Colombia made history in Latin America with the groundbreaking peace deal between the government and left-wing FARC rebels. The nearly four-year peace process in Havana, Cuba, between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia [FARC] and the government of President Juan Manuel Santos achieved a landmark 297-page final agreement covering six key issues: agrarian reform, political participation, disarmament and reincorporation of former combatants, illicit drugs, victims’ rights, and implementation of the end of the war. Chief negotiators from both sides of the conflict, government delegation head Humberto de la Calle and FARC leader Ivan Marquez, signed and spoke about this historic agreement in Havana.
“Now the battle of ideas can start,” the FARC-EP’s representative Ivan Marquez said, adding that the final deal marks a new chapter in Colombia’s history. “The peace deal is a point of departure—not of closure—toward the social transformations demanded by the masses.” Government representative Humberto de la Calle said, “I am certain now that this is the best agreement possible. But the Colombians will judge.”
While the more than half century-long war is finally over, difficult times still lay ahead to fully realize the promise of peace in the South American nation. One of the issues that has not been part of the negotiations in Havana, but many, including the FARC, have frequently stressed as a key part of building peace is the question of ending hostilities between the government and the country’s smaller left-wing guerilla force, the National Liberation Army, or ELN. Former ELN commander Carlos Velandia, alias Felipe Torres, applauded the announcement of the deal, heralding it as a “new era” that could give a “peaceful” push to “other conflicts” to follow a similar path.
President Santos insisted that the text of the final agreement was “definitive,” and could not be modified. “From the beginning, one principle ruled the negotiations: nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. Today, at last we can say that everything has been agreed,” he added.
The final agreement announced Wednesday calls for meaningful agrarian reform to address inequality in poor, rural areas. It calls for new political forces to address the issues that initially led the FARC-EP to take up arms, and also guarantees the safety of the rebels after they put down those arms to participate in politics. The agreement calls for protection of human rights activists and labor organizers who have been targeted by right-wing paramilitaries; alternatives to illicit drug production; reparations for victims of violence on all sides; and a commission made up of the Colombian state, the FARC-EP, alongside the United Nations to monitor the accord’s implementation.
The historic deal is set to be put to a vote on 02 October 2016 to ratify the agreement with Colombian society by asking voters whether or not they accept the peace accords with the FARC.
Colombia experienced five decade long conflict, pitting the government against two leftist insurgencies — the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) — and demobilized members from the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a defunct right-wing paramilitary organization whose former members have created new criminal organizations, commonly referred to as BACRIMs. The US government has officially designated these three different organizations as “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” (FTOs) due to continued armed attacks against U.S. interests in Colombia.
The FARC, ELN, and BACRIM are all well organized criminal enterprises and regularly carry out kidnappings, assassinations, bombings, and other terrorist activities throughout Colombia. These organizations operate in areas where there is a weak host country security presence.
The domestic conflict resulted 220,000 deaths over 60 years. According to the United Nations High Commission, over two million people have been internally displaced over the past 15 years, forcing them into urban areas in an attempt to escape continued violence.