Peace in Colombia – Saying yes to the end of a half-century of war – by Ana Maria Camelo Vega. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
Twenty years ago, it seemed absurd to imagine a peaceful environment in Colombia. Twenty years from now, it will probably seem absurd to imagine the country in a constant and endless war.
It is internationally known that Colombia has had to fight three political, social and economic enemies: guerrillas, paramilitaries, and narcotraffic. Back in the 1920s, the country started to experience what would be the core of the oldest and longest civil conflict in the Americas. The fundamental conflict revolved around the land distribution in the rural areas of the country. This leads us to the fact that the agrarian conflict has been the determining factor to the emergence of Colombia’s war. Nonetheless, it has not been the only one. The adoption of capitalism as the Colombian economic and political system led to the emergence of Marxism as the perfect ideology for the guerrilla groups. Irregularities, corruption and instability in the Colombian government were also factors that allowed the aborning of the country’s civil conflict and criminal bands all over the country. Even though there have been multiple guerrillas, including the M-19 and ELN, the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) is currently the largest and most active guerilla group in the country, internationally known as a terrorist group. Their funding comes mainly from illegal drug trade and production. The way in which the group has performed has caused damage and resentment all over the country.
The combination of all these factors have forced Colombian society to be in an uncomfortable position. On one hand, the government is not providing the necessary support and/or action to combat and ease the struggle for political democracy in the country. The consequences of this can be seen in corruption, abandoned areas in the country, high levels of inequality and poverty. On the other hand, they are being directly affected by the consequences of the struggle for political democracy as Colombian people are the ultimate victims of the conflict. These conditions have resulted in a remarkably bloody, complicated and long-running war.
For most Colombians, there was no hope of bringing the country together again without killing each other. There had been multiple attempts to finish the conflict, from peaceful talks to armed attacks. The first set of talks was in 1984, which failed because the paramilitary groups did not follow the ceasefire with the FARC. Then, in 1992, the talks did not succeed because they were left in the air. The third attempt was in 1999-2000, with President Andrés Pastrana; this turned in another failed ceasefire by the FARC. This year something historic happened. Announced on August 24th, 2016, and after after four years of negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC in La Habana, Cuba, the Peace agreement was signed. It ends a war that began 52 years ago and has killed, displaced, kidnapped and affected Colombians in one way or another. Six points were discussed: integral policy of agricultural development, political participation, closure of the conflict, solution to the drug industry issue, determination of victims, and countersignature mechanisms after agreements. This agreement is supported by the international community as well. 47 countries have announced their support, including the United States, France, Russia, United Kingdom and China. After being signed and celebrated, the agreement will be presented to Colombians as a plebiscite. This means that the ultimate word on the effectiveness of the agreement will take place after a democratic vote from Colombian citizens, followed by the actual application and fulfillment of the conditions and subjects discussed.
This is why it is vital to understand that even though a permanent Peace accord will potentially change Colombia in great ways, the country needs more than the written agreement. If the agreement works successfully, Peace will increase Colombia’s economic annual growth. Clearly, security would improve due to the ceasefire. It would also be expected a decrease in illegal drug trade, as one of the main centres for this business has been created by the FARC. If Peace is achieved successfully, it would shift the social environment and structure in the country. Instead of having a Colombian society who still distrust everyone and everything around them, the country would start working together to create a culture of trust and tranquility that will traduce in a healthy and more prosperous society. It could also open the political scenario for more leftist groups, as they have been discriminated for their alliances with the guerrilla. Colombia has all the potential to create a new society. As a country, it counts with all the necessary resources to grow and gain power in the region and internationally. It is a matter of restructuring the civil society and shifting from a resentful environment to a peaceful and more tolerant country. For this, it is necessary that the Colombian government takes the Peace agreement as an opportunity to restructure policies regarding political participation, societal equality, agricultural rights, and economic opportunities. For Colombia, signing the agreement is the first big step. The fulfillment of the points agreed on should be followed by the presence and support from the national government.
Being another Colombian living outside the country turns into a challenge in situations like this. Even though I am 3,098 miles away from home, thanks to social media and news I have been able to testify people having all different kind of opinions regarding the subject. It is easy to find tons of people who would vote “no” to the plebiscite based on a wide spectrum of reasons. Though understandable, it is quite outrageous to see that personal interests, resentments, and political alignments are limiting a whole country from getting a new perspective. Future generations have the right to live in a country where they have different opportunities to succeed without the fear of being killed, kidnapped or being internationally discriminated for being Colombian. Colombia is far from being perfect, just as any other country in the world. However, if there’s a historic chance for the country to eliminate one of their major sources of violence and injustice, why do not take it?
I am from Colombia, I have lived four years on my own in Minnesota, and I know my country has much more to offer than an endless bloody war. Olympic winners such as Caterine Ibargüen and Mariana Pajón, champions like Nairo Quintana and James Rodríguez, artists like Shakira and Carlos Vives, and magic realism creators like Gabriel García Márquez make Colombian people proud of their country. Pursuing their dream of being globally recognized for more than being a narco, a drug dealer, or a criminal, Colombians should give a chance to Peace. It is moment to stop waiting for a deus ex machina and start creating a new country. It is time to stop blaming others. If it is not the Spaniards, it is the priests and Catholic church; if it’s not the conservatives, it is the liberals, the communists, the military, the Americans, the elite, the corrupt, the narcos, the guerrillas, the paramilitary, the Uribistas or the Santistas. Colombian society needs more than a paper to change its path, Colombia needs a societal transformation that allows the government to be accountable for its role. It is moment to go beyond what has been done before and allow the establishment of the political democracy and social justice Colombia has always dreamed of.
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