Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos yesterday dismissed opposition calls to pause peace talks with FARC guerrillas promising to “press down the accelerator” to build on the “real progress” to end the nation`s 50 year conflict.
Former President Alvaro Uribe demands an end to discussions he sees as a farce, while others have argued for a pause during the election campaign that begins later this month.
But Santos is now increasingly confidence of a successful outcome to the negotiations he began last October.
Following yesterday`s agreement on a framework for the guerrilla group`s incorporation into the democratic system, Santos has gone on the offensive:
“There has been talk of breaking or pausing the talks, we are not going to do this…As we move forward and you see results, it is not time to stop, but just the opposite; to accelerate and continue with more courage and more excitement to end this conflict indefinitely.”
Santos will hope further agreements propel his re-election campaign.
Although the full details of yesterday`s agreement are unlikely to be made public until all points in the general accord for the termination of the armed conflict are agreed upon, Colombia Politics can confirm they include rights and guarantees for the exercise of the political opposition, democratic mechanisms of citizen participation, and effective measures to promote greater participation in national, regional and local policy.
Humberto De La Calle, the government’s chief negotiator, hailed the agreement a “new opening for democracy”.
“The agreement today represents a new opening for democracy, an open road for peace to take root after the end of the conflict, to free our government from violence and intimidation.”
“The agreement will create an important mechanism for turning armed groups into political parties and movements.”
FARC negotiator Ivan Marquez, labelled the agreement “perhaps one of the most important achievements so far [in the peace talks].”
As expected, Alvaro Uribe, slammed the announcement, tweeting “Colombia is the only democracy that accepts negotiating its democracy with terrorism.”
While most commentators have welcomed the agreement, concern has been expressed about the lack of clarity on what has been agreed upon. According to this publication`s editor, the fundamental issues such as whether Timochenko and co will seek election, and or directly given seats in congress have been parked.
For Ginny Bouvier, Senior Program officer for Latin America at the United States Institute of Peace, any accord on political participation should look to provide more access to politics for marginalised sectors of society.
“Given that political, economic and social exclusion form parts of the root of the conflict, it will be important to undertake political reforms that allow the expression of these as well as other dissident voices.”
Bouvier also spoke of the challenge of integrating the rebels into political life:
“The stigmatisation of the guerrillas and the highly polarised electoral environment in Colombia add to the challenge of integrating FARC rebels into the political arena.”
Without details of the agreement it is impossible to know how these issues have been tackled.
The next item to be discussed at the peace table is the illicit drug trade; problematic in its own right.
According to organised crime website Insight Crime, the FARC control approximately 70% of the country’s coca crops, while many FARC fronts “earn millions of dollars from the drug trade”.
We have argued before that it is unclear whether Ivan Marquez and co represent the guerrillas` rank and file members. If not, it is highly likely FARC splinter groups will emerge to continue this lucrative business.
“It is perhaps inevitable that a new generation of criminal groups, the FARCRIM, may be born should a peace deal be signed,” argue Insight Crime.
Only time will tell how the delegations tackle this issue.
Photo, Fernando Vergara / AP