By Hugo García Segura, EL ESPECTADOR, August 31, 2020


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The former minister says that the Duque government’s attitude has generated frustration in the international community. On September 26 it will be four years since the signing of the Agreement in Cartagena, and the objective is to give a new impetus for its implementation.

 On this coming September 26 it will be four years since the signing in Cartagena of the Final Havana Peace Agreement between the government of then-President Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC—the one before the plebiscite—and the Let’s Defend the Peace movement, made up of former negotiators and political and social leaders, academics of differing political sides, will hold an international conference. Its purpose is to analyze the state of implementation of the Agreement.

The idea, commented Juan Fernando Cristo, former Interior Minister who took an active part in the dialogs in Cuba, is to make a comprehensive, global and complete assessment, with the hope of recovering the impetus and reinforcing the encouragement that the international community gave with respect to peace in Colombia, and which is now gone with Uribism taking power.

The conference will be virtual, and former President Santos and his fellow peace Nobels José Ramos-Horta and Denis Mukwege, the notables José Mujica of Uruguay and Felipe González of Spain, Congressional Representatives from the United States and the European Union, spokespersons from various civil society organizations in Colombia, victims’ movements, the UN Verification Mission, the Kroc Institute, and agencies like the JEP, among others, will take part.

An invitation has also been extended to President Duque, to the Post-conflict Counselor Emilio Archila, and to the High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Ceballos. “What we want is a broad, frank, and calm discussion of advances that have been made, where we are now, and where we are seeing backsliding since the signing of the Peace Agreement four years ago,” emphasized Cristo, in speaking with El Espectador.

Why do you say that the international community is frustrated with progress in the peace?

We think that the subject of peace in Colombia, ever since the Duque government decided to object to the Statute creating the JEP, to torpedo the Congressional seats for the victims, to cut back the investment in the budget, and to display his apathetic attitude toward what had been agreed to, all of that implied the loss of the impetus that we had brought to the implementation. There are many initiatives in the Agreement that remain unattended, but above all, it’s the situation of the social leaders and the former combatants, the violence in some of the regions of this country, that make it appear from abroad as though Colombia’s peace is suspended. They haven’t torn the Peace Agreement to shreds, but they have shelved it, and that is the perception in this country and on the international scene. Because of that, it looks as though we have to do an assessment to look objectively at where we are, and try to make a push toward implementation. We need ten years, till 2030, beyond the Duque government.

Uribism says that the violence that we are suffering now is the fault of the Santos Peace Agreement, that the Peace was done all wrong . . .

Uribism should remember that we have already finished two years of President Duque’s administration. At this point, to keep on trying to show that all of the problems of the government and of the country are the fault of Santos, has less and less of an audience and less and less credibility with the public. On the contrary, unfortunately—especially for the people out in the countryside—the lack of implementation of the Agreement, the failure to develop the social substitution of coca plantings, the failure to create the Committees to protect the rights of people who take part in the human rights platforms that study what’s happening to the social leaders, the budget reductions, the minimal investment in the PDET, the torpedoing of the Congressional seats for Peace (that are located precisely in those areas where the communities ought to have a voice in the Congress), and the internal division and ineffectiveness of the Armed Forces, which has reached the point where their combat lacks concrete results both against the dissidents, now against the ELN, nor against the Clan del Golfo, which is what has worsened the situation in many areas of this country.

The Duque administration has not torn the Peace Agreement to shreds, not because it hasn’t tried, but because it hasn’t been able to. And it hasn’t been able to because the Agreement is shielded by the Constitutional Court, because it’s supported by the international community, and because Duque hasn’t been able to count on majorities in Congress. And that climate, generated by the government toward the Agreement, is what has been creating uncertainty, chaos, and violence in the different regions where, unfortunately, there have been massacres and other acts of violence. In Cauca, in Bajo Cauca in Antioquia, in the Pacific in Nariño, in Chocó, in Catatumbo, and in Norte de Santander.

When you talk about division in the Armed Forces, are you referring to Santism versus Uribism?

More than between Santism and Uribism; it’s a reality today among all of us, and we have to overcome it. The scandals of corruption and in human rights, and the fear recently that the Army was going to take us back to the time of the false positives, have generated frictions and lack of unity in the Armed Forces. Division is also evident in the National Police. It’s really paradoxical that in the third government of Democratic Security, which is Duque’s government, we are not seeing solid and positive results against the various illegal groups. Something is going on inside that is keeping us from being effective in fighting these different irregular groups.

When President Duque and his officials emphasizepeace in legality”, do you think that implies delegitimizing what you did in the Santos government?

Peace with legality is like the Stabilization Council saying that there are “collective homicides” or “a settling of scores, ” when they talk about massacres, or calling displaced people “internal migrants”. It’s the same as the refusal to acknowledge the internal conflict, or calling it the war on terrorism. Uribism is obsessed with thinking that changing the name of things changes reality and that it’s just a semantic discussion.

Peace in Colombia is going through the implementation of the Peace Agreement. It’s necessary and we all know that. If it isn’t implemented well, we will not have a well-established territorial peace. The slaughter of young people and defenseless civilians is and will continue to include massacres, no matter how much they insist that these are just score settling among mafiosos. The people displaced by the violence in Colombia will keep on being displaced people. I think those attempts by the government and the Democratic Center Party are useless.

But don’t you believe that the Santos government also failed to make a bigger effort in implementation, and the resurgence of violence comes from that, the dissidents, drug trafficking, and the new paramilitary groups?

Those of us who were friends of the Peace Agreement, friends of developing the peace, didn’t win the elections in 2018.The peace is more than disarming, demobilization, and reincorporation of the members of the FARC. The Agreement has a vision of Colombian society that looks to the future, to strengthening democracy, to more respect for human rights, for development of the countryside, formalizing the campesinos’ property, and distributing the land, a policy of social substitution of coca plantings and not fumigation with glyphosate.  But the other side won. I’m not surprised at that. What you have to understand is that there are many ideas in the Agreement that Uribism does not share, and that’s why we have problems with implementation.

Now, there have always been FARC dissidents, but I’ll give you some figures; at the end of Santos’ term, there were FARC dissidents present in 56 municipalities in this country; today they are present in more than 110. At the end of Santos’ term, the ELN was present in 92 municipalities; today they are in more than 170. What is missing here is that the government doesn’t have more effectiveness in its security policy; how curious and paradoxical it is that the policy is failing. To put it in other terms: they are neither implementing the peace, nor fighting the illegal groups effectively.

How much does the legal mess that former President Álvaro Uribe is in affect the climate of the implementation of the Agreement?

I don’t believe that. The decision about the former President is very recent and the problems with the implementation started with the very first day of the Duque Administration, and they got worse with the decision to push those objections to the Statutory Law. I insist that, up until today, the Executive has not offered one single proposed bill or constitutional reform to implement what was agreed to. The ones that the Democratic Center Party has presented are precisely planned to tear the Agreement to shreds.

But Uribe’s legal situation has led his followers to plan a constitutional convention to reform the legal system and eliminate the JEP . . .

But they’ve been trying to do that for two years, wanting a single court, planning constitutional conventions. It may be that now they are radicalizing their position and they might argue it insistently to the Congress and to public opinion, but I don’t think it’s anything new. What we have to do here, beyond implementing the Agreement, and with the JEP situation, is some minimum agreement among all Colombians to respect our institutions and respect court decisions, whether we like them or not. Former President Uribe should receive full guarantees of due process, and the courts must act independently and autonomously, guaranteeing legal rights. Colombians must respect each other, and Colombia’s agencies, or else the devil will take them away in the radicalized climate we are in right now.

Because of that, we in Let’s Defend the Peace are insisting on a dialog with the government around the implementation of the Agreement. To do that, we are inviting them to an international conference on September 26. We are aware that there are some points on which we won’t be able to agree, and there will never be consensus but there are subjects, such as the effective implementation of the PDTS, with a reasonable budget; the protection of social leaders or the reincorporation of the members of the FARC that have complied with the Agreement; in those we believe that we could advance together as a society.

You already invited Duque to participate in the event. Do you expect him to come, or has he responded already?

He has not responded. We sent him the invitation and we’re going to insist on the importance of the presence of the national government at this international conference. I hope he can be with us. The United Nations Verification Mission, headed by Carlos Ruiz Massieu, will be with us, and they have also considered the presence of both parties to the Agreement to be very important: the FARC and the Colombian government, represented by the Duque administration. I hope that both parties can be with us. It would be an extraordinary scene to seek some minimum agreements to reduce this climate, which now is not just polarization, but radicalization. The ideological and political polarization is the least–it could be positive; the problem is the climate of radicalization of language that is taking us to radicalization and a climate of physical violence against the communities.

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