The US will continue to support Colombia’s ongoing peace process and respect the country’s decision to safeguard demobilized members of the FARC rebel group from extradition to the US.
Bernard Aronson, US special envoy for the peace talks in Havana said in an interview with El Tiempo that the US support for Colombia will continue throughout the post-conflict period much as it has done during the peace talks.
Aronson believes that the justice deal will be received by the US Congress in a similar way to Colombian Congress, with many varying opinions. However, he insisted that for 20 years there has been bipartisan support for Colombia from the US Congress and that this has continued throughout the peace process; “I believe the US is united in its desire to see Colombia reach peace.”
In the context of the opinion of senator Marco Rubio, Republican presidential candidate, that guerrillas should absolutely be extradited to the US on charges of drug trafficking, Aronson insisted that other politicians “will accept the fact that it is Colombia who decides who will be extradited.”
Aronson added that this justice deal does not mean that Colombia will never extradite anyone ever again but that in the context of the peace process, members of the guerrilla group FARC who comply with the process, accept responsibility and prison sentences and pay reparations will not be extradited.
Although there are still agenda points that must be agreed upon before a peace deal is reached, namely “victims” and “end of conflict”, Aronson assured that now the most difficult aspect is dealt with and peace can be achieved; “both Santos and the leader of the FARC say that this is the beginning of peace and I believe it is.”
When faced with the question of how he would respond to critics who believe that the maximum prison sentence of eight years for those who accept responsibility is too lenient Aronson insisted that the goal of the peace deal, with the rights of the victims in mind, is to end the war and achieve lasting peace, not to punish the guerrilla.
The envoy assured that in the post-conflict period during which Colombia will be faced with the task not just of disarming the country but also improving infrastructure and the quality of life for rural communities that “the US will look for ways to be useful.”
When El Tiempo asked Aronson what his exact role was in the preparations for the justice deal he said that he would rather not say and that it would be better to ask president Juan Manuel Santos what his role was.
Peace talks have been taking place in Havana, Cuba between the State and the FARC since November 2012 in order to resolve the 51-year-long civil conflict which left 260,000 Colombians dead and over 6 million displaced.