SEMANA, November 22, 2020
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The political scientist Francisco Gutiérrez shows us his book “A New Cycle of the War in Colombia?”. He presents an outlook that is not very optimistic for this country. In an interview with SEMANA, he explains why it’s necessary to rescue the Peace Agreements.
SEMANA: In your book you talk about cycles of violence. Why have we not been able to get out of those and reach peace?
Francisco Gutiérrez: We’ve had two very prolonged cycles: what was called canonically La Violencia (The Violence), and the counterinsurgency war. Both of these cycles had motives, hatreds, and personnel that were specialists in violence (as Alberto Lleras said so clearly during the National Front) that could be activated at any moment. Moreover, the sectors of the political system that understood that it was necessary for powerful forces to block the agreements by using the arguments that were customary in these situations: that there could be no forgiveness, or that you couldn’t give those outlaws any incentives. They try to preclude the creation of systems of incentives that would invite the specialists in violence to remain inside the legal system.
SEMANA: Did we lose the opportunity to create a stable and lasting peace?
F.G.: I don’t think it has been lost, but it’s at the point of being lost. What I argue in the book, and events are proving it, is that the danger started from the very moment of the implementation, which was limited and unstable. I explain it this way: the risk of the new cycle of violence was not just because of the change in administrations, even though it’s clearly related to that, but rather it’s a problem with the very basis of the Colombian state. I’m sure that if the implementation continues in the way it’s been going, we are going to be landing in a new cycle of violence, not with the same actors that took part in the previous cycle, the Marxist guerrillas, not necessarily with the same rationale, but definitely with some of the same personnel.
SEMANA: Did Duque want to do away with the Peace Agreements?
F.G.: In that regard, Duque has been much smarter than those radicals in the Democratic Center Party, because he understands that he has to maintain a legitimacy for the international community, where he has been able to act like a defender of the peace process while he disassembles it rapidly but deviously. It was the only option that he had, especially keeping in mind his international activism, where he acted like a defender of democracy (wanting to isolate the Maduro regime, etc.). That was a really audacious operation that requires more ability to calculate than what we usually recognize in Duque. But the offensive against the Peace Agreements was not less brutal because of that, and he has advanced it in almost all areas. In fact, the take-down of what’s left of it is central to the legislative agenda of the governing party.
SEMANA: Is the FARC Party complying with the Agreements?
F.G.: It looks that way, essentially, although obviously these things are never perfect. The most evident, they laid down their weapons. Never, that I know of, have they threatened to go back to the jungle. The party has been pretty loyal in that sense, in some cases bordering on the stoic. Remember that their people are getting murdered. And even though there’s still a lot missing, in terms of the truth, we can see how their leaders have been improving their positions. And nobody is talking about “retentions”, right? That was the FARC’s official euphemism when they were talking about kidnapping. But luckily that’s gone out of circulation. The system of incentives in the Peace Agreement is bringing that party to a better and better and more realistic position.
SEMANA: What are the bad omens that could start another cycle of violence?
F.G.: If Uribism wins again at the next election, the Agreement, in effect, will be dead. So I think that we have to generate political activities and some education in favor of peace. Defenders of peace have to stop and rethink their strategy. If we get a government that is pro-peace, they will have to call the different political forces together to think about where we stand and how we can stop this race to the abyss.
SEMANA: Will peace be an important issue in the 2022 campaign?
F.G.: Yes, for three reasons. First, it’s an issue that affects all of us. Second, there is no viable political community that can remain in a permanent state of civil war. Third, at least one of the powers in the election—Uribism—is opposed to the design of the Agreement and more generally, the nucleus of their program is their opposition to what they perceive as “Chavismo”. In addition, I believe that the brutal violence we are seeing now will not end.