We celebrate the agreement between the FARC guerrillas and the Colombian government to end 52 years of armed conflict through a verifiable agreement for a bilateral ceasefire. We fervently hope that the serious issues facing Colombia can now be addressed through dialogue and negotiation, without any party seeking to enforce its concepts through a call to arms. The transitional justice system, while complicated and sure to be very costly, holds great promise for a lasting peace with social justice, as long as a strong commitment by the government and civilian society supports the application of the procedures decided upon.
The presence of the international community in support of the agreement to end the armed conflict and to submit the final agreement for approval by the Colombian people gives assurance that a very substantial effort will be made to carry through the points of the agreement. The role of the countries who have formally supported the peace negotiations from the beginning—Cuba and Norway as well as Venezuela and Chile—has been fundamentally important. Their continued support and that of the international community in general will remain very important.
We believe, however, that this peace agreement will only hold if certain measures are taken to improve the conditions under which millions of Colombians live. The Colombian government must address the fact that Colombia has one of the most unequal distributions of wealth in the world. Effective land restitution to those who were forced out of their homes and their lands must occur—Colombia now has the highest number of internally-displaced people in the world, according to the latest report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 6.9 million out of a population of 48 million. And the voice of the campesinos, Afro-Colombians and indigenous peoples expressed in the Agrarian Summit and the MINGA must be heeded. Paramilitary groups–however the government calls them, bacrim or emergent paramilitaries–which are active throughout much of the country, must be dismantled. We are concerned that on several occasions the government has sent militarized anti-riot police, the ESMAD, to break up legitimate social protest by unarmed civilians. Militarization of the peace would be a terrible mistake.
The arrival of peace in the countryside, which is a fundamental concern of the peace agreement, must be matched by a commitment by the Colombian government to protection of labor leaders. Colombia’s sorrowful record as the country where more labor leaders are murdered every year than in any other country in the world needs to change. We hope the arrival of peace will be matched by protection of workers’ right to organize. We also hope that, in a Colombia at peace, the issues of protection of the environment and safeguarding the country’s paramos from multinational mining corporations will be given priority. The favorable results of establishing peace must be passed on to future generations through protection of the extraordinary natural resources Colombia possesses.
We congratulate the government and the FARC negotiators for arriving at a detailed peace agreement with a feasible road map to lasting peace. We look forward to the addressing of the issues we have mentioned as necessary to achievement of a lasting peace.
Colombia Support Network
June 24, 2016