Legitimizing Dialogue

By Laura Gil
(Translated by Susan Tritten, CSN volunteer translator)

“The door to dialogue is not locked,” said Juan Manuel Santos. In spite of the prudence of his words, a marked change in tone (no less than that of his inauguration), he left the impression that the door now was opening.

Consequently, there was reason for hope in the annual meeting of the Assembly for Peace, a coalition of NGOs whose objective is to promote peace through citizen diplomacy.

However we are far from including a negotiated solution to the conflict on the national agenda. The time has arrived for civil society organizations to abandon the strategy of confrontation with the government when the issue is peace. They need to take steps that permit President Santos to keep the possibility of dialogue on the table.

The final goal of legitimatizing a negotiated solution to the conflict can only come from the citizens.   Uribism resulted from frustration with Caguan and today negotiation with illegal armed groups continues to be rejected by Colombians.

National public acceptance is necessary.  What Colombia needs least of all is one more process arranged behind the people’s backs such as was seen in paramilitary negotiations, which still today remains relatively private.  This has been seen before with paramilitary negotiations, much of which remains relatively unknown/where many details remain unknown.

The legitimization of dialogue will occur through the continued demands of civil society organizations on the FARC.  The words of “Alfonso Cano” are not sufficient enough to demonstrate the political will of the guerrillas. W e need concrete actions such as freedom for all those who have been kidnapped, renunciation of land mines, and the release of minors fighting in their ranks.  No government is going towill risk political capital in a rapprochement ifin approaching FARC if does not produce acts of peace are not produced.

The legitimization of dialogue will come about through the creation of a broad movement that unites people from the full political spectrum.  Peace cannot continue being to be a banner waved only by the left.  We have to quit mixing apples and oranges.  If we try to use the peace movement to campaign against free trade agreements or for environmental reform, it will continue to be marginal.  However worthy many causes may be, our purpose is to unite for peace and not to exclude anyone.  

The legitimization of dialogue requires  greaterrequires greater diversification of spokespersons from the international community. The times for of allies of negotiation, as customary as Castro or as divisive as Chavez, is over.  In the future they may perhaps play a role but, currently they only polarize the debate more.  To insist upon their involvement against the wishes of the government becomes counterproductive.

The Colombian peace movement cannot continue to talk only with those who are already supporters in the United States, Europe, and Latin America. A partner as committed as U.S. Democratic Representative Jim McGovern is an extreme example. The challenge lies in better persuading institutions and political leaders to influence their own governments. It is only in this way that we can get Washington and other capitals to adopt a discourse of peace. All this takes time and requires diplomacy. Pressuring the government to make a quick peace offer risks the future of negotiation; it is better to proceed slowly but surely.

Meanwhile, we can encourage scenarios conducive to the search of negotiated peace and dynamic dialogue. The roundtable discussion on land, promoted by Gustavo Petro, is one of the most important and would be even more so a truth commission on land dispossession was established along with it.


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