Talking Peace in Colombia

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You’ve likely heard about the exciting buzz that has been permeating in Colombia. Yes, you guessed it; we’re talking about the announcement of the peace talks! We’ve decided to compile our own list of interesting sources –including the important voices of different civil society actors that are sometimes not heard –for our faithful readers to easily access.

We’ll begin with the voices of civil society and their takes on the peace process. Some of the main points brought up by these actors are:

  • Civil society inclusion and participation in the peace process

A Colombian victims’ group, MOVICE, made this official statement regarding the peace talks, in which they welcome peace and call for the inclusion of victims in the peace process, as well as call for a bilateral ceasefire.

 LAWGEF and USOC’s statement regarding the peace talks; warmly receiving the negotiations, the organizations call for the full inclusion of civil society, including women, Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.

A critical explanation from La Silla Vacia of why civil society’s demand to be included in the actual peace negotiations is unfeasible.

  • The topic of a bilateral ceasefire

The Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos (CCEEU), a major coalition of Colombian NGOs, issued this official statement regarding the peace talks, calling for special attention to be given to the victims of the armed conflict and for both parties in the negotiations to refrain from escalating the violence during the actual negotiations.

Colombians for Peace issued an open letter addressed to President Santos, Timochenko of the FARC and Nicolas Rodriguez of the ELN calling for the parties to develop an agreement to respect international humanitarian law as a peace agreement is developed. The letter asks that the government stop bombing civilian buildings and that the FARC stop using landmines and give information about kidnapped persons. Colombians for Peace also emphasize four points to “humanize the conflict” which revolve around: ending the use of landmines, stopping child recruitment, stopping attacks on civilian buildings and establishing a truth commission. 

Next, we’ve compiled an assortment of editorials from Colombian newspapers and news magazines such as El Tiempo and Semana. 

An interview with León Valencia, director of the Corporación Nuevo Arco Iris, in which he analyzes statements from President Juan Manuel Santos and head commander of the FARC, Timoleón Jiménez, alias “Timochenko” regarding the peace talks. He notes that of particular interest is the FARC’s agreement to include laying down its weapons in the agenda. This piece in El Tiempo presents the argument that even when taking into consideration the frustrations of previous talks with the FARC, this time there’s a real, genuine possibility that the negotiations will be successful

A special reconciliation issue from El Tiempo focuses on the need for broader social change in Colombian society, viewing the peace talks as a step on the pathway towards widespread reconciliation.

Experts and analysts weigh in at El Tiempo about the realistic outline of the Colombian peace negotiations without a negotiated ceasefire. 

This interesting analysis in Semana looks beyond the public and official announcements about the peace negotiations and instead, examines the important symbols that show why the public should be optimistic about these current peace talks.

Former paramilitary leaders say in an interview with Canal Capital that their peace process failed and caution the government to take into account many of the mistakes that occurred in their peace process when preparing to sit down to negotiate with the FARC.

In Portafolio, several leaders from different Colombian business sectors give their support to the upcoming peace talks, hopeful that if peace negotiations are successful it will be very good for the economy

Just in case those articles were a bit difficult to read in Spanish, we’ve included here some English-language coverage.

Scholar Milburn Line calls for the United States to do a better job in visibly supporting the peace talks. The article suggests it’s time for the U.S. to reexamine its foreign policy in Colombia, including the impact of Plan Colombia, and vigorously support peace negotiations that are more rewarding for U.S. foreign policy and legacy in the region.

Colombia Report’s editorial describes the peace process as a complex process that must incorporate all Colombians, with emphasis on the populations affected most by the conflict, in order to have a successful peace negotiation and sustainable peace throughout the country. It prioritizes systems and strategies for fully supported demobilization and long-term reintegration programs for those fighting.

This Colombia Reports op-ed suggests that the peace talks are “destined to fail” because, in its opinion, the conditions of these negotiations are no different than those of the past. It also argues that the FARC is a terrorist organization that the “desperate-to-please” Santos administration should not negotiate with.

This blog in the Financial Times examines the international politics and possible motives of the peace process, ultimately arguing that successful negotiations are win-win for all: Colombia will have achieved peace and President Santos stands to gain a potential boost in popularity; Cuba creates a reason for the U.S. to relax its embargo; Venezuela helps end gun-smuggling which is good for the region; and the U.S. Plan Colombia policy can be seen as a success and will save the U.S. money not supporting Colombia anymore.

A fairly optimistic article in Commentary Magazine that says peace talks have the potential to be successful this time around mainly due to the fact that “the FARC has been essentially defeated militarily” as a result of the crushing setbacks by the military under the Uribe Administration, forcing the FARC to now negotiate.

Finally, here are some very valuable experts in themes such as conflict resolution and regional security policy.

 Hear actual voices from Colombian civil society in this live recording from the event, “The Colombian Peace Talks: Perspectives from Civil Society,” hosted by the Washington Office on Latin America and cosponsored by LAWGEF and other groups.

Colombia Calls is a great blog from long-time astute observer of the peace process and senior program officer for Latin America in the Center of Innovation at the U.S. Institute for Peace, Ginny Bouvier.

The International Crisis Group’s official report is an excellent, comprehensive analysis on the state of the armed conflict and peace negotiations.

The Washington Office on Latin America’s Adam Isacson, Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy, weighs in with reasons to be more optimistic with this peace process than with past attempts and some possible obstacles.

Aldo Civico, professor of anthropology at Rutgers University, has this insightful blog on “Engaged Anthropology, Peace Building, and Human Rights.”  Civico has served as a conflict resolution facilitator to international institutions, government, corporations and non-governmental organizations in Italy, Haiti, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia.