EL TIEMPO, March 26, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
It was inevitable. With the arrival to power of Democrat Joe Biden, the outlook of the United States on the Peace Agreement is diametrically opposed to that of Republican Donald Trump. And that is going to have consequences for the daily agenda of internal politics.
The current protagonists of Peace Agreement implementation in Colombia, President Iván Duque, and Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, leader of Comunes, the political party that grew out of the former FARC, know that very well.
That would explain the recent call by the President on Thursday, during the General Assembly of Affiliates of the Council of American Companies at the Presidential Palace. The United States Ambassador to Colombia, Philip Goldberg, was present virtually.
“Those messages help to prevent misrepresentations by the ‘lobbies’
that sometimes want to sow disdain and doubt instead of support.”
At the meeting, Duque asked the companies that operate in this country to tell the United States Congress “the truth in an impartial way and without misrepresentation” about what his administration is doing to implement the Peace Agreement.
“Because what’s important is that the U.S. companies that are actually in Colombia be the ones that are sending the messages, also to the U.S. Congress, in a clear and impartial manner about the extent that our country has reached with the policy of Route to the Future and the policy of Peace with Legality. Those messages help to prevent the misrepresentations by the ‘lobbies’ that sometimes want to sow disdain and doubt instead of support.”
The Chief Executive offered as an example of the progress in this area the figure of more than a thousand Pdet (Territorially Focused Development Plans) projects, the fight against drug trafficking, and the indications of improvement in security.
Without mentioning it, Duque was using this to answer a letter from Timochenko, as Londoño was known in the FARC, to the United States Congress on Tuesday of this week.
In the letter, Londoño Echeverri expressed to the U.S. legislators his disagreement with the national administration’s “inertia in bringing civilian agencies of the government out to the conflict zones,” and “its worrisome inaction in preventing and prosecuting the attacks on signers of the Peace Agreement and on defenders of human rights.”
In Londoño’s opinion, every day that passes without deploying efforts by government agencies to implement, in a complete manner, the Peace Agreement it had signed, “irreversibly pushes Colombia back to the violence of the armed groups, to the increase in planting crops for illegal use, to poverty and inequality, and it takes us further from building a lasting peace in our country and our region.”
But why is everybody looking to Washington now? It’s to be expected. With Biden’s arrival, the requirements have been evident.
In fact, in February, through a tweet, the Embassy of the United States in Colombia made clear that, of the principal points of President Biden’s policy, the first would be the implementation of the Peace Agreement and also human rights.
The message recalls former President Juan Manuel Santos, the architect of the Peace Process with the FARC, who pointed out that Joe Biden (then Vice President with Barack Obama) was a big promoter of the Agreement and that he also supported the Process permanently.
“We see a future with security in the whole western hemisphere; there’s no better place to begin than with the determination of the Colombian people.”
Even in 2018 during the Concordia Américas Summit in Bogotá, Biden urged President Iván Duque not to reject the Peace Process with the FARC, and he praised the country’s determination to make progress.
“We see a future with security in the whole western hemisphere; there’s no better place to begin than with the determination of the Colombian people to establish a sustainable and lasting peace,” Biden said then, and he added that “the Peace Agreement was a great achievement, and it should not be something that is minimized or ignored.”
After that there was an exchange of letters between Timochenko and Santos in which both were complaining about the deficiencies in implementation.
“Today, for many of us, the Peace Agreement seems more like death than like life,” the former guerrilla wrote. “President Duque cannot give us his hand. That’s just a fact. Maybe his own hands are tied by the influence of extremely partisan agendas, or his hands are paralyzed in the face of all the other hands that are secretly promoting the war and yearning to bring back the dreadful past,” he added.
Duque responded to this statement by inviting the former FARC commander to dinner, at the urging of the UN. At the dinner, they said, they talked “frankly” and “respectfully” about what was lacking in the progress of getting underway with what had been agreed upon between the government and the insurgents, but also about advances that had been made.
Emilio José Archila, Presidential Counselor for Stabilization and Consolidation, told EL TIEMPO that the successes are undeniable.
“Here are the figures. I’ll just give one example: we greeted 100,000 families with the promise that they would be supported in getting out of the coca business. But there were no assistance contracts and no productive projects, nor funding, nor suppliers. The program could cost more than 3 billion pesos ( USD $821,502.90) and at that time they anticipated less than 500,000 pesos (USD $136.02). We have invested more than 1 billion pesos (USD $273,834.30) and so we have managed to help those 100,000 families to get out of the coca business.”
Archila’s statements were made while the echo of another two letters was looming in the atmosphere: one letter from Human Rights Watch complains that the efforts to stop the murders of social leaders are “insufficient”, and another letter from the U.S. State Department demands that those crimes be investigated because that is one of Joe Biden’s “highest priorities”.
Both letters were written in Washington, where people now know that the decisions made there will depend in good measure on the implementation of the Agreements in the Colombian countryside.
And, finally, there is one fact that is not marginal in diplomacy. President Duque has not been able to have a direct conversation with his United States counterpart.
Up to now, the most high-profile contact has been a telephone conversation between President Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Minister of Defense Diego Molano, and Cabinet Chief María Paula Correa. In that conversation, Sullivan asked about the implementation of the 2016 Peace Agreement, and reiterated the importance of defending human rights. We can conclude that those two subjects are fundamental for the United States in its relationship with Colombia, now that Joe Biden is the President.