By Sergio Gómez Maseri, EL TIEMPO, December 10, 2021

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The former envoy, who is not part of the Biden administration, says that the U.S. ought to be exerting pressure.

The international community, especially the United States, should use its economic muscle to press for the implementation of the Peace Agreements that were signed by the FARC in 2016 and that, up to now, have been a process that’s “tortuous, bureaucratic, and inadequate”.

At least that’s the opinion of Bernie Aronson, former U.S. Undersecretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, and the U.S. Special Envoy during the negotiations, appointed by then-President Barack Obama and his Vice President, Joe Biden.

Aronson made his declarations during a forum organized by the Inter-American Dialog and the International Crisis Group (ICG). He provided an evaluation of the first five years of the Agreement, and discussed a recent ICG report on the state of the implementation.

“The donor community, which has been generous, especially the U. S., ought to use that assistance as leverage to press for a more efficient implementation of the Agreements. The bureaucracies are sluggish and complicated, but if you read the report, even in areas where there has been some progress, the percentage of funds that have been allocated is very inadequate to comply with the commitments that were made. The international community has the influence to try to get that changed,” said Aronson.

According to the former Undersecretary, the message from the donor countries should be that the implementation is a “priority” and that they hope to see it carried out in good faith.

Aronson made some criticisms of the current administration of Iván Duque, indicating that he has not fully supported the Agreement. “Part of his election campaign was his opposition to the Agreements. But once he became President, he ought to have said that he accepted them, that they were a State Issue, and that they would be implemented completely. But he has not been clear on that,” stated the former United States envoy.

It had been planned that Interior Minister Daniel Palacios would also speak. But when the forum got underway, his Chief of Staff appeared in the virtual transmission to state that Palacios would not be attending because he had an urgent need to deal with a critical issue involving the Congress. His absence surprised the organizers, as his attendance had been confirmed several weeks ago.

Also participating in the forum were Michael Shifter, President of Inter-American Dialog, Iván Briscoe, in charge of the ICG Latin America program, Elizabeth Dickinson, one of the authors of the report, and Ricardo Semillas, demobilized from the FARC, who now is in charge of one of the Territorial Areas for Skill-building and Reintegration (ETCR) in Guaviare.

“It’s unfortunate because it would have been important and enriching to have the government’s perspective. In the Dialog, it seems to us that including all of the voices is key, and now we aren’t hearing from the Duque administration,” Shifter said with regard to the unexpected absence of Palacios.

For his part, Aronson said that there had been a strategic error in the implementation when the areas abandoned by the FARC were not immediately taken over by the government. That created a vacuum that has been filled by other criminal groups.

But he asked attendees to remember that the peace process had carried out one of its central objectives, which was to end a conflict of 50 years that had been destroying the country.

Now looking to the future, the former Undersecretary indicated that there is still time to correct the direction, given that the Agreement is planned to conclude in 15 years, but to do that will require the political will of the country’s leaders.

Without the Agreement, which, according to Aronson, is a framework for the resolution of the country’s structural problems, there is a risk that division will increase and that there will be disintegration, “as we are already seeing in the area of security.”

Aronson asked the presidential candidates not to convert the Agreements and their implementation into a “political football”, and to understand that it is a State Issue that commits everyone.

Semillas, for his part, said that the administration was not complying with what it had agreed, and he emphasized the serious threats that the demobilized guerrillas are confronting. “They have murdered more than 300, and we sometimes say that they are killing more of us now than they did during the war,” said the former combatant.

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