A Yes That Appears to be a No for Peace

Source: http://www.ipc.org.co/agenciadeprensa/index.php/democracia/83-general/1352-un-si-que-parece-un-no-para-la-paz
(Translated by Whitney Johnson and Haley Olig, CSN Volunteer Translators)

Opinion article by José Girón Sierra, peace analyst for the Observatory for Human Rights of the IPC – Popular Education Institute

On October 19, the economic unions of Colombia delivered a document to the government, which confirmed their position on the current negotiation process being carried out in Havana, Cuba, with the guerrilla organization FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The importance of this document cannot be ignored, especially since it arises when considering that the peace process has reached the point of no return.  But it is striking how little media and analysts have covered the document; not to mention those who emphasized the document’s importance have conveniently ignored the many ways in which it falls flat.

The Colombian elite’s opinion on ending the conflict is of utmost importance.  It is to know the extent to which they are committed to the shared vision of not only overcoming inequality and exclusion, but also the changes that would foster a vigorous democracy.  Peace is said to be a good business for two reasons.  Firstly, war can swallow all of the resources desired by a society, leaving nothing but destruction.  However, when these same resources are used for peace they create a more just and democratic society, which ultimately allows freedom to triumph.  Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, ending the conflict will stop the damage to lives and the permanent scars of victimization.  The level of economic development that can occur in conditions of peace is impossible in a society where fear, distrust, and pessimism prevail.

Though it seems obvious, it has not been in the case of Colombia. The elite, those that make up part of the economic sector, historically have found in the war a very efficient way to preserve their interests, which could explain their recent conduct, as a single block, when the Democratic Security proposed the war tax to them.

The elites historically have found that war is an efficient way to preserve their interests, which possibly explains their recent unification and action against a war tax proposed by the Seguridad democrática (a military solution to the conflict, following the political and philosophical beliefs of former president Alvaro Uribe).

Here are some proposals of the aforementioned document:

Responding to the question ‘why negotiate?’, the Trade-Union Board points out that: “Neither because the subversive cause is seen as fair in its motives and procedures, nor because the armed rebels have the capacity to threaten the stability of the Republic. Essentially, the reasons are humanitarian. The violence exercised by armed groups outside of the law has victimized countless Colombians, especially those belonging to the poorest social classes of the rural zones”

The text is very clear.  It breaks from the theory of state and victim society.  In what has occurred there are no structural causes; the historically violent dispossession of land, as all conditions, has been perpetuated and deepened for more than fifty years; and inequality and exclusion are part of an argument with no basis in reality.  So here there is only one culprit: the insurgency.  With all arguments presented, the only possible conclusion is that the unions cannot be held responsible; and that their rightful role, if any, is strictly humanitarian.  It is therefore worrisome that the Jurisidcción Especial para la paz (Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a transitional justice system established as a result of the peace negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government) can indict them, even when it is conceived of universal and outside application of privileges and immunities.

“Regarding the material that the Court would address, it is said the Court will focus on crimes committed in the context of conflict, either directly or indirectly.  For the liberal criminal law the indictment – and therefore the punishment – depend on individual actions, either as authors, materials or intellectuals, accomplices or accessories to the crime.  The possibility of indirect responsibility worries us.  We consider it necessary, therefore, that this matter be one of precision.”

With relation to the first point on the agenda, the interests are quite precise:

“Agreed in the first point on Desarrollo Rural Integral is that it will only be applied if there is no quarrel with the red line of non-negotiability of the general development model of which it part.”

“The proposals made regarding Desarrollo Rural Integral and solutions to rural poverty must be based on respect for and legal guarantee of private property.”

“Thus, instruments like expropriation in the social or public interest, and administrative forfeiture of control as a result of noncompliance with the social and ecological function of the property – although pre-existing in Colombian legislature –  must be revised and regulated in implementation within a framework that guarantees due process and legitimate defense of legal owners of the land.”

In other words: this is a yes to negotiation, but it cannot change the current status of property.

It is a cause of concern that the president identifies with this: “We completely endorse the points that I have just finished reading from the doctor Bruce Mac Master.  There is not the slightest difference between these points and the position that the government has held and will continue to hold until the moment we sign the agreements, and even after when we start to implement them”.

Let’s hope that this is not the same trick we’ve seen throughout the armed conflict.  It bears repeating that peace has some high costs, if indeed the is conclusion that there is no place for repetition.  The truth is that one of the greatest costs comes where there will be greater resistance, and business owners cannot be an exception.

José Girón Sierra
Analyst for the Observatory of Human Rights of the IPC
October 28, 20125

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