The Conflict in Colombia Part 6

Completed peace agreement

In June 2015, the government and the FARC agreed to appoint a truth commission when a peace agreement was reached. In September of the same year, it was announced that an agreement had been reached on the legal aftermath: special courts would be set up to try crimes committed during the long conflict, by both parties. An amnesty law must also be adopted but not cover the most serious crimes. In connection with the presentation of the new breakthrough, President Santos and Farc’s top leader, Rodrigo “Timochenko” Londoño, met for the first time and shook hands. They also said that the goal was to reach a complete peace agreement within six months, no later than March 23, 2016.

At the end of 2015, parts of the fourth point were specified, in terms of, among other things, compensation to the victims of the conflict.

Following a request from the parties in early 2016, the UN Security Council promised to send an unarmed observer force to monitor compliance with the peace agreement for a year.

The deadline set by the government and the FARC for themselves in March 2016 expired without a final agreement. But negotiations continued and the parties announced in June that they had also reached agreement on the last point, that of how disarmament should proceed. According to the plan, the up to 7,000 guerrillas would gather in special camps to hand over their weapons, under the supervision of around 450 foreign observers under the auspices of the UN. They would then receive financial support until they found their own livelihood, while the FARC would have the opportunity to be transformed into a political party.

On August 24, word came that the negotiations had reached all the way forward and an agreement was ready. One month later, on September 26, President Santos and Farc’s leaders Rodrigo Londoño (“Timochenko”) signed the peace agreement at a ceremony in Cartagena, in the presence of, among others, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and US Secretary of State John Kerry. The outside world enthusiastically supported the agreement and opinion polls indicated that voters would give their approval. But when the referendum on the agreement was held on October 2, a narrow majority of voters voted against the peace agreement.

Farc as an example of horror

The main argument of the negative side was that the members of the guerrillas got away too lightly. There were also warnings that Colombia risked becoming a new Venezuela if the FARC came to power. The neighboring country was highlighted as a horrible example of failed left-wing politics.

Despite the skepticism of voters, Juan Manuel Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016, for his efforts for peace.

The warring parties also agreed to extend the ceasefire until the end of the year and to continue trying to find a peace agreement. In mid-November, they announced that a revised peace agreement was ready and the last of the month it was approved by Congress. This time no referendum was held. However, the opposition did not think the changes made were sufficient and continued to oppose the peace deal.

Despite opposition from the opposition, work continued on setting up concentration camps for disarmament. In early 2017, what was described as “Farc’s last march” began when guerrilla members began heading to the camps. At the turn of the month, January-February, there was also information that the ELN had released one last prisoner and thus everything was in place for peace talks, even with the smaller guerrilla group.

In the summer of 2017, the disarmament of the FARC was completed and the former guerrillas transformed into a political party called the Fuerza alternativa revolucionaria del común, FARC. The decision to keep the name Farc, now with a different meaning, was controversial as for many Colombians it is synonymous with a terrorist group.

The peace talks with ELN in September 2017 led to a first ceasefire. It was later broken and the talks were held from time to time. In the spring of 2018, the talks from Quito moved after the Ecuadorian government angrily moved to acts of violence along the border, which the ELN was behind. Negotiations resumed in Cuba’s capital Havana but stalled when right-wing President Iván Duque took office in August 2018. Hopes of reviving the talks were dashed when the ELN killed 21 police cadets in an attack in Bogotá in January 2019 (see Colombia: Calendar ).

The Conflict in Colombia Part 6