Monday, May 27, 2013

Still a Long Road Toward Peace

Students walk past a poster celebrating dead FARC guerrilla leaders on the campus of the National University in Bogotá.
The agreement reached on land policy between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas is historic - but only a first step in what's still a long and perilous path to peace.

A faded poster on the National University campus
celebrates the FARC''s 48th anniversary.
Will they make it to their 50th in 2016?
The agreement is a landmark because it's the first such agreement reached with the guerrillas in the 60-year history of fighting against, and occasionally negotiating with, the Colombian government. But it took far longer than planned, and the two sides still have to reach agreements on drug trafficking, guerrilla disarmament and what sorts of punishments, if any, ex-guerrillas would accept.

And while the negotiators initially expected land issues to be the easiest of the points on the negotiators' agenda, land has a huge significance in Colombia's history of conflict. The FARC guerrillas, led by Manuel Marulanda, originated from a group of landless peasants who established Marquetalia Republic in Tolima Department in the late 1950s. In 1964, the Colombian army invaded, driving out the peasant fighters, who morphed into the FARC in 1966 and began their long guerrilla conflict across Colombia.

Camilo Torres, the ELN's guerrilla-priest, in the
National University. Will the ELN start negotiating, too?
Land issues also have broader significance in Colombia, which has long had one of the most unequal land (and income) distributions in the world. Reaching an agreement with the guerrillas on land reform could not only justify their reason for existing, but hopefully also advance toward ending an historic injustice.

Pres. Santos made a series of promises for rural development, including land redistribution and nutrition and educational programs. Those, of course, would only be extentions of programs which already exist. (But how can Santos really commit the Colombian government if he doesn't win reelection?)

FARC founder Manuel Marulanda and
others in Marquetalia.

Huge challenges remain, of course. Issues such as the future role of the guerrilla leaders may be less transcendental, but perhaps more difficult to resolve. Everybody agrees about the benefits of social justice. However, the public, government and FARC leaders may have a very hard time agreeing whether the leaders of a guerrilla group which has massacred and displaced and kidnapped civilians, trafficked drugs, used child soldiers, and on and on should go to prison - as justice would suggest - or into Congress, as the guerrillas want to do.

Lots of outside events could also untrack the very delicate negotiations, including political changes, an
economic downturn, a flare-up in the conflict or the death of a guerrilla leader.

It's also still an open question whether the FARC as an organization will be able to enforce any agreement upon their far-flung fronts. Those fronts earn fortunes thru narcotrafficking and extortion: Will they be willing to give up such 'success' and turn themselves in to authorities, very possibly to face imprisonment? For that matter, will the Colombian government - which in the past has colaborated with right-wing paramilitaries - live up to its part of any bargain?

And, if the guerrillas do make peace, might other violent organization simply take their place?

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


mauricio forero l said...

Whats up Miguel!!!
I think is about time for you to stop using images of La Nacho, at lest for a while. I have seen these shots too many times, so please get more imaginative. What about showing Tiro Fijo naked in a golden tub with two beautiful guerrilla girls and smoking a Cuban cigar. I don't know compadre, but seriously, get new and refreshing images...
I still admire your blog, so don't get sad.

Miguel said...

You're right, Mauricio. But I don't know of any other FARC-related scenes in Bogota.

Wish that I had time to travel to Marquetalia 60 years ago to snap some pics....