The Organization for American States (OAS) officially expressed its unanimous support Thursday for ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group, the country’s largest.
The world’s oldest regional organization released a statement, signed by all 35 independent member states, praising the progress made since the start of negotiations in Havana, Cuba in November 2012. The peace process was initiated by the government of President Juan Mnauel Santos, currently running for reelection in a second round run-off contest scheduled for June 15.
“[The OAS] expresses its strong support for the efforts advanced by the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and the Colombian people, accompanied by the international community, to reach a final agreement to end the armed conflict that has affected Colombia for decades,” read the statement.
The statement emerged from the 44th General OAS Assembly, held in the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion, which concluded that “peace is a fundamental value for the Continent” and that “negotiating peace in this country represents a historical opportunity for Colombia and the whole Continent.”
Representatives from Ecuador and Venezuela both made similar statements, mentioning specifically the efforts of the Santos government to restore friendly diplomatic relations between the neighboring Andean nations, following years of tense conflict.
Speaking in front of the General Assembly, Colombian Foreign Minister Angela Maria Holguin expressed her gratitude for the OAS’ support for the peace process.
“I want to thanks this assembly and each of the member countries of the OAS for the support they’ve given to the peace dialogues in my country, to continue on this path toward finding peace,” she said.
The talks, which have thus far produced signed agreements on three of its six agenda topics, are close to reaching an overarching agreement, she said, and OAS support is important in pushing the process forward.
“We feel it deep in our hearts: We’re in a historic moment in terms of the advancements we’ve already achieved and the support of the continent is important to the successful culmination of this process.”
OAS and Presidential Elections
A team of the OAS’s body of Electoral Observation Mission (MOE) was present in Colombia during the May 25 first round presidential elections.
The MOE presence in Colombia consisted of 64 international experts from 15 OAS member states and four observer countries and was present in 24 states.
|“We’re in a historic moment in terms of the advancements we’ve already achieved and the support of the continent is important to the successful culmination of this process.”|
In spite of congratulating the Colombian government for a peaceful and relatively transparent election, the regional organization highlighted the need to adress the apparent weaknesses of the electoral process, condemning a 59.93% abstention rate, which was a historic high.
“This (abstention from voting) can only be interpreted as a manifestation of the profound disenchantment the citizenry has with the political system. This powerful message should not go unheeded,” said OAS.
Additionally, OAS electoral observers noticed a decrease of overall electoral observers of Colombia’s political parties and the lack of a guarantee of a confidential vote.
The second round of the presidential elections will take place on June 15 and the remaining two candidates are Oscar Ivan Zuluaga of the Democratic Center (Centro Democratico) party and incumbent President Juan Manuel Santos (U Party — Partido de la U).
With polls showing the candidates locked in a tight race, the peace process is expected to be the central issue in deciding next week’s contest.
Zuluaga, along with party leader, former President, and Senator-elect Alvaro Uribe, has been a staunch critic of the peace process, saying until recently that he would immediately suspend dialogues upon reaching the Casa de Nariño.
Santos, meanwhile, has made the talks the focal point of his campaign, whose slogan is “United for Peace.”