By Rodrigo Pardo, EL ESPECTADOR, December 4, 2021
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
We thought that Washington would always push the hard line, but now Biden is pressuring Duque on the peace.
It’s curious that the United States has adopted such a positive position toward the peace process with the FARC. An agreement that generated hopes at the time, but now is seen with skepticism and caution, not to say with pessimism. Surveys indicate that the citizens are no longer enthusiastic about the demobilization of the former guerrillas: 68.7% of those surveyed in the most recent poll by Invamer for EL ESPECTADOR and BLU RADIO prefer not to dialog, but to defeat them militarily, and 26% think that the process should continue. And it’s no secret that the administration and “Uribism” are skeptical, not to say opposed, and have spearheaded the opposition to the process.
That’s why the position of the President of the United States, Joe Biden, is notable. It’s worth mentioning the unexpected decision his administration just made to remove the now-defunct Farc, now the Commons Party, from its list of terrorist organizations. They did it with solid arguments, there’s no doubt, and they used the available legal procedures to identify distinctions. To make clear, for example, the abysm that exists between his vision of the process involving the leaders of the ex-FARC and the other actors in the violence in Colombia. In particular, the FARC dissidents, the ELN, and other kinds of criminal phenomena. Or his interest in sending a clear message, to the effect that the simplistic vision of the past, of good guys and bad guys, has been replaced by a new vision that understands—and values—the differences, small as they might seem.
The Biden administration is playing a deep game, a practice that has not been usual in the different administrations, Democrat or Republican. In this opportunity, Washington has preferred to differentiate realities and nuances, and give each the treatment it deserves. Deserves according to them, that much is clear. In the first place, the great majority of the former guerrilla organization have stuck to what was agreed in Havana and signed in the Teatro Colón, now with the notable exception of Iván Marquez and Jesús Santrich,–who seems to be dead—for them he announced the preservation of the hard line, which he extends to other violent groups—not just guerrillas—who threaten those who are sticking to their commitment to consolidate the exercise of politics without weapons in the framework of the Agreements.
For years, since the first peace process in the administration of Belisario Betancur, Washington was criticized by a broad spectrum of Colombian politics for its failure to extend its support and its effort for a conclusion to the war. The White House, generally, under different administrations, was seen as an obstacle to attempts to negotiate a solution. It’s worth remembering all of the criticisms that United States Ambassadors received because they were considered to be promoters and even leaders of the hard line.
The current Ambassador, Philip Goldberg, has a very different vision. He reflects a posture that’s more fitting for these times, sophisticated and constructive. For the White House envoys, the internal conflict in Colombia was a complicated frazzle that always made them look for alliances in places where there were supporters of the hard line. The Colombian governments that attempted dialogs in the past always kept one eye on the White House, proceeding on the basis that there were limits, and hoping to avoid a worse vexation in Washington.
That’s why it seemed strange that, when celebrating the five years of the Agreement that was signed at the Teatro Colón, you could see more enthusiasm from the Biden administration than from the Duque government. In Washington, the administration removed the former armed insurgents from the official list of terrorist organizations. That was no small thing. It’s a bold step, from someone who, before he arrived in the White House, had visited Colombia twice to support the negotiations with the then-guerrillas. If Juan Manuel Santos did anything right in his management of the negotiations, it was to internationalize them. That means connecting them with other governments and agencies in the construction of the Agreements, and in supporting their implementation. In the face of a society, like that of Colombia, so divided about how to confront the subject of the internal war, the international support turned out to be essential. And that assisted with the continuation of the process, in spite of the obstacles.
The support of the former Minister of Foreign Relations, María Ángela Holguín, who was finally formally attached to the negotiating team, was also helpful in achieving the support of the large international organizations, thanks to her better understanding of the unusual Macondian reality. The internationalized peace shielded the Agreements from the constant changes and confrontations of internal politics. The Santos administration couldn’t put together a national unity for the dialogs. He even continued the participation of the military in spite of the reservations they had, as General Jorge Enrique Mora revealed in his recent book. But with the lack of internal consensus, Santos hung onto the external support.
The twists and turns of life. In the ‘80’s, the Belisario Betancur administration attempted the first peace process, and in similar fashion, he took part in the creation of the Contadora Group, which took on a key role in the search for peace in Central America. It was about building, as he said, “one single peace”, in this country and among its neighbors. Somehow there has always been a connection between the negotiations to end the internal war, and the relations between Bogotá and Washington.
Obviously, the Biden administration has been forceful in making very clear the limits of their enthusiasm: legal procedures for those accused of having committed crimes will continue to their conclusion, and for those who have not appeared at trial, or for members of other groups that did not take part in negotiations to end the war, there will be a hard line. There will even be new actors, like the Iván Márquez dissidents, who came out this week talking about “a complete peace”.
So Biden’s policy is evolving. Because of that, all eyes will be on the meeting between the two Presidents, Duque and Biden, that is in planning stages. It will be set in a multilateral meeting, before the end of this year, and the U.S. Executive will come to Colombia. We’ll have to see if it happens, and what tone it will be bringing from Washington.