By Clara López Obregón, RevistaRAYAS, October 5, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Five years ago, we were excited when we attended the signing of the Peace Agreements. After decades of internal conflict, political persecution, “blood, sweat, and tears”, many people entertained a justified hope of living like normal people, not feeling scared when hearing a noise or the barking of dogs in the night, and even in bright daylight. “The animals came back,” an excited campesino told me in Putumayo.
Where did we go wrong? Without a doubt, in not dialoguing more, among more sectors, with all of the people, with the people that were opposed to the process. Was agreement with them possible? Maybe not. Because the peace process was a negotiation of upper echelons, centralized, all of it coldly calculated, with a predetermined model, and many, but many, red lines. Enrique Santos described in a recent column the ingredients and the conditions laid down by the government: “absolute secrecy, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, the conversation to be held outside the country, there will be no ceasefires or partial agreements, neither the structure of the government nor the structure of the Armed Forces will be negotiated, among other things”.
And he adds, elements “that apparently will not be part of the concept of total peace that has been sketched out by the Petro administration”.
The problem is that, even though that model achieved the historic Agreement with the FARC, it failed to obtain peace. It lost the plebiscite, they lost the elections, numerous armed groups dispersed in the territories that the now demobilized and re-incorporated guerrillas had once controlled. The Agreement’s spring lasted only months and even now, “you can’t go fishing at night”, as the master Darío Echandía described peacetime security.
The Petro administration’s peace policy has a different dynamic and a different model: what you are organizing, you will know, what you are agreeing to, you can implement, you have conversations in the countryside, you could have ceasefires and partial agreements could be accepted. Of course you don’t negotiate institutions, or the government, or our Armed Forces, as the Constitution reserves those matters for all the citizens, and the structure of the government is only one of its emanations that have no capability of being changed by negotiation.
But you can still consider in a parallel and simultaneous manner the people that live in the countryside and their longings and desires, through the binding regional dialogs where the ones with weapons do not participate, but rather the officials that must convert the conclusions and priorities agreed upon into public policy and budgets that are within the National Development Plan.
If a hostile administration can’t support the method considered to be perfect, this new model appears appropriate to the population, and perhaps it may be less ceremonial but more effective. All of a sudden there are fewer pages, but more possibility of its execution. Total Peace, without any doubt, is less ambitious in its forms, but much more encompassing in its objectives and hopes. And I would add, in its possibility of success. As the Great Timonel used to say, “you have to cross the river by stepping firmly on every stone,” in order to get there without falling into something that’s not a firm surface.
President Petro aspires to convert peace into “government policy” in accordance with the constitutional mandate that makes peace a right and carrying it out an obligation. The peace will be transversal to all public policy, whether agricultural, labor, education, or culture, and it will be the law that decides on the rules for the government’s negotiations with the different armed groups. That is total peace. It’s not a simple policy or negotiation, it’s a way of approaching governance so that we can all have better lives.