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Macondo’s nightmare or the peace that couldn’t be

This November marks four years since the signing of the Peace Agreement with the FARC-EP. Four years that, even in terms of the dimension of the violence and the internal armed conflict, seem, undoubtedly, many more. It is clear that the signing of a peace agreement is always a complex issue, with many nuances, with undeniable misgivings and expectations at stake. Even more so, if we speak of the longest-running armed conflict in Latin America. Thus, what is truly complex is maintaining the commitments, developing the transformations that these imply and overcoming the structural, political-institutional and symbolic conditions that for more than five decades endured the violence.

Inevitably, one could think that the Peace Agreement signed by the FARC-EP, and which for a good part of the academic community is the most complete, on paper, of the last thirty years, was based on a myth that surpassed any glimpse of future reality. Even more so in the land of Macondo as Colombia is. In other words, even if after the presidency of Juan Manuel Santos the best conditions had been provided for its implementation, we would possibly be talking today about differences between what was agreed upon, what was foreseen and what was implemented.

he first great saboteur of the Accord has been the same Government of the ineffable Iván Duque.

Or as a good friend told me just a few weeks ago, between the peace that could have been, the peace that should finally be and the peace that, unfortunately, is being. As is to be expected, it does not play in our favor -where I include all of us who truly yearn for the overcoming of violence in Colombia- that the first great saboteur of the Accord has been the same Government of the ineffable Iván Duque.

A Peace Accord, as former Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzón once confessed to me in a private conversation, “is an agreement between losers”. Expressed in more academic terms, it is the negotiated solution, based on cooperative exchanges, the result of the fact that the opposing parties have been unable to respond unilaterally to their interests within the framework of the conflict. In the case of Colombia, the Accord integrated historical demands of the FARC-EP, such as rural reform; aspects common to all peace agreements, such as political participation or transitional justice; and, likewise, conditions of the Government, such as the surrender of arms or collaboration in the mitigation of the drug business and its impact on violence.

In this case in particular, the current Colombian Government has emerged as the main impediment to the desired implementation of the Accord. That is to say, according to all the monitoring reports, including that of the Kroc Institute of the University of Notre Dame, there are elements that have barely begun to be developed, such as integral rural reform or the mitigation of the problem of illicit drugs, whose levels of compliance are less than 5%.

the same Executive did everything possible in Congress to avoid the approval of the 16 seats that should give political voice to the territories most affected by violence

On the other hand, the same Executive did everything possible in Congress to avoid the approval of the 16 seats that should give political voice to the territories most affected by violence, and even the President himself invoked all possible objections to prevent the Special Jurisdiction for Peace foreseen in the Peace Agreement from materializing. He did not succeed, but in exchange he managed to defund it by more than 30%.

While all of the above is happening, the conditions that have endured violence for decades remain unchanged in one of the most socially (0.54 Gini Coefficient) and territorially (0.85 Gini Coefficient according to land ownership distribution) unequal countries in the world. Even so, coca crops still have an area that, according to the United Nations, exceeds 150,000 hectares. And in a State, traditionally, with more territory than effective sovereignty, the geography of the violence prior to the peace dialogue that began in Havana in 2012 is practically the same. That is, a peripheral violence, on departments that are mostly coca-growing, border, and that have lived behind the interests of a centralism at the service of the country’s political and economic elites.

With the exception of the department of Antioquia, which has a number of particularities of its own, the most violent departments in Colombia are exactly the same as they were a decade ago: Chocó, Cauca and Nariño on the Pacific coast, Caquetá and Putumayo in the south, and Arauca and Caquetá in the northeast. It is no coincidence that these same departments – with the exception of Arauca – are the ones that concentrate 80 percent of the coca growing area and where, for the most part, an even greater percentage of the poorly named FARC-EP dissidents are counted – while most of their members are not former FARC-EP combatants.

These dissidents are criminal groups numbering in the dozens and numbering more than 2,000 in all, which have fragmented and de-ideologized the meaning of the armed conflict under an even more complex logic, in which the old simplistic interpretation of violence has become completely useless

As if that were not enough, we must also add the Gulf Clan, in part, the heir to a paramilitary group that demobilized 15 years ago and has more than 1,800 members. It is true that it is very atomized and subject to the local dynamics of violence and crime, but it is especially rooted in the Magdalena Medio, Antioquia, and the Caribbean region.

The ELN is also present. A guerrilla group that lives fractured between an old political command in Cuba that continues to see the relevance of a negotiated solution to the violence and a new command, younger, more belligerent and also de-ideologized, that has taken advantage of a good part of the vacuum left by the FARC-EP -which was never occupied by the Colombian Public Force- to increase its territorial presence, its number of troops and its resources coming from illicit financing.

Given the circumstances, the result is clear. The Colombia that we were able to dream of four years ago is now a worrying dystopia where every day that passes, the desire for peace moves a little further away. Since the Agreement was signed, more than 230 ex-guerrillas of the FARC-EP and 700 social leaders have been murdered. In 2020 alone, there will be a total of 70 massacres and 278 people killed.

In essence, the responsibility lies with a government that has always been comfortable with the discourse of war, militarization, and the friend/foe logic, and where the electoral and political flow allows for the understanding of such dire figures for the country as that of Álvaro Uribe. However, times have changed. The demands and needs of Colombian society go beyond a narrow-mindedness that, hopefully, will end in August 2022, with the current government out of office. In the meantime, hopefully it will not be late enough that in a few years we will have to talk about the peace that could not be.

*Translation from Spanish by Emmanuel Guerisoli

Photo of the Presidency of the Mexican Republic at / CC BY


Cientista político. Profesor de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Doctor en Ciencia Política y Máster en Estudios Contemporáneos de América Latina por la Univ. Complutense de Madrid.


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