Danger and Uncertainty in Colombia: Have We Returned to Square One?

Within the last two days a dissident splinter group of former FARC combatants has emerged in opposition to the Colombian Government. Led by Ivan Marquez, the principal negotiator of the FARC in the peace talks with the Colombian government that led to the Peace Accords, and with Jesus Santrich and other FARC ex-combatants joining him, the group announced that they are returning to armed conflict against the government. They alleged, quite accurately, that the government has not complied with promises it made in the peace talks in Havana, in terms of providing infrastructure improvements and incentives for the ex-combatants to return successfully to civilian life. However, the announced return to armed opposition to the government has placed pressure upon the transitional justice system, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP). The Duque Administration, which has opposed special treatment for former guerrillas, now can argue that the FARC did not bargain in good faith, using the months after the Peace Agreement was signed to rearm and establish contacts with the ELN (Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional) guerrillas to collaborate with them. Indeed, Ivan Marquez invited the ELN to join with the rearmed FARC fighters.

The reaction to Marquez’s announcement has come quickly. President Duque said the government offers the sum of 3,000 million pesos (about $100,000 U.S.) for capture of the members of the rearmed FARC, whom he described as drug-traffickers (“narcotraficantes”). He listed the numbers of members of the Colombian Armed Forces, which totaled 406,000, and indicated these forces would defeat the rearmed guerrillas. Patricia Linares, President of the JEP, announced that those who took up arms again against the state would not be eligible to enter the transitional court system.

Meanwhile President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela said he would welcome the rearmed FARC, while President Duque indicated he would collaborate with Juan Guaido, whom he has recognized as the rightful leader of Venezuela, to end the FARC actions directed at and in Venezuela.

These developments have brought Colombia to a dangerous point. For those of us who have supported the negotiations for peace and believe the Peace Accords entered into by the FARC with the Colombian government have been a positive step forward, this is a dangerous time. The transitional justice system’s function is threatened. Peace between Colombia and Venezuela is in jeopardy, which is very disturbing, since the two countries have had mutually beneficial relations with each other for the last 60 years. And the failure of the FARC to win a solid commitment by the government to carry out vital issues such as land reform—which the Peace Accords mentioned as a goal but without necessary follow-through by the government—is a tremendous disappointment.

We can only hope that a sensible response to the partial FARC return to arms and the looming possibility of conflict with Venezuela will emerge, and not leave us back at square one.

Jack Laun

Co-Founder, Colombia Support Network

September 1, 2019

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