One of the chief negotiators for the peace delegation of rebel group FARC said Tuesday that the guerrillas were happy to see that a majority in next term’s Congress is supporting ongoing peace talks.
Jesus Emilio Carvajalino alias “Andres Paris,” one of the primary negotiators representing the FARC in ongoing peace talks with Colombia’s government, asserted that “We have not done a full assessment of the election results, but we see that the forces that support the peace process are in the majority,” in an interview with El Tiempo newspaper.
President Juan Manuel Santos has been the main backer of the peace dialogues in Havana, Cuba and his coalition of National Unity –crucial for any peace agreement to succeed — was able to hold on to a majority in congress after the elections last week.
Paris reiterated a common theme from the FARC’s perspective however, that congressional support would not be enough and that a constituent assembly — an assembly gathered to create a new version of or change Colombia’s constitution — would still be preferred.
“If the peace process will succeed, it [must go] beyond this Congress,” he said, indicating that a constituent assembly would be more representative than this group of congressmen/women-elect.
Paris explained his reasoning asserting that, while support for peace talks are in the majority, there is little diversity within the upcoming legislative branch, which is problematic. He went as far to say that what the majority parties of senator-elect and former President Alvaro Uribe and of President Juan Manuel Santos stand for, are not really that different.
“The establishment is divided between right and ultra right,” the FARC negotiator noted, “There is a clash for power, but they coincide when it comes to the political and economic framework. We don’t see any differences between what Santos or Uribe offer,” said Paris on Uribe’s Democratic Center (Centro Democratico-CD) political party and Santos’ coalition of National Unity.
“An option for social democrats or centrists doesn’t exist,” said Paris.
When questioned on the failure of newly revived left-wing Patriotic Union (Union Patriotica-UP) political group to gain any seats in congress, the negotiator pointed to the recent return of the party and to the number of abstentions.
“After 17 or 20 years of disappearance, you couldn’t expect a good result…You have to give the UP a chance to compete on equal terms with the other forces,” explained Paris.
Furthermore he pointed to well over 50% of voters abstaining in the congressional elections as evidence that either way, the majority of Colombia doesn’t support the right.
“You should analyze why no proposal of the right, ultra-right and left wing move these Colombians,” Paris told El Tiempo.
Finally, the negotiator was asked what he thought would be the consequence of Uribe gaining a seat in the senate, as the former head of state has been the loudest opponent of the peace talks since their start in 2012.
Paris essentially dismissed Uribe’s presence as a scare tactic, saying that people across the board are trying to boost his image.
“They want to enlarge the ‘ghost’ of Uribe, even leftist groups. This mechanism has been used in the past. Before, the ghost was Álvaro Gómez Hurtado, and scaring the center and the left wing, they co-opted many to vote for the Liberal Party.”
As the dust settled a week after the elections however, the FARC made itself clear: alone, “the new congress is not what is needed to obtain peace,” said Paris.