When a president is as unpopular as Colombia’s Santos, no one believes a word he says.
And when a country has been at war with guerrillas for 50 years, they don’t believe them either.
Yesterday was officially the end of the FARC as an armed insurgency. The UN took control of 7,000 weapons and the guns fell silent.
But, Santos tweeted 17 March, ‘the FARC handed an inventory of 14,000 weapons to the UN’. And the FARC have admitted 900 boxes full of arms are dug in holes in the forests and mountains where they used to camp out.
So to the lay person it doesn’t really feel like the FARC have disarmed at all. It seems like they’ve handed over less than half of their weapons and are being whitewashed by the government, the media and the UN.
The great Hector Riveros told the BBC, Colombians are sceptical because of the ‘over-selling’ and under-delivering which characterises the Santos government’s approach to the peace with the FARC.
Santos tweeted yesterday that it was ‘best news for Colombia in 50 years’. Maybe. It’s important, sure, but the reality is the FARC still have guns, still have billions in the bank, still have partial control of the cocaine routes…
It’s a (very important) milestone on the way to peace. But, it’s not the end of the war.
I’ve been struck by just how many international political analysts have been sucked in. Maybe it’s hope, pragmatism or realism. We know it’s an exaggeration, but let’s not rock the boat, they say. Some are obviously naive or have a partisan interest. Just as there are those on the other side who have an interest in the peace not working, in undermining any efforts to end the civil war.
But if we don’t challenge, we let the FARC and the government get away with selling us a dud.
Come September, the UN are scheduled to have located and dug out all the ‘caletas’, the cache, the boxes of weapons. But few believe they will have done so by then.
Meanwhile, the FARC are transitioning into a political force.
To what extent will they engage in politics while still in the possession of arms? The basis of the whole agreement is you give up your guns and you’re free to fight for votes at the ballot box.
Past performance isn’t good for Colombia either. Around 1 weapon for every 2 combatants was handed in when the paramilitaries demobilised earlier this century. Rightly so, few Colombians believe in that peace agreement either.
This time 7,000 FARC guerrillas are demobilising; one weapon per combatant. It’s a suspiciously neat figure. Just enough to get away with it?
It’s clear the FARC have thousands and thousands more weapons. In fairness to them, they don’t deny this. And they argue, understandably, they need a certain number of weapons to defend themselves – at least until August, when the government forces are allowed into the camps.
So why not wait to celebrate disarmament when the FARC really disarm? That would better suit a sceptical nation, one that has little faith in its leaders, and one that suspects the mother of all conejos..
The fanfare at Mesetas yesterday struck a discordant note with me. It seemed more about ‘el show’, than about peace.
Vanities and political posturing, virtue signalling hashtags #adiosalasarmas #adiosalaguerra, all seem entirely out of place with events. If ever there were a time for reasoned argument over demagoguery and propaganda, a matter of war and peace is surely that.