Colombia: Plan B Peace Accord Approved

By Ronald J. Morgan

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has succeeded in having the Colombian congress approve a revised version of the peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The passage of the accord officially ends 52 years of war between the  Colombian government and the FARC. The conflict which began in 1964, left 220,000 dead and more than five  million displaced according to a study by the Colombia National Center for Historical Memory. Demobilization of 7,000 FARC guerrillas will begin shortly.  (See WOLA comparison of the two peace accords and other analysis)

The decision by President Juan Manuel Santos to approve the new peace pact by way of a congressional process  was not to the liking of the leaders who supported the NO victory over the original peace accord in the Oct. 2, plebiscite. The group wanted a second plebiscite to test support for the new agreement.

See: Peace Will Bring a Decade of Reforms to Colombia

President Santos told the nation shortly before the signing of the revised peace agreement that the time for delays was over. “My first and principal concern is for the peace process and for the risk that is growing every day of losing everything that’s been achieved given the fragility of the cease fire…We have to act there is no time to lose.”

Only a simple majority was required to approve the peace deal via Congress. The president carried the ball by using his political majority in both houses of congress through his Unidad Nacional coalition.  It now falls to the Constitutional Court  to issue a ruling allowing a Fast Track approval system to be used to convert the agreement into law. 6.

After the surprise defeat of the original agreement in an Oct. 2 plebiscite, the government consulted with major NO backers, took their suggestions and went back to the FARC for renegotiation. The intense period of effort went on for 41 days. The new agreement was announced Nov. 12. 7.

But backers of the No victory over the original peace accord are still defiant and unwilling to accept the new document. Rejection of the accord by ultra-right opponents lead by former President Alvaro Uribe Velez (2002-2010) has lead to a tense and polarized situation. Uribe backers have vowed to seek a referendum to undo the new peace treaty. During the debate before the vote approving the peace accord in the Senate on Tuesday, Nov. 29 and the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Nov. 30 the No coalition charged the congressional action was an illegal act violating the member’s legal duties (A crime known in spanish as prevaricato).

The final vote in the Senate was  75 votes  in favor, zero against, out of  102 seats. The House of Representaives voted 130 in favor with zero voting no, out of a total of 166 seats. In both houses oppostion supporters walked out at the time of the vote.

See: Colombia Peace Accord: Can it be fixed after stunning No vote?

The proposed oppostion referendum will involve a complicated process and will be difficult to carry out successfully. It is more likely that it will be used to build support for an Uribe protegé candidate for president in 2018.. Overall, a new period of political conflict where the Right attempts to block any political gains by a new FARC political party is already under way. Violence against leftists has also surged.

The revised peace agreement was signed Thursday, Nov 24, in Bogotá. It is being called the Teatro de Colon agreement after the place it was signed.  The small and short signing ceremony had a more somber note than the original event in Cartagena, Sept. 26.

The Maximum Leader of the FARC Rodrigo Londoño, alias Timochenko, said while signing the new agreement: “We have enriched and modified the earlier accord. He also called for “the word to be the only weapon of Colombians” in the future. Londoño mentioned the recent increase in violence against social activists and called for a change in attitude. Colombians, he said, are tired of violence, political stigmatization and name calling. 12.

Despite long multi-hour sessions with government negotiators the Right Wing NO supporters have attacked the new document as has having been signed without a chance for review by the NO representatives.

Typical of opposition No comments were the following:

Marta Lucia Ramirez, ex presidential candidate of the Partido Conservador: “We find that the new text doesn’t satisfy important in-depth observations which generates an enormous lack of legitimacy.” El Espectador, Nov. 21, 2016

Former President Andres Pastrana (1998-2002) said: “In a few days without allowing the presence nor the review of the NO they signed without consultation, in contradiction with the electoral result, a document with the character of a final and definite decree.” Pastrana maintains Santos violated a court ruling dictating “that given the implications of the popular referendum the effects should reflect capably the preferences of the majorities of those who participated in the plebiscite.” El Espectador Nov. 20, 2016

Former Attorney General Alejandro Ordonez called the accord “The same agreement all dressed up.” i.e. cosmetically changed. He contends the reasons that people rejected the original accord remain in place. Congress, he contends, does not have the political legitimacy to pass on the accord and there needs to be another plebiscite. El Espectador, Nov. 15, 2016

Former President Alvaro Uribe Velez, leader of the No contends that points referring to drug trafficking, impunity, the Armed Forces, victims, and political eligibility of the guerrillas before completing their sentence, were not incorporated into the new accord. Uribe told a recent session of the Colombian Congress: “We will seek a mechanism of citizen participation to honor the defense of the points the government didn’t want to accept.” Prensa Democratico, Nov. 22, 2016

The final peace agreement took a controversial last minute turn when in the footnotes of the peace agreement, the significance of responsiblity of command was loosened. This change came the same day as the peace agreement was signed, Revista Semana reported.  This was taken as a 11th hour concession to the Association of Retired Colombian Military Officers. The change was criticized by Human Rights Watch as a lessening of the ability to prosecute military officers for wrongdoing by their subordinates.

Human Rights Watch had originally praised the new agreement as an advance over the original which they had criticized for allowing too much impunity. But then, a last minute change caused the organization to turn against the new accord too. Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch, told Revista Semana that the change could affect prosecutions in massacre cases like those of the False Positive Murders (civilains murdered and then passed off as dead guerrillas). 17

The change requires that prosecutors for the Special Jurisdiction for the Peace prove that the commanders not only had control over their troops but were also in command of the crimes that were committed. This, Vivanco said, would be much more difficult to prove.

Briefly summarized, the new agreement changes the following:

  1. The whole of the peace agreement is no longer included in the constitution. Humanitarian aspects of the accord are to be included in the constitution for three presidential periods (12 years). In addition, the new agreement includes a clause requiring that the government and the FARC comply with all aspects of the accord.
  2. Under the transitional justice system adopted, those participating or convicted will have to remain in a restricted zone not larger than one Transitional Relocation Zone. Special permission will have to be granted to leave the zone. Those found to not be cooperating in confessing war crimes can receive up to 20 years in a normal prison.
  3. FARC gets to keep 10 special seats — five in the House of Representatives and five in the Senate from 2018 to 2026. But the FARC may not run candidates for the 16 special seats for conflict zones which will exist from 2018 to 2026.
  4. The new accord strengthens protection for private property and requires that all expropriations be done according to current legislation.
  5. The time table for peace accord investment in development programs is extended from 10 to 15 years. A proposed land census cannot be used to raise land values and increase taxes on landowners.
  6. Campaign finance assistant to the new FARC political party will be reduced from a planned 10% during 2018 to 2026 to the average amount given to all political parties and movements during the period.
  7. Special treatment for drug trafficking crimes will be dependent on a finding that the money earned went to support the FARC war effort.
  8. The Constitutional Court will be allowed to hear appeals of transitional justice court decisions. The move places the peace accord related justice system under the control of the Constitutional Court.
  9. Foreign Judges are eliminated from the Special Jurisdiction for Peace Court. The court will only exist for ten years and only for the first two years may requests for investigation be received.
  10. Changes text of focus on sex discrimination to say only that woman and men will be treated equally and recognizes that there are special circumstances affecting each group. Church groups had criticized the original wording as being pro homesexual.
  11. The new agreement requires that the FARC present a list of assets at the time of disarmament.
  12. Prosecution of  third party financiers of violence remains in place. But Nongovernmental organizations can not act as prosecutors but may provide information.
  13. New Campesino Zones, in addition to those already existing,  are not allowed.
  14. The accord excludes from transitional justice crimes committed for personal enrichment.
  15. Command Responsibility given last minute changes: The new text requires that prosecutors for the Special Jurisdiction for the Peace prove that the commanders not only had control over their troops but were also in command of the crimes that were committed. This could be much more difficult to prove in court.
  16. Eligibility for election remains for all FARC members even if they have been convicted of war crimes.

1. Key Changes to the New Peace Accord Wola Nov. 15, 2016

2.Las claves del nuevo acuerdo de paz con las Farc 13 de Nov. 2016

3.Estos serían los candados del nuevo acuerdo de paz Nov. 15, 2016

4.El nuevo acuerdo según las FARC Nov. 15, 2016

5.Cinco cosas que debe saber del proceso de paz con las Farc, 23 de Nov. 2016

6.Congreso terminó de refrendar el nuevo acuerdo con las Farc,Nov. 30, 2016

7.Los 40 días y 40 noches que pasaron para conseguir el nuevo acuerdo, 21 Nov. 2016

8.La paz sin Uribe

9.Uribe no aceptará el nuevo acuerdo si no se puede modificar 15 de Nov. 2016

10.Las Farc le cerraron la puerta a un encuentro con el Centro Democrático 22 de Nov. 2016

 11.Uribismo acudirá a referendo contra el nuevo acuerdo de paz

12.”Que la palabra sea la única arma que nos permitamos usar”: ‘Timochenko’24 de Nov. 2016

13.Pastrana rechaza el nuevo acuerdo entre el Gobierno y las Farc 20 de Nov. 2016

14.Congreso no tiene la legitimidad para avalar el nuevo acuerdo de paz: Alejandro Ordóñez 15 de Nov. 2016

15.“En el nuevo texto no se satisfacen importantes observaciones de fondo”: Marta Lucía Ramírez

16.”Hay temas graves que no se modificaron”: Uribe, 22 de Nov. 2016

17.”El Gobierno se rindió ante las presiones de los exmilitares”: José Miguel Vivanco 25 de Nov. 2016


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. Recently, I’ve been examining how voters are changing the political balance in Latin America. Watch for upcoming election stories. One of the most important elections will be in Colombia this year. -- Ronald J. Morgan
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