Colombia 2020, EL ESPECTADOR, September 26, 2020
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
During the International Peace Conference, held to commemorate four years since the signing of the Havana Agreement, the former President defended the transitional justice system. Together with him, José Mujica and Felipe González offered their assessment of the implementation of what was agreed upon.
Four years after the historic signing of the Peace Agreement in Cartagena between the former FARC and the Colombian government, former President Juan Manuel Santos, one of the protagonists of the process, and who, for some, has been absent from the debates about the peace, appeared publicly to deliver his assessment of the years implementing what was agreed upon.
He did it along with former Presidents José Mujica of Uruguay and Felipe González of Spain, at the International Peace Conference, organized by the platform Let’s Defend the Peace to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the signing. In spite of the resurgence of violence in several regions of the country, the former President expressed optimism about the course the implementation has taken.
“When Pope Francis left Colombia on his last visit, they brought a dove of peace and I gave it to him, saying that this dove has to fly alone, because peace does not belong to a government, or to a President; it belongs to all Colombians. Four years later, we are seeing that the dove is still flying and that nobody, in spite of all the attempts, has been able to stop her. She keeps on flying,” began the former President.
He dedicated a large part of his presentation to emphasizing the Peace Agreement’s protection, not only at the national level but also internationally. He explained that thanks to that protection, the agreement has not suffered any reversals, no matter how many attempts there have been. “The United Nations Security Council has supported this process like none of the previous ones. No event since the creation of the United Nations 75 years ago has had so many unanimous resolutions of support by the Security Council as the Colombian peace process has had. The most recent was the extension of the mandate of the Verification Mission. There is permanent support in this Security Council,” maintained Santos. Similarly, he highlighted the accompaniment that the transitional justice system has had from the International Criminal Court (CPI).
He also reminded listeners that, at the national level, the Congress has approved the Agreement by a majority vote, and that the Agreement has been shielded by the Constitutional Court, the tribunal that has approved it for three presidential administrations.
“This is an Agreement that continues to arouse immense interest in the whole world because it contains clauses that have never been included in any other peace process. This week the President of Afghanistan is requesting a call to explain some of the mechanisms that we introduced in the Agreement, so they can replicate them in their peace process with the Taliban,” recounted the former President.
He said that there is particular interest in the justice system, which was able to place the victims in the center of the Agreement, and he highlighted that process. “This is the first Agreement in history where an insurgent group negotiates with a government for a special justice system and agrees to submit to it. That has never happened before. That special justice system for peace is functioning appropriately.”
On this point, the former President referred explicitly to the admissions the former guerrilla chieftains are making about the crimes they committed during the war.
“We have seen the guerrilla leaders beginning to admit their crimes, something that the national and international community has asked them to do,” he emphasized.
Throughout his presentation, the former President refused to agree that the former guerrilla combatants are going back to their weapons. “We have to emphasize that the immense majority of the members of the FARC are continuing in the process. There is no truth to the claim that the members of the FARC have gone back to their weapons, as some have been saying in a vicious narrative. We knew from the beginning that people like Gentil Duarte and Jhon 40 were more drug traffickers than they were guerrillas; they didn’t take part and they are still recruiting young people who have never been in the FARC. So it’s not true that the FARC are going back to their weapons,” he insisted.
He admitted that the principal problem being confronted right now in the implementation of what was agreed is the killing of social leaders and former members of the FARC. However, he said that the tools to combat this scourge are in the Agreement itself, and he invited strengthening of the National Commission on Guarantees of Security, for example.
The former President of Uruguay, José Mujica, spoke along the same lines. However, he was clear in demonstrating that there are interests opposed to the implementation of what was agreed. “There are forces that are not convinced and are working to oppose it, because the obstacles that have been appearing are not caused by the Holy Spirit, but they express the tone-deaf participation by people who are not thinking about peace but about something else. There is a political battle here; a battle of ideas, because it’s clear that good-faith accomplishment of all this institutional scaffolding requires an enormous political will in a large segment of society. That battle has not yet been won,” he said.
“This process has many difficulties: the murder of people who demobilized, the murder of social leaders, the reappearance of massacres, the situation of the Indigenous, the situation of Black communities; one can make a long list of frustrations, but the list of accomplishments is also a very long one. It’s immense what’s been done, and immense what remains to be done,” added Mujica.
In his presentation, he also referred to dealing with drug trafficking, a subject that the former President had championed since he was the President of Uruguay. “Without a substitution of crops, without an economic alternative, without a change in agriculture that includes confronting poverty, there will always be conditions for the drug trade to survive. Drug trafficking will not just be fixed by crop fumigation. It has to be confronted with alternatives, and these require doing everything the Havana Agreement provides regarding the land. Drug trafficking can’t be fixed just by repression. We have been repressing people for 80 years; we have to create an economic alternative for the people who are living on drug trafficking,” he said.
The former President of Uruguay closed his speech with a clear message: “You can’t have the narrow-mindedness to torpedo it (the Peace Agreement) and those who suffer pain for past wounds need to remember this: there are things in life that you must carry, and you must learn to walk with it, because if we are going to spend our whole life looking backward, we don’t have a future.”
Felipe González, the former President of Spain, concluded the conversation among the three former Presidents. He is very familiar with the efforts made by the Colombian government to reach peace. He emphasized two subjects mentioned by former President Santos. First, the place the victims have in the process. “This is the first time in my political experience that the victims have the first place, because they are the fundamental objective of the implementation of the Agreements,” he pointed out. And secondly, he wondered about what has commonly been called “dissidents”. “These are people who have betrayed their commitment to the implementation, but they are a negligible part. The 95% are continuing their efforts for peace and some of them have paid for that with their lives.”
“The implementation of the Peace Agreements, and the objectives that are included, can and must be the element of cohesion that is needed to separate its implementation from the political struggle and instead convert their implementation into an objective of Colombian society. Obviously there will be some minimum sector, some interests that will remain apart from this great consensus that I want, desire, and beg of Colombian society. There are many reasons for argument, but these should not be reasons for difference in implementing the Agreements. It’s not just signing the peace, but the consequences that result from the commitments of that signature,” concluded the former President.