Latin America Advisor

A Daily Publication of The Dialogue

Is Colombia’s Peace Accord Successfully Being Implemented?

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who meets today with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House, has made the peace negotiations with the FARC rebels the centerpiece of his presidency.

In early May, an employee of the United Nations was kidnapped in Colombia by the FARC rebel group during a visit by the U.N. Security Council to support the country’s recent peace accord. The captors are part of a unit of the FARC that has refused to disarm as part of last year’s peace deal. The following week, eight people were kidnapped by the ELN rebel group, but were later released. How is the implementation of the peace accords between the government and the FARC rebel group going? Does there appear to be any progress in the peace talks between the government and the ELN? Will the United States make good on former President Barack Obama’s pledge to give $450 million to Colombia to aid in the implementation of its peace deal? How can the Colombian government ensure citizen security as the two sides implement the peace accord?

Marta Lucía Ramírez, former Colombian defense minister and foreign trade minister: “The agreement with the FARC can’t reach its objectives if it does not have legitimacy, and this agreement lacks precisely of legitimacy. Instead of bringing citizens together around peace, the government of Juan Manuel Santos divided them. The campaign led by Santos sold an impossible peace by the concessions that he granted to the terrorists, and stigmatized the Colombians by making them choose between identifying as enemies or friends of peace. Additionally, it is necessary to remember that the agreement of the Colón Theater with the FARC was signed despite being defeated in a popular vote, by a discredited government that does not enjoy popular support. All this led to a deep division of Colombian society with respect to the agreement, and under these conditions, the enormous collective effort that is necessary to execute the accord cannot be materialized. Proof of the above is that the timelines are not being met, which is generating complaints, ranging from logistical and security problems in the concentration areas to dark negotiations in Congress to deal with the rules that the government requires to implement the agreement. With this background, the other groups outside the law feel empowered to obtain greater concessions from the Colombian state and society. That is why I am skeptical about the process with the ELN, which has not renounced abduction as a tactic and continues with terrorist actions. For Colombia, it would be very helpful if the United States government reminded President Santos that his main job is to preserve the integrity of the nation of Colombia, not only in its territory, but as a single people struggling to escape poverty, social injustice and violence.”

Adam Isacson, senior associate for the regional security policy program at the Washington Office on Latin America: “The FARC peace accord’s implementation has been better-than-average, as peace processes go. Violations of the cease-fire have been exceedingly scarce. Dissident guerrillas, like the faction that kidnapped the U.N. official, make up perhaps 5 percent of the demobilizing force. The FARC’s exit from the drug trade has caused a drop in coca-leaf prices around the country as farmers seek new buyers. And disarmament, though behind schedule, is proceeding with little apparent cheating, and the U.N. monitoring mission gets high marks. Still, big problems exist. The government’s slowness in setting up 26 guerrilla disarmament sites augurs poorly for its ability to fulfill more than 570 other commitments made in the peace accords. And other criminal and guerrilla groups are filling the vacuum of state presence in formerly FARC-dominated areas, while the state stands idly by. The ELN peace talks are in a holding pattern amid mounting evidence that the group’s commanders cannot control key units, especially in Chocó and Arauca, which appear to have little interest in negotiations. The need for a rapidly established. government presence is urgent, but I don’t see a sense of urgency among many key Colombian government agencies right now. Still, U.S. aid can help: it is positive that the 2017 appropriation that became law on May 5 included the full $450 million that the Obama administration requested in February 2016. Still, with the Trump administration promising a more than 30 percent cut in foreign aid for 2018, next year’s aid budget may bring some severe storm clouds.”

Sergio Guzmán, analyst for global risk analysis at Control Risks in Bogotá: “It is unlikely the government and the ELN will reach any tangible agreements to the results in the second round of negotiation. According to ELN Commander Pablo Beltrán on May 16, the guerrilla group maintains that the negotiations must produce bilateral concessions and that it will not yield to unilateral demands by the government—it insists on discussing resource sovereignty and the country’s economic model. Continued armed actions by the ELN, as well as requests to negotiate items not on the agenda, make government concessions, especially a ceasefire, unlikely. The government is pressed to reach an agreement with the ELN before the end of its term in August of next year and before the electoral season gains momentum this December. However, the ELN has not demonstrated an urgency to reach a solution and has not shown that it is committed to ending kidnappings or attacks against infrastructure and government forces. Furthermore, the delays in the implementation of the peace agreement with the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group have cast a shadow of doubt regarding the government’s ability to keep its word. This is particularly important when it comes to filling the vacuums of power left by the FARC, which are reportedly being filled by the ELN, Organized Armed Groups and dissident FARC factions. These groups are likely to engage in organized crime, such as extortion and drug trafficking, and will continue to pose security challenges in remote areas of Caquetá, Cauca, Arauca, Norte de Santander, Nariño and Putumayo departments.”

Maria Velez de Berliner, president of Latin Intelligence Corporation: “Assassinations, kidnappings, forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions of civic leaders, plan pistola (the ordered assassination of policemen) by Clan del Golfo and other organizations dissident from the FARC, or acting as criminal proxies for the demobilized FARC, and the violence and insecurity under which many Colombians live all demonstrate that the government cannot guarantee security and safety, thus making the peace process a misnomer. Whatever results from the negotiations with the ELN, which is being counseled by the FARC, will hinge on three issues, as Santos’ fast-track authority (the legislative backbone of the agreement) nears its end: 1) implementation of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) and to what degree it will guarantee special judicial protections and treatment to ELN militias, ex-military officers accused of massacres and human rights violations, former self-defense operatives, and ‘repentant’ cartels’ sicarios. 2) How the Land Law (Proyecto de Tierras) is drafted and implemented. The law encompasses 11 laws that range from a complete restructuring of land ownership and forfeiture to who is responsible for land upgrades, what can be grown, and by whom. Current landowners, who criminally appropriated land from peasants or whole communities, have established the Army Against Restitution, which, along with the Auto-Defensas Gaitanistas de Colombia, are ensuring only current ‘owners’ will occupy ‘their’ lands. 3) How the Supreme Court files for the Land Law, given that it already filed against the government in the case of Land Decree 2204/2016, stating the executive was ‘assuming powers the 1991 Constitution does not grant it.’ The disbursement of the U.S. contribution to Paz Colombia may depend on the Trump administration’s believing that today’s 710,000 acres planted in coca attests to the elimination of drug trafficking in Colombia.”

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