Peace Will Bring a Decade of Reforms to Colombia

By Ronald J. Morgan

Monday evening, September 26, Colombia ended 52 years of conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. The ceremony in Cartagena begins a process of transformation in Colombia. This article outlines the coming demobilization and the implementation of the peace agreement. It owes a lot to a summary published recently in Revista Semana: “Detalle sobre Acuerdo para terminar la guerra.” And, it is recommended reading.

Leader of the FARC, Timoleon Jimenez, whose real name is Rodrigo Londoño Echeverri, told the gathering in Cartagena: “No one should doubt that we are moving toward a policy without arms. We are preparing to disarm our minds and hearts…In the future, the key will be the implementation of the accords, in such a manner that what is written on paper takes life in reality. And for this to be possible, in addition to the international verification, the Colombian people must become the principal guarantors  that what was agreed to materializes. Jimenez stressed: “We are going to comply and we hope the government complies.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos pledged to support the FARC in their efforts to become a peaceful political force within the country. “Mr. Rodrigo Londoño and members of the FARC: Today when you under take your road of return to society, when you begin you transformation  to convert yourselves into a political movement without arms, following the rules of justice, truth and reparation contained in the agreement — I, as Chief of State of the country that we love, welcome you to democracy.

“To change the bullets for votes, the arms for ideas, is a brave decision and the more intelligent decision that any subversive group can take. And at a good time you understood the call of history. We are not nor will we ever be in agreement with the political or economic model that should be followed by our country, but as I said in Havana, I will defend with all my determination your right to express your ideas within the democratic regime because that is the essence of freedom within a state of law.”  1, 2,

The complex peace accord signed with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is expected to create a peace reform period that will last the coming decade. The signing of the peace accord, Sept. 26, sets the stage for an Oct 2, plebiscite which will vote the complicated pact up or down.3, 4

The vote must pass a threshold of 4.5 million votes to pass. While the arrival of peace is coming in an atmosphere of intense political polarization, the agreement is expected to pass. 5, 6, 7

Once approved, the pact will be put before congress to be converted into a set of laws. This process is to be completed in 12 months. The FARC will have six nonvoting observer seats — three in the Chamber of Representatives and three in the Senate. The peace accord will obtain its legal status through a constitutional reform known as the Acto Legislativo para la Paz. The law was passed in June and provides an expedited approach to converting the peace agreement into a series of laws. A fast track approach to the legislation will include reduced debates and no changes in the laws without presidential approval.

The President will also have the power to emit decrees with the force of law over 180 days in order to make the peace accord work. The peace agreement will rank as part of the constitution. The Constitutional Court will hear all challenges to peace treaty related laws. One challenge has been made to the Acto Legislativo para la Paz so far.

As part of the legislative implementation the government must include an investment plan for the hardest hit of the region’s conflict zones. 8, 9, 10

After four years of negotiation, the peace accord leaves Colombia with a road map of reforms in the rural development, political reform, justice and victims compensation  and illicit drug areas. The reforms, if implemented successfully, will have a transforming effect on rural areas of Colombia and open up the political process to new forces. But overall the agreement will not threaten the existing economic structure. In fact, President Juan Manuel Santos has predicted a strong peace period economic expansion.

See: Santos Rolls Out Colombian “Third Way” And More Neoliberalism

A main concern accompanying the arrival of peace is the overall security situation for Left supporters and politicians. In the weeks running up to the peace accord signing 13 social activists were murdered. 11, 12

After approval of the plebiscite (If not approved the peace accord is stopped without a clear indication of what will happen next) the FARC forces will begin a six month demobilization process. They will move out of base camps into 22 demobilization areas. They will disarm in stages with some arms being surrendered every 30-days during the 180 day period.

After leaving the demobilization camps guerrillas will have the right to a number of government benefits. The agency, Economias Solidarias de Comun, Ecomin, will administer the benefits. Each member of the FARC will receive 8 million pesos (U.S. 2,741) to under take an economic project approved by Ecomin.

FARC members will also receive two years of payments equivalent to 90% of the minimum wage. If a FARC member decides to study he can receive up to eight years of incentives.

The peace agreement attempts to attack the causes of the 52 year-old conflict with a Rural Development Reform and a major increase in political inclusion.

The Integral Rural Reform in a nutshell includes the following:

Distribution of 3 million hectares (7.41 million acres) of land to rural peasants. Colombia will also formalize the titles to 7 million hectares (17.29 million acres) of land and conduct a land census to determine who owns what land in rural areas. Land for the redistribution is expected to come from vacant lands, land seized as part of criminal prosecutions and expropriation with compensation. Gifts of land may also be encouraged.

To bring rural Colombia out of the isolation and poverty of the conflict years, Colombia will implement 16 development programs in hard hit areas with high poverty. To combat hunger in the rural areas a new food security program will be put in place. Colombia will also pass a series of tax incentives to encourage private investment in rural areas.

See: Colombia Peace Negotiations Turn Two

Colombia’s rural areas will also be receiving attention through the Accord on Illicit Drugs. This agreement means to be a more people friendly approach to the drug war. Aerial crop spraying has been stopped and alternative development programs will seek to eliminate 96,000 hectares (237,120 acres) of drug crops. Drug crop production jumped from 69,000 hectares (174,430 acres) in 2014, to 96,000 (237,120 acres) in 20015.

Aerial spraying could be resumed in an emergency but is expected to be used only as a last resort. There will be less punishment of crop cultivators and more focus on combatting organized crime and drug related financial crimes. Persons in drug growing areas will have two years to decide whether to participate in the program. Infrastructure will be improved in drug producing zones in order to make easier more legitimate economic activities.

The political reforms contained in the peace accord are expected to reshape Colombia’s political environment. The agreement calls for the government to foment political pluralism, strengthen guarantees of participation and fight against persecution.

Major components of the Political Participation Agreement are:

Creation by political parties and political movements of a Statute of the Opposition to guarantee opposition political rights. Political parties will be allowed to operate more easily without restrictions on their legal status and voter registration will be promoted in rural areas.

Because of numerous acts of violence against political party and social movement members there will be a new system of security for political activity participants. This will include a special prosecutor and police force to protect politicians.

To enhance representation in conflict zone areas 16 special seats will be allowed in the Chamber of Representatives. The seats will be by persons from those areas.

In order to facilitate the FARC’s entrance into politics the FARC will be allowed five seats in the Chamber of Representatives and five in the Senate for two election periods. Until 2026 there will be no minimum member or vote requirements. The State will also provide financing to the new FARC party for 10 years. The amount will be equivalent to 10%  fo all government political party subsidies.

The FARC is allowed one seat on the Consejo Nacional Electoral, CNE but they are not allowed to vote.

The crucial and most controversial of the six accords making up the peace agreement is the Victims and Justice Accord.  The accord will include a Truth Commission with a three year mandate; a special unit to search for all disappeared persons; and a special legal jurisdiction to try crimes against humanity.

See: Colombia Victims Accord to Impact Human Rights Policy

Based on the principles of Transitional Justice, the prosecution for war crimes by both the guerrillas and state actors will allow lesser than normal legal penalties in return for a full cooperation in investigating the crimes. Human Rights Watch has criticized the agreement as too lenient.

The Special Jurisdiction for Peace will consist of 24 judges. Four of the judges may be foreigners. This court will both investigate and prosecute. Crimes which will be punished, include genocide, forced disappearance, sexual violence, forced displacement and recruiting of minors.

Persons agreeing to provide the court with the truth in an exhaustive manner will be able to receive reduced sentences of five to eight years. Those who refuse to cooperate could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison. Current court cases involving both the military and guerrillas are to be transferred to the new court. No appeals are allowed once a person agrees to cooperate. Those convicted also will not lose their political rights.

While serving their special transitional justice sentence, the persons will have some restriction of their liberty and will be involved in projects such as rebuilding towns, de-mining operations and substitution of illicit crops.

Verification and implementation of the peace accord will be done by a six member Comision de Implementacion Seguimiento y Verificacion del Acuerdo Final de Paz. This will have three FARC members and three government members. The commission will be required to draw up a 10 year plan for implementation of all aspects of the accord. As part of the implementation commission international verification will be carried ou by Cuba, Norway, Venezuela and Chile.

Demobilization will be overseen by 500 international observers under the United Nations Military Security Council. In addition 262 FARC members and 263 government members will be in command of the activities. 13, 14

SOURCES:

1. FARC Comandante Timoleon Jimenez:Nuestra única arma será la palabra http://www.farc-ep.co/comunicado/nuestra-unica-arma-sera-la-palabra.html

2. Palabras del Presidente Juan Manuel Santos en el acto de firma del Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto con las FARC http://es.presidencia.gov.co/discursos/160926-Palabras-del-Presidente-Juan-Manuel-Santos-en-el-acto-de-firma-del-Acuerdo-Final-para-la-Terminacion-del-Conflicto-con-las-FARC#.V-rFP5TEhpw.twitter

3. Full Text of the Colombian Peace Agreement http://www.eltiempo.com/contenido/politica/proceso-de-paz/ARCHIVO/ARCHIVO-16682558-0.pdf

4. Detalle sobre Acuerdo para terminar la guerra http://especiales.semana.com/acuerdo-de-paz/capitulo-uno.html

5. Sí a la paz, pero no a la participación política de Farc, El Espectador, Sept. 20, 2016 http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/si-paz-no-participacion-politica-de-farc-articulo-655925

6. “Preocupan la polarización y la intolerancia de esta campaña”: Alejandra Barrios, directora de la MOE, El Pais, Septiembre 21, 2016 http://www.elpais.com.co/elpais/colombia/proceso-paz/noticias/preocupan-polarizacion-y-intolerancia-esta-campana-alejandra-barrios-d#.V-Kt-pgfFtQ.twitter

6a Plebiscito por la paz precipitó campaña presidencial del 2018 Sept. 18, 2016 http://www.eltiempo.com/politica/partidos-politicos/plebiscito-y-campana-presidencial-2018/16704599

7. Videos de campañas por el Sí y el No en el plebiscito se toman las redes sociales, El Espectador, 16 de Sept. 2016 http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/videos-de-campanas-el-si-y-el-no-el-plebiscito-se-toman-articulo-655185

8.What’s in store for US aid to Colombia? Feb. 4, 2016, https://www.devex.com/news/what-s-in-store-for-us-aid-to-colombia-87698

9.‘Plan Colombia’: How Washington learned to love Latin American intervention again

Sept. 18, 2016 https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/plan-colombia-how-washington-learned-to-love-latin-american-intervention-again/2016/09/18/ddaeae1c-3199-4ea3-8d0f-69ee1cbda589_story.html?postshare=4001474244633332&tid=ss_tw-bottom

10.Aprueban monto del Presupuesto del posconflicto por $224,4 billones, Sept. 13, 2016 http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/economia/aprueban-monto-del-presupuesto-del-posconflicto-2244-bi-articulo-654661

11.Colombia’s Human Rights Defenders Are Dying for Peace, Sept. 9, Insight Crime 2016 http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/colombia-s-human-rights-defenders-are-dying-for-peace

12. Los 13 líderes asesinados después de la firma del acuerdo de paz Revista Semana, Sept. 12, 2016 http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/los-13-lideres-asesinados-despues-de-la-firma-del-acuerdo-de-paz/493528

13. Desafíos del fin del conflicto Sept. 7, 2016, El Espectador http://www.elespectador.com/noticias/politica/desafios-del-fin-del-conflicto-articulo-653552

14. Las 30 tesis que han guiado la décima conferencia de las FARC,  Sept. 29, 2016 http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/conferencia-de-las-farc-2016-las-30-tesis-que-la-guian/494773

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About morganworld982014

In recent years I've been living in South America and writing occasional articles that touch on human rights and social issues in Latin America. Ronald J. Morgan
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