Colombia is on the razor’s edge. Five years after the signing of the Peace Agreement between the State and the FARC-EP guerrillas to end the armed conflict, there are unquestionable advances, but also worrying signs of deterioration that may undermine the higher objective of achieving that great peace that we Colombians yearn for.
From the point of view of progress, there are at least three issues to highlight: the first is that the armed conflict, as we have known it especially in the last three decades, ended. The end of the main guerrilla group that put national stability in suspense and caused innumerable atrocities and humanitarian affectations, is a fact. More than 13,000 combatants laid down their arms in a process that has produced the admiration of the international community.
This is a process that must be understood cumulatively with the gradual deactivation of other factors of violence, especially two: the fall in the first half of the nineties of the two large world-renowned drug cartels, as well as the disarmament of more of 30,000 members of paramilitary groups that took place at the dawn of this century. Thus, we have managed to reach levels of violence that, although not optimal, are much lower than those we experienced in the past and place us in the middle of homicidal violence in Latin America.
Progress on the issues of justice, truth and reparation is undoubtedly the second aspect to highlight. The Special Peace Jurisdiction (JEP), which was created as a result of the Agreement, has shown significant progress in clarifying and prosecuting kidnapping, a crime that the FARC systematically committed with a balance of about 21,400 victims, and that of the so-called “ false positives ”, murders that unlawfully presented members of the military forces as casualties in combat, a crime of which the JEP reports at least 6,400 victims.
That the FARC commanders recognize their responsibility and the damage caused, as well as that State agents are contributing to the clarification of the “false positives”, was something unimaginable for Colombians and, in particular, for the victims. The recent decision of the International Criminal Court to close the preliminary inquiry into Colombia, which has been open for 17 years, supports the idea that we are on the correct path and adjusted to international standards in terms of doing justice to the atrocities committed during the conflict. armed.
Of course, there is still a long way to go. There is, for example, the very divisive and controversial issue among Colombians of defining the penalties that FARC commanders must serve and the effects on their political rights. There is also a need for greater speed in repairing victims and in the search for the disappeared; while next year the Truth Commission will deliver its report that we hope will help us understand what happened to us and reconcile.
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The third issue to highlight has to do with the impetus that the current Government has given to the implementation of the development programs with a territorial approach (PDET) contemplated in the Peace Agreement. These programs seek in a participatory way to transform the conditions of the areas most affected by the conflict, where extreme poverty, institutional fragility, high rates of violence and various criminal economies converge. The planning and alignment effort of regional and local authorities is particularly significant so that they are actively involved in the implementation of these programs, whose execution is scheduled for 15 years.
However, at the rate we are going, it is estimated that achieving this will take about 50 years. The pace of execution has been affected, firstly because the capacities and resources of the State are insufficient, something that the pandemic worsened. Furthermore, a significant number of the national plans for roads, health, education and others, essential for rural development, have not been implemented.
At the Ideas for Peace Foundation, we have closely followed the situation in these PDET areas and we found several factors that put the sustainability of peace at risk in the immediate future. The most determining factor is, without a doubt, the deterioration of security, which is reflected in the sustained increase since 2018 in homicides, threats to social leaders, massacres and forced displacement. This situation is associated with rearrangements and disputes between armed groups such as the ELN, the Gulf Clan and dissident groups of the extinct FARC, for the control of illegal income, as well as the lack of an adequate strategy on the part of the Government to contain the violent dynamics in these territories.
There is, on the other hand, the scant recognition of the population of these areas for the actions that the Government constantly announces to demonstrate that it is complying with the Peace Agreement. Added to this is the perception, on the part of the communities, that they are not being adequately included. Mistrust and lack of citizen support are combined with the insecurity and fear that this generates, putting into question the possibilities of building a sustainable peace.
With this situation, together with the political polarization that still exists in the face of the Peace Agreement, we could fall into a loop of hopelessness and the very popular idea that peace is not possible in our country. We cannot let lose what we have gained and that continues to be a reason for international admiration. We are beginning an electoral campaign and this moment of peace requires political greatness, that the sterile discussion between the defenders of the Agreement and its detractors not continue to be fueled and that we dedicate ourselves rather to proposing solutions and alternatives for the future to reach that great peace In colombia.
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