“The role of victims in the peace processes”

We asked Fabian Laverde, of COS-PACC, about the peace agreement and how he thinks it will change the situation in Colombia; on the expectations and hopes that he has for once peace is signed with the FARC; and, what risks exist in the regions.

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

Fabian Laverde: After half a century of conflict, it is very positive that the two parties have at last decided on peace.  But we don’t believe that this is a peace which represents everybody.  The State has a standing army and police force of around half a million men altogether; the FARC guerrillas are about 8000.  This means that they do not represent the Colombian population in the slightest way.  On a theoretical level we support this dynamic which could help to end the war, but it has not been representative of the social movement.

If you talk to an afro-descendant citizen, an indigenous one or a family farmer, you sense that inconformity very clearly, because they are the people who have been most affected by the conflict in the dynamics of their territory. It is an agreement the FARC and the Colombian Government, and the victims, most of whom are part of civil society, are not represented.  It is time to end the armed conflict, but unfortunately its causes have yet to disappear. This implies the genuine implementation of social policies, especially for vulnerable populations.

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

Fabian Laverde: The main expectation is that after the process is signed, it could lead to dialogues that explore options for a negotiated end to the conflict with the other guerrilla groups that operate in the national territory.  At the same time, we consider that this process could be an example so that the same mistakes aren’t made again, especially on such a delicate issue as justice and the victims of State crimes. Now it is time for civil society to decide whether to validate the agreements.

We trust that in the future there will be more direct participation of the social movement,  and that grassroots perspectives will not be cast aside.  The challenge for the next dialogues with other insurgent groups is to recognise the social movement and ensure our participation; we have been building the meaning of peace, from our territory, from our diversity.  There should be a third table, which represents the communities and social organisations, where decisions are not imposed by the Government nor by the guerrillas.

PBI: What risks will there be in the regions once peace is signed?

Fabian Laverde: It is possible that there will be lots of contrasts, especially in regions where the guerrillas have historically been present, like Caqueta, Cauca, San Jose del Guaviare, Catatumbo, or Uraba.  Once the demobilisation is over, it’s probable that the war will not end, because of the risk that the vacuum will be filled by new illegal armed groups that are very similar to the paramilitary groups.

In addition, those who will benefit the most from the peace process will be those involved in the economic model, who have been implicated in implementing the dirty war against the communities and the social movement to further their projects. Without adequate development of social policies for the population, there is a fear that if the State does not fulfil the agreement in terms of ensuring integral guarantees for the demobilised combatants, they may drop out of the process, considering what has happened in the other demobilisation processes.

Demobilised individuals throughout the country will not respect the agreements because they are afraid that they will be exterminated, which has happened before in the country’s history. In this sense, we very much approve of all the work that is being done on the issue of guarantees, but at the same you must keep in mind the big economic interests and the wealth of Colombia’s resources. The communities who live in regions where the presence of insurgent groups has prevented the implementation of mega-projects could be affected by the dispute for territorial control and the exploitation of natural resources. Guaviare is the new frontier for coltan ore, and it is a very clear example of how some regions could once again become areas that are disputed for control of their natural resources.

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