Tuesday, October 19, 2021

‘I’m going to an awards show that costs $90 million to get me to’: What’s happening in Colombia, and why it matters

Five years after the signing of the Historic United Nations-backed peace deal that ended Colombia’s 50-year-long civil war, experts say the country is running out of time to keep its end. “The country’s failure to deliver on its commitments will end in rebellion and never again peace,” said Stephen Stedman, a policy analyst with the American Enterprise Institute. Colombia descended into decades of violence when

President Juan Manuel Santos began negotiations with Marxist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in 2007. But President Santos helped strike a peace deal in November 2012. The deal ended decades of conflict that took the lives of around 220,000 Colombians and displaced millions more. But the deal fell apart after conservative President Ivan Duque won in June. In February, Colombia passed a

legislative reform that gave the prosecution of judges appointed to the Special Jurisdiction for Peace for high-level war crimes, rejecting the original deal. The new legislation caused President Duque to cancel peace talks. “The failure of the peace talks will push back against all recent Colombian efforts toward economic and social progress, while reinforcing the country’s deep polarization,” says Stedman.

President Duque has explained that negotiations are ongoing, but only to implement the legal reforms passed last month. Critics of the new peace deal say, however, that the sides are too far apart. “This is not about tweaking the text of the terms of the agreement that were meted out by the previous administration. The fact of the matter is that this was an agreement that, quite frankly, failed to achieve its

objectives,” says Alex Lamadrid, assistant vice chancellor of the Santa Clara University. Labadrid said the lack of a real change in the government’s response to the conflict is to blame for the failure. “This deal was just totally unbalanced in favor of the FARC,” he said. In fact, the conflict continues. The country’s drug trade has multiplied its violence tenfold since 2016, he says. “All indicators are suggesting

that it’s still the same, there is still FARC to contend with, there is still kidnappings, there is still violence … It’s just a transformation of a war that started in 1960.” “The new FARC is in a position to exploit everything that they can pull and exploit existing networks that were facilitated by the end of the conflict. The [paramilitary] combos like the [AUC] remain active in the region,” he said. “So we’re

going to be facing yet another conflict, this time with FARC and these other groupings, which are very capable of both fomenting violence or bringing violence to Colombia,” Lamadrid said. This conflict, of course, happens in a region of the world where people have lived with war for centuries. “When you hear, ‘Another war in Colombia’ you think conflict; you think war,” he said. “You don’t necessarily think, ‘I’m

going to an awards show that costs $90 million to get me to.’ It really makes you think what war in Colombia means for me.” “The biggest thing is trying to grapple with the idea that Colombia hasn’t really finished what it started,” Lamadrid said. Click here to learn more.

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