I don’t dare call the coming future “peace”

We asked the journalist Claudia Julieta Duque about the peace agreement, how she thinks it will change the situation in Colombia, what her expectations and hopes are once peace is signed with the FARC, and what the risks are that exist in the regions.

PBI: How do you think the peace agreement will change Colombia?

Claudia Julieta Duque: It is undoubtable that the signature of an agreement with the FARC will lead to the disarmament of one actor in the conflict in Colombia, which is very important, and that some of the agreements announced give hope for structural changes on issues like the opposition’s political participation, for example. Nonetheless, I don’t dare call the coming future “peace”, because we are still lacking a disarmament by the ELN and the integral deactivation of paramilitarism, as well as fighting and reducing organised crime in Colombia.

The dialogue process with the FARC has already brought important changes, and has put on the agenda themes like justice, the rights of victims and the political opposition in Colombia, and has generated a new narrative in the country’s agenda in politics and the media which is fundamental for genuine peace: the discourse of accepting divergence and dissent as an essential part of democracy. Without doubt, the final agreement with the FARC should deepen this acceptance and broaden the spectrum to include other voices, opinions and concepts.

Similarly, the creation of a legal and political framework to put into effect the processes of truth, justice and integral reparation for victims, not just those of the guerrillas but those of the State too.  In this sense I share the criticisms levelled by organisations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International regarding impunity and incompatibility with international human rights treaties.

PBI: What expectations and hopes do you have once peace is signed with the FARC?

CJD: As I said earlier, a lot of hope is born: wider political aperture; the possibilities for justice; the end of an armed actor; the putting in place of integral policies on the issue of the drugs trade; land restitution and rural development, amongst others.

Nonetheless, my scepticism is greater than my hope, because unfortunately until now, the agreements have not been very concrete on any of the issues. And in the case of the most concrete agreement (justice and victims) there are some critical points that open the door for total impunity for many crimes.  And if that was not enough, recent legislation by the Government (Military Justice Code, the Police Code, the Zidres etc…) allows us to foresee massive measures of social and political control based on the repression of social critique and opposition in Colombia.

PBI: What is the risk for the regions after peace is signed?

We are already seeing moves to retake territorial control in regions that were under the control of the FARC, by the ELN and paramilitary groups.  Peace in the regions might just end up being a change from one dominant illegal armed actor to another.  The stigmatisation of the farming movement can lead to attacks and acts of persecution in regions controlled by the FARC, which is something that we are seeing already.  The eradication of illicit crops, mine clearance and the authorisation of bombardments against what are erroneously called criminal bands (BACRIM) could make the humanitarian and human rights situation worse.  Additionally, peace with the FARC could also generate a push for hydroelectric, mining and large-scale industrial agriculture, and a resulting exacerbation of social conflicts. In the regions, peace could end up being the beginning of a new phase of repression.  For all of these reasons, it is necessary to push for demilitarisation and reform processes which remain distant in the short, medium and long term.

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