(Translated by Stephanie DiBello, a CSN volunteer translator
It has been six years since the Cagúan peace talks have ended. The fog of time continues to cover the facts and with each passing day the record, development, and details of the talks become hazier. What remains are the final conclusions that the Colombian people have to live with: deceit from the FARC, using the negotiations for their own wartime objectives, and the permissiveness of the government.
The end of the peace talks initiated a new political cycle in Colombia. The Cagúan negotiation is the principal antecedent of the Uribe era, and the result of these talks is the primary determining factor of national life since 2002, including the first reelection and, if the matter arises, the second.
For the past six years war has been the national hallmark, and most of the country has aligned itself with this dynamic. It is clear there are elements that explain this process, and that the legitimacy and legality has for the most part supported the State’s course of action. But this has been a war, and the national spirit has been one of confrontation, along with the implementation of violence that is implied, which has been legal and justified in the majority of the cases.
Now a negotiation is impossible, and while the ordeals of the war continue as they are, currently with no sign of change, the firm stances of those involved will hinder the possibility of an alternative dialogue. The Government believes that it should not make large concessions in the negotiation, and the FARC are unwilling to participate in this type of dialogue at the moment, due to organizational weakness and internal crisis. The doors for negotiation are closed on both sides, although both parties are declaring the contrary.
The Cagúan basically failed because of the FARC’s persistent violence and political conservatism. Although the negotiation took place in the beginning of the 21st century, the FARC’s views of society, the State, and the economy were twenty or thirty years behind. But the guerrilla’s attitude does not free the Government from blame, because it was tremendously inefficient in offering alternatives for a possible negotiation. It has to be stated that there were just complaints and possible ways to address them. In addition, if both sides really wanted the negotiation, certain political and social sectors would not have been willing to compromise their status or position of power if an eventual peace agreement were to call for it.
During the process of Cagúan the paramilitary force grew disproportionately.
We all lost with the failure of the negotiations.
There must be guerrilla leadership sectors that, even if silently, regret the missed opportunity. The FARC has been discredited and denounced for the atrocious violence that they undertake, which has deeply damaged their political perspective. At the same time, they are currently experiencing serious military difficulties that would make it impossible for them to exercise the power that they were used to. The Government lost because it was not able to end a war that has spanned decades, and the next chance for reconciliation is far off. Twelve years transpired between the end of Betancourt’s process and the beginning of Pastrana’s. We have been in this new political cycle for six. The State sees itself as progressing, as it holds to the sense that it is ‘winning’ this conflict, that a higher morality exists, and that the national morale has increased. The war is a pathological state that compromises and affects everyone.
Society has been the biggest loser of all, with hundreds of thousands of victims of violence. There are also hundreds of thousands of people at risk of being victims of violence.
As long as this war persists Colombia will remain wounded, even if the military results continue to be very positive, the economy grows like it has not in thirty years, generalizad optimism pervades, and it is believed that everything is marvelously improving. What has happened in the past month is not a prelude to the end, and the way we are going there will be much more violence, much more damage.
The State’s primary obligation is to protect the life and dignity of its people, and this is what directly justifies its action against the guerrillas, the paramilitaries, and the rest of the delinquents. It also has the obligation to evade any form of suffering resulting from the war, and negotiation is always an effective channel. What is happening is that this option requires of both sides an open mindedness difficult to attain. Today is seems easier to wage war than to work towards peace. Society has also been infected with this mindset. Hopefully one day soon we can try to engage in a new process for peace.
Colombia Support Network
P.O. Box 1505
Madison, WI 53701-1505
phone: (608) 257-8753
fax: (608) 255-6621