COLOMBIA + 20, EL ESPECTADOR, February8, 2024

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The most important agency of the international organization is in this country to, among other things, monitor the progress in the implementation of the Peace Agreement with the FARC, and also of “total peace”.

For President Petro, Thursday was a hectic day, to say the least. Out in the street, he received the support of labor unions and citizens that congregated at various points in Bogotá “to reject the breakdown of institutions” and the “soft coup” against the administration. The President had somehow encouraged that demonstration, but since the concentrations took place in front of the “bunker” at the Attorney General’s Office, and there were excesses and clashes with the Armed Forces because of the blocking of the doors of the Supreme Court of Justice, and in the Plaza de Bolívar, to demand the election of a new Attorney General, Petro tried to distance himself, and he clarified that that had not been his objective.

While this was going on outdoors just a few blocks away, inside the Presidential Palace, the President obtained another endorsement, but this was international: the endorsement of the 15 representatives of the United Nations Security Council. They said they were “pleased” with the President’s commitment to the implementation of the Peace Agreement—which the agency is monitoring—and with the determination the President has demonstrated in this area.

All 15 of the Security Council representatives were not present at the meeting, but rather there were three: Carolyn Rodrígues-Burkett of Guyana; Pascale Baeriswyl of Switzerland; and Dame Barbara Woodward of the United Kingdom.

“With this exhaustive peace policy, Colombia represents an example for the whole world. This process of seeking peace as a base is covering different areas, so as to see negotiated solutions with different armed groups and with the different elements that are working with civil society and with local interests. The Security Council supports those efforts,” Ambassador Baeriswyl said at the press conference.

Before the meeting with the President, the representatives were at the Foreign Ministry, where they were received by Elizabeth Taylor Jay, Vice Minister for Multilateral Affairs in the absence of Foreign Minister Álvaro Leyva, now suspended by the Inspector General’s Office. The Council was accompanied by Leonor Zalabata, Colombia’s Ambassador to the United Nations.

They had meetings there with high government officials like Otty Patiño, the High Commissioner for Peace, and the heads of agencies that carry out the Peace Agreement, like Gloria Cuartas, Director of the Unit for Implementation of the Peace Agreement; Raúl Delgado, Director of Colombia’s Land Renewal Agency; and the Minister of Agriculture, Jennifer Mujica, among others. The chief of the United Nations Verification Mission In Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, was also at the meeting.

On Thursday afternoon, the Security Council met with the members of Commons, the political party born out of the Peace Agreement that is made up of signers of the Agreement.

In turn, the Ambassador from the United Kingdom, Dame Barbara Woodward, said that they would take a special interest in the signers of the Peace Agreement, given the increase in the number of killings. “We are very motivated by the progress we have noticed, but we are aware that there is still a great deal to do.”

Finally, the Ambassador of Switzerland, Pascale Baeriswyl, referred to the recent announcement of a ceasefire with the guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (ELN). “The Security Council has now expressed its expectation of more progress in dialogs and more implementation of the ceasefire between the government and the Central Command Staff, and that the term of the UN Verification Mission will continue to expand,” she said.

On this point, in January, the Security Council expressed some concern about the process being carried out with the FARC dissidents. The United States delegate conditioned the extension of the United Nations Mission’s term, saying that even though they know there is some progress with the EMC, it’s necessary to continue monitoring that dialog. “We are going to continue observing and calling for efforts before we consider a possible extension of the Mission’s term to include following up on the ceasefire between the FARC dissidents and the Colombian government,” he said.

Even though Colombia has filed a formal petition requesting that the UN do the work of verification with this armed group as it is now doing with the ELN, the Security Council has not yet approved that task.

“With this exhaustive peace policy, Colombia represents an example for the whole world. This process is seeking peace as a base, and it covers different areas looking to see negotiated solutions with different armed groups and with different elements for working with civil society as well as local interests,” said Baeriswyl.

In addition, she described certain aspects of the Peace Agreement as innovative, such as the focus on subjects like land, the environment, and the focus on gender, like the agenda for Women, Peace, and Security. “We reiterate our complete support of the Peace Agreement, and we hope to have enriching exchanges of ideas,” she said.

Petro’s analysis

Before the conference, the delegates from the most important United Nations entity had an extensive meeting with the President where, as he related, he listed four themes centered on the Peace Agreement: rural reform, obtaining the truth, transformation of the countryside, and security.  

About rural reform, which is the core of the armed conflict, he pointed out that it is going too slowly. “They talked about three million hectares of land reform, meaning transfer of land ownership from big landowners to campesinos and seven million hectares titled, that is formally turning over to campesinos the title to the land they already occupy. On this first point, in the Duque administration, 13,000 hectares were purchased by the government and 200,000 so far in this administration. Right now, that ought to be 1,200,000 hectares. With regard to the second aspect of the seven million, we are at 1,600,000. In spite of the fact that we have pushed this, the pace is not nearly what it needs to be. We have lost four years.,” he explained.

On the matter of obtaining the truth, without mentioning it directly, he referred to the letter sent him on Wednesday by the former Secretariat of the FARC. It warns of possible noncompliance by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP).

“The JEP was created in the Agreements with this objective. If we look for the appearance of judicial truth, we see an effort by the Truth Commission, but the task of finding the judicial truth that is necessary to put an end to impunity, throughout all the decades of the conflict, we have to say that that has not been completed. What has happened is that the truth has been fragmented in different tribunals, according to the nature of the violence,” he asserted.

And he added, “The result up to now, regarding the Colombian armed conflict, is that impunity continues to exist.”

Petro says that funds destined for the Peace Agreement have been “partially” stolen.

In the case of the transformation of the countryside, Petro said that this matter is definitely the job of the President, and that this job has been one of the biggest failures in history.

“One of the main ideas of the Peace Agreement that Santos made with the FARC was the transformation of the countryside, which means that the Social Rule of Law would be built in the space that before was a space full of war. That means that those territories forgotten for 200 years, where the technical minorities as they’re called in Colombia, are the majority. An analysis of investment in those territories, according to the Controller’s Office, says that 80 billón pesos (roughly USD $20,420,000,000 at current exchange rates) have been invested there in the last few years. I go out in the countryside and the whole administration with me. I don’t see that investment.”

And he added, “The enormous social and territorial inequality in Colombia has not moved. What did the money do? That ought to be a question to put to the Controller’s Office. What happened to the money they say was invested in those territories? What was this vast amount of money intended to do to move the needle of social development, which didn’t move? I think that part of it was stolen, and there is no transformation of the countryside,” the President said.

According to Petro, Colombia’s principal public investment in that period was for highways, especially in Antioquia, Bogotá, and Cundinamarca.

“If they did sub-regionalize the greater volume of Colombia’s public investment in highways at all, they did it in the area south of Medellín and Rionegro, and they did it in northern Bogotá where we know that all of the areas are relatively the most upscale in the whole country. That means that the use of public investments was the opposite of what’s required in the Peace Agreement, which was to bring Colombia together regionally, specifically by investing massively in the previously excluded areas of the country. That wasn’t done,” he said.

Finally, on the matter of security, he talked about the killing of 419 former combatants who had signed the Peace Agreement, and of the petitions for amnesty that were denied to former combatants by the JEP—another issue covered in the letter sent by the now-defunct Secretariat.

“Of the 4,485 amnesty petitions filed with the JEP, 3,804 were denied, and now, eight years after they signed the Peace Agreement, 595 are imprisoned. The result of that reality is that any signer of the Peace can’t look for any possibility of prosperity in Colombian society, but instead for death, or prison, or the rejection of the law. The effect of that failure of compliance has been violent reaction in the countryside that the FARC were to have abandoned and that should have been occupied by the Colombian government,” he said.

In the question period, the Council made reference to the extension of the term of the UN Security Council so that the Verification Mission in Colombia can monitor and verify the process going on with the dissidents of the Central Command Staff. “Besides our focus on the status of implementation of the Peace Agreement of 2016, this visit also allows us to talk with the government and with other entities about the other dialogs that are taking place. We are going to be meeting with the government’s negotiators with the ELN and the EMC to get a better understanding,” they said.

Regarding the recent agreement between the government and the ELN to create a multi-donor fund, President Petro explained part of its function.

“Many countries or international organizations would collaborate in the effort to make peace in the case of the ELN. You ask what is my vision in that respect, and I don’t want to infringe on the discussions that took place in this cycle? It perfectly describes what we call the transformation of the countryside that we have talked about in this meeting. This is the way that the international community could help us to transform the countryside where the illegal armed groups are entrenched right now. In this way, the people can prosper and thus allow the ending of the illegal economy,” he said.

Why is the UN Security Council coming here?

The Council arrived in Bogotá on Wednesday night, February 7, to commence its third visit to this country since the signing of the Peace Agreement with the FARC in 2016.

This time the Security Council delegation, one of the most powerful UN agencies, is made up of representatives of the permanent members of the Council (China, United States, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom) and of countries that are not permanent members (Algeria, Ecuador, Slovenia, Guyana, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, The Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, and Switzerland).

The Security Council visit, which will extend to territories like Caquetá and Cartagena, is part of the monitoring that the UN has been doing for more than seven years since the signing of the Peace Agreement between the government and the now-defunct FARC. Nevertheless, progress in current negotiation processes that the Petro administration is pushing in his project of “total peace” will also be on the table.

For example, one key subject of the visit will be the ceasefire with the ELN, because monitoring by the UN Verification Mission in Colombia of the agreement between the government and the ELN guerrillas is part of the mandates that the Security Council authorized in the extension of responsibilities.

This week, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Chief of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, referred to the importance of this visit by the delegates.

“The visit by the Security Council comes at a decisive moment for the construction of peace in this country because, in spite of the threats and challenges, there is the political will for the complete implementation of the Final Peace Agreement and for the progress of several peace dialogs that are going on now within the framework of the “Total Peace” policy. Besides that, a few days later, the ELN and the government of Colombia announced the extension and strengthening of their national, temporary, bilateral ceasefire agreement,” Ruiz pointed out.

The agenda will continue on Friday, February 9 with a visit to a former ETCR (Territorial Space for Training and Reincorporation) for Peace Agreement signers in Caquetá. There will also be meetings in Valle del Cauca on Saturday, the 10th.

At these appointments, the 15 delegates of the Council will talk with different sectors of society in order to understand at first hand about the processes of reincorporation, listen to the perspective of women about the implementation of the measures on gender contemplated in the Agreement, as well as the challenges and opportunities it contains for Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities as set forth in the Ethnic Chapter.

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