Piedad Córdoba, the opposition Senator from the Liberal party, recently was considered the most likely to be awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Such a fortune would be highly controversial. Nevertheless, the prize could be the prelude to a new chapter in Colombia’s internal conflict.
Norway’s International Peace Research Institute Director Kristian Berg Harpviken believes Córdoba is the most likely to win the 2009 Peace Prize. This is not an endorsement, but a speculation of a prominent Norwegian peace advocate that was considered relevant enough by U.S. television network Bloomberg to mention.
Harpviken is well placed for indulging in such speculations. Córdoba was postulated by 1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner Adolfo Perez Esquivel. The Argentinean has been an active advocate for human rights in Colombia.
Piedad Esneda Córdoba Ruiz’ public nomination back in January was extremely controversial in Colombia. This is a reflection of how polarizing her actions in the territory have been. Most of them stem from her friendly positions and actions towards the FARC and Hugo Chavez. For instance, the tasteless pictures where she wore a FARC beret while in Caracas with some FARC commanders in 2007 overshadowed her efforts for a humanitarian exchange. Recently she has toned down those hindering actions, albeit with limited success.
Her negative image among Colombians has been compounded by her staunch and vociferous opposition to President Alvaro Uribe’s war policies. This negative opinion has been a result of the successful polarization that the government has been able to impose in the country. The government strongly denounced what they perceived to be the FARC’s intellectual block. Given the realities at the time everyone believed the block was formed by Córdoba and those close to her. Since then any public figure opposed to Uribe and his policies is automatically branded a traitor and/or a FARC-ideologist.
It is true that her dissident position has allowed her to gain the trust of the FARC and thus realize the dreams of freedom of 16 political hostages. Nevertheless, many Colombians also forget that the group that she heads, Colombianos por la Paz (Colombians for peace), is trying to change the dynamics of the senseless war that the FARC and the government are waging not only against each other by also against Colombia. The group neither believes in kidnapping as a political tool, nor all-out violence as sustainable means to accomplish the peace that Colombians have never experienced.
Córdoba’s public image in the country remains vastly negative, while her efforts abroad are praised. The reason may the international community’s disinterest in her relationships with the government’s conveniently enlarged local and international enemies. Being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize could offer another perspective to the many Colombians that believe she is a traitor and a FARC ideologist. It is difficult to find a person that has done as much for the release of the political hostages being tortured by the FARC.
Nevertheless, the award would not only benefit Córdoba, but would also catapult Colombia’s internal conflict in all its manifestations to the international community’s agenda. The barriers that have appeared from the government and the FARC for the release of the remaining political hostages could be surpassed. Moreover, workable solutions to the internal conflict that are not limited to only military actions could be considered.
If on October 9 Piedad Córdoba or Colombianos por la paz is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Colombia’s 45 year-old war with the FARC could reach a turning point. The award could be what is needed for Colombians to integrate in one voice to reject the manufactured animosities and embrace humane solutions to the country’s violent realities.