Colombia’s Misguided Peace
October 15, 2015
The wrongs, which we seek to condemn and punish, have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.
- Robert H. Jackson, Chief Counsel for the United States at Nuremberg
A Compromise Reached…
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People’s Army, or FARC, has terrorized Colombia for several decades since its formation in the waning period of the Colombian Civil War. Originally created as a communist revolutionary force, FARC subsequently grew into an organized terrorist group, using the chaotic situation in Colombia to gain power in predominantly rural areas while waging guerilla-type warfare against the legitimate Colombian government. As the Colombian government struggled to effectively deal with this guerrilla force in the following years, FARC gained thousands of new fighters, and began to commit a slew of atrocities in the name of their rebellion; causing the deaths of 220,000 people. While its force was truly formidable in those years following the Civil War, FARC has recently seen a decline in both its membership and influence, as the Colombian government consolidated power and as former President Álvaro Uribe used military power to strike a major blow against FARC’s hegemony. Now, newly reelected President Juan Manuel Santos entered peace talks with FARC, and, on September 23rd, Santos announced that there was finally a concrete plan for peace; albeit one that take place over the next sixth months, and whose details may be less than pleasant for those seeking retribution for the atrocities committed in this ongoing struggle. This leniency is precisely why President Santos’ compromise is unacceptable.
Cuban president Raul Castro (center) facilitated the peace negotiation between Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos (left) and FARC leader Rodrigo Londono Echeverri (right). Source: Reuters.
…Ridden with Flaws
The first major aspect of the accord struck between Santos and FARC that many find unacceptable is the lack of justice executed upon the FARC rebels. Although humanitarian organizations such as Human Rights Watch applaude the idea behind Santos’ peace proposal, they have condemned the fact that “it would also allow those responsible for mass atrocities to avoid spending any time in prison.” Santos plans to have FARC rebels tried in a special peace court, whereupon, if found guilty, they would be have their liberties effectively restricted. This punishment, however, is roundly criticized as far too lenient and conciliatory, especially for a rebel force that has spent the better part of a century terrorizing the citizens of Colombia. It is clear the President Santos, in his quest to finally obtain peace for his country from this intractable organization, has lost sight of what true peace ought to mean. It certainly does not mean a disavowal of the wrongs committed in war.
While many have criticized the peace proposal for its leniency toward FARC, another major concern with the deal has been raised: its efficacy. Although the peace with FARC would be well-received and would greatly reduce violence in Colombia, there are still many violent groups in Colombia that continue to wreak havoc on the citizenry by selling drugs, kidnapping and ransoming individuals, and committing other unseemly acts of mayhem. These groups, many of which have their own personal armies, pose as much of a threat to Colombian security as FARC had in its day. This raises questions about why, at a point when FARC is historically weak, Colombia is so conciliatory. It is not as if this peace deal will end the last vestiges of major organized violence in Colombia; thus, FARC does not seem to demand such a favorable peace agreement. While it is understandable that because of FARC’s long history of violence, Colombia may be overeager to reach a settlement, such a compromise does not seem to be a strategically sound solution. The Colombian government is bargaining from a position of power, so to speak, and therefore should not give FARC any concessions that it would deny to other criminal groups in the region, such as National Liberation Army (ELN). In order to eventually achieve peace throughout the country, these other groups must know that this type of clemency will not be offered.
Who is the real winner?
In the wake of the settlement between FARC and President Santos, many have weighed in on the integrity of the compromise. As demonstrated by the reelection of President Santos, the Colombian people have made it clear that they want, above all, peace with FARC. After a decades-long struggle with this terrorist organization threatening their way of life, the citizens understandably want a solid and long-lasting peace, even if it comes at a cost. And, while some do believe that a lack of justice for the victims of FARC and its atrocities is a fair price to pay for the end of one of the longest armed conflicts in the world to date, it seems that the peace deal almost constitutes a victory on the side of the terrorists. This cannot be allowed.
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