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  • Peace seems doomed to failure if Ivan Duque wins the second round of the presidential elections.

    Peace seems doomed to failure if Ivan Duque wins the second round of the presidential elections. | Photo: Reuters

Published 7 June 2018
To say that the future of peace is being voted for on June 17 is not political alarmism or opportunism, writes Victor de Currea-Lugo.

Practically every peace process has dissidence, but its size and agenda depend on the negotiation process itself. The realistic nature of the agenda, the scope of the process and the level of compliance amplify or diminish the context for some to continue in the war or for others to return to it. 

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It is worth clarifying – in the face of possible misinterpretations of this column – that my bet is for peace, but that does not mean denying the real causes of the dissidence in Colombia. It is true that some remain or have returned to war for the drug-trafficking business. Others simply do so as an option to survive in the midst of rural abandonment, where the promise of peace has not yet arrived. However, although it is hard to say, the size of the dissidence in Colombia has exceeded even the most pessimistic expectations. 

Enemies of Peace

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of the Commons (FARC) fulfilled their commitment to the country, although the enemies of peace keep repeating the opposite. They asked the FARC for a realistic agenda; they asked them to sign, leaving a number of essential points on file in the so-called 'refrigerators.' They asked them to concentrate their forces in certain areas, and they did; they asked them to hand over the children who were in their ranks, and they did so; they asked them to deliver the gold, the farms and other properties. Finally, they asked that they surrender all their weapons and ammunition, but these steps did not satisfy the enemies of peace. 

Since the signing of the peace agreement, several have been murdered, along with their relatives. Jesus Santrich has been the victim of a judicial assembly, like the one they did years ago against Simon Trinidad. It is worth remembering that the two trials in the United States, against Simon Trinidad and already extradited, sentenced in his favor so they mounted a third trial, not for drug trafficking but for kidnapping, in order to be able to condemn him. These precedents, plus all the violations of due process in Santrich's case, feed the dissent. 

Civil Transition

The combatants began their transition to civil life in a few Veredales Zones absent of the most basic necessities, although they were full of hope. But the days passed and neither aid nor projects arrived. That is why, at the end of last November, 55 percent of these guerrillas – who had complied with the demobilization and the delivery of arms – had left the Veredales Zones to leave to look for a better future. 

Not all those who left the Veredales Zones returned to the war; in fact, many try to rebuild their lives, without help from the state and in precarious conditions. The bureaucratic answers do not work. Delays in the identification and banking of fighters do not help. The times of people in need of livelihoods and willing to change cannot be answered with the long and unproductive times of institutions. As of today, there is not a single productive project underway financed by the state for the reincorporation of ex-combatants.

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The areas previously in FARC hands were not filled in due time by the state, a state that knew for years that it would face such a challenge after the agreement. These new empty spaces were gradually controlled by new actors, who replaced the figure of power left by the FARC. This is how paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug-trafficking groups came along. There were even communities that openly called on some guerrillas to control their territory, preferring their presence to chaos. 

The first electoral round in Colombia left several conclusions: confirmation that the country is polarized, and certainty that the tension between war and peace is still valid – not as little as some want, nor as much as the country deserves it. The sectors of society that fight for peace were disappointed with candidates such as Humberto De la Calle (former chief government negotiator for the FARC) who, in a second round, seemed to distance himself from the defense of peace. The elections leave two options for the peace process: defend it, as Gustavo Petro has vowed, or 'tear apart the peace accords,' as is the way with Uribismo. 

Peace-War Dilemma

In recent days, two things show the tension with which we live: the interview of right-wing candidate Ivan Duque on the future of peace, and the meeting in Caqueta of 20 former FARC combatants worried about the future of the agreement. Both clearly show the peace-war dilemma is not minor, and confirm the judgment that in a peace process nothing is irreversible. 

On the one hand, Duque has already fixed his position: with the argument of "impunity," he promises to retrace the construction of peace, especially in relation to the JEP: the Special Justice for Peace, agreed in Havana. Duque will seek to send ex-combatants to ordinary courts; extradite former commanders, and protect businessmen and other civilians who financed the war in Colombia.

Messiah's Interpretation

Anyone who has read the agreements knows there is no impunity, but Colombia is a country that does not read; that is why the interpretation of the Messiah is imposed, rather than the analysis of the agreement. Duque would further limit the FARC's participation in politics, the only space in which the former guerrillas feel they have won something.

Duque opens, with his statements, the door to future extraditions of FARC ex-combatants on charges of drug trafficking, very much in line with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. President Donald Trump and Colombian Prosecutor Nestor Humberto Martinez. Peace seems doomed to failure if Duque wins the second round of the presidential elections.

The Future

On the other hand, in Caqueta, in the south of the country, the meeting of FARC ex-combatants centers its debate on concerns about the future of peace. They observe the phenomenon of dissidence (I repeat: not of groups dedicated to drug trafficking) as a reality in the regions of Guaviare, Meta, Caqueta, Nariño, Cauca, Arauca and Antioquia. 

It is already known that the former commander of FARC's Column Teofilo Forero, Hernan Dario Velasquez (also known as 'El Paisa'), has entered the jungle, and that in his old sitethere is now Ivan Marquez, another FARC commander whose extradition could be requested, according to the Wall Street Journal. Presumably Ivan Marquez would worry about facing the same fate as Santrich and Simon Trinidad. Some sources suggest there are groups of FARC "with the backpack almost on their shoulders" in Santander, Caqueta and Nariño, "enlisting in case this breaks down."

Therefore, to say that the future of peace is being voted for on June 17 is not political alarmism or opportunism. The cards are on the table. The Colombian people cannot repeat the shame of October 2, 2016, when they preferred to vote for war.

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