many politicians within president Uribe’s political coalition were implicated in the investigations, known as the “parapolitics” scandal, and more than 60 former congressmen and six former governors have been imprisoned for connections to paramilitary drug trafficking groups since the groups’ demobilization in 2006.
With the June arrest of former anti-corruption czar Gustavo Moreno, as well as the arrest last week of former Supreme Court chief justice Francisco Ricaurte, at least 25 other politicians and justice officials have been implicated in what may be the second leg of the so-called “parapolitics” scandal.
According to initial testimony from Moreno, a variety of senators implicated in the earlier parapolitics scandal may have bribed members of the judiciary not to bring charges against them for ties to the paramilitaries.
It is now believed that the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a fundamental aspect of the agreement between the FARC and government to end their 52-year armed conflict, could reveal further ties between corrupt politicians, businesses, and illegal armed groups.
In order to hold a national referendum to end or alter the ongoing peace process, the Democratic Center party has six months to collect at least 1.7 million signatures, representing 5% of the electorate.
In October 2016, the Democratic Center-led campaign against the peace accords won the plebisicte with 6.4 million votes.