Long walk to peace

Father Javier Giraldo talks about the bilateral ceasefire and how he thinks this will change the situation in Colombia; on his expectations and hopes for when peace is signed with the FARC; and what risks exist in the regions.

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

Father Javier Giraldo: For the last four years, Colombia has been searching for peace agreements between the Government and the FARC guerrillas, after 60 years of armed conflict which has left many millions of victims and has brought with it a progressive degradation of the war in many aspects.

This process has progressively revealed the labyrinths, some of them with no way out, which we must enter to look for peace agreements.  The country has already lived 33 years of failed peace processes during the last cycle of violence, without counting the negotiations, agreements and eliminations of former combatants from previous cycles where we identify the same causes.

A long tradition demonstrates that the agreements are not being implemented and that rebel fighters are eliminated after disarmament, but not only them, also the social and political forces that are close to them.

Recently a document was signed in Havana that defines the penultimate of the six points on the agenda agreed at the beginning of the dialogues, including the commitment to a bilateral and supposedly definite ceasefire.  Nevertheless, the country is deeply polarised by the growing and increasingly powerful political positions on the extreme right.   It is as if they are reliving the positions of the Cold War, fed by the monstrous economic power of multinational businesses that rabidly defend their exclusive interests with very powerful means.

PBI: What expectations and hopes do you have for once peace is signed?

PJG: Whilst there is a euphoria about peace that is translated into slogans or clichéd phrases that get repeated everywhere, when you look a little deeper into what lies behind these slogans or what these superficial phrases avoid saying, many concerns become apparent.

The extreme right opposes the process because it favours impunity for the rebels, who are definitely responsible for more than a few war crimes. But, the populist movement is more afraid of impunity for the most powerful, and for State agents and paramilitarism whose war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide vastly outnumber in quantity and cruelty the crimes of the insurgency, and their impunity will translate into continuity for a repressive power will continue to affect the most unprotected sectors of society and will violently block the social reforms that are urgently being called for.

Despite formal efforts to build the rule of law, especially based on the 1991 Constitution, real power continues to be exercised by a powerful minority that is articulated with transnational interests, which will configure a schizophrenic State in which formality is based on legality, and what is actually real is based on thousands of clandestine networks of para-state violence whose relation with the State is roundly denied by the regime’s officials and the mass media.

PBI: What risks are there for the regions once peace is signed?

PJG: The peace, we will have to start building it, mainly in areas where the war has been more intense. The polarisation is much greater now and many of us think that, whilst the deeper roots of the conflict persist, which are extreme inequality, the concentration of land ownership, the lack of democracy and State criminality which tends to repress all social protest and destroy all grassroots movements which search for alternative and fair models of society, the conflict could be reactivated and its consequences would be uncertain.

It is important to know that for now, the agreement will not be signed by any guerrillas apart from the FARC.  The other guerrilla is important numerically and historically: the National Liberation Army has not yet been able to reach minimum agreement on the agenda to start dialogues with the Government, although it has taken significant steps.

* This interview is an extract of the article “Peace in Colombia?” by Father Javier Giraldo, published 4 July 2016, in Rome for his blog “From the margins”.

*Photo: Damien Fellous / Libre arbitre

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