Colombia President Juan Manuel Santos and his predecessor, former President Alvaro Uribe, seem deadlocked in talks that seek to unfreeze a peace process with Marxist FARC guerrillas turned down in a referendum earlier this month.
The president and his predecessor are mainly deadlocked about the transitional justice system agreed with the FARC as part of the deal that was rejected by Colombia’s voters in a referendum earlier this month.
According to Uribe, Colombia never suffered an armed conflict, but a prolonged fight against “narcoterrorists.”
Consequently, Colombia should let the country’s normal justice system deal try the tens of thousands of war crimes and other crimes against humanity committed during the 52-year-long armed conflict, Uribe proposed last week.
But Santos immediately made clear he wouldn’t even discuss such profound changes to the deal that took his administration more than five years to negotiate.
“Those who claim there never was an armed conflict, that there never was a war, and that consequently neither international humanitarian law nor transitional justice that have been created precisely to help resolve armed conflicts can be applied” have made “absolutely unfeasible” proposals, the president said Wednesday at a judicial summit.
While Uribe has consistently refused to be rushed, Santos repeated that Thursday is the last day he will accept proposals in order to “very soon!” resolve the crisis that followed the referendum.
The deadlock between the two political rivals is a major problem for both, and even more so for Colombians living in conflict areas.
Santos is legally allowed to ignore the barely attended referendum and send the disapproved peace deal for ratification to either Congress or the Council of Municipalities, but this is likely to only reduce popular support for the peace process, which in turn would negatively affect the country’s prospects for peace.
Uribe’s persistent hard-line approach is also risky. The former president is already investigated by the Prosecutor General’s Office and the National Electoral Council for using disinformation to coerce voters, which is an crime in Colombia.
Santos has already divided opposition leaders into groups and — while talks with Uribe seem stuck — negotiations with other sectors are making progress.
With a Nobel Peace prize around his neck, and victim organizations and the United Nations urging a quick resolve, Santos could make compromises with minority groups other than Uribe and propose a renewed peace deal to Congress or the public, which would allow him to ignore his predecessor and his demand entirely.
Meanwhile, the situation in the countryside where most the violence has taken place is tense as both the military and the FARC are upholding a provisional bilateral ceasefire and rivals of the FARC could move in rebel territory to assume control.
Also, the FARC’s leadership may have committed itself to upholding the peace deal, but the group’s guerrillas currently stuck in the jungles and could run out of provisions, which increases the chance of dissent or the desertion to other groups.