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

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

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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.

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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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22 Comments

Filed under Ana Maria Camelo Vega, North Star Student Editors, Professor Hong-Ming Liang

22 responses to “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

  1. Megan

    Are you familiar with the Netflix show ‘Narcos’? Does it have any kind of impact? Or is it something that is generally shaken off? I suppose the view would vary from person-to-person. I am curious to know what your overall opinion is on the show and any/all of its misrepresentations and if you see it having any damaging effects.

  2. Eleni Birhane

    Very interesting and informative Ana, thank you for writing this article. I am happy I got to learn more about the conflict (and what is now hopefully a resolution to it) in Colombia from a person with your perspective. It is hard to point out a specific cause and implement a resolution to such complex issues. We cannot even make out the lesser of two evils (the government vs the opposition groups) when looking at their track records. I do, however want to ask you what you think is different about the current peace agreement between the government and FARC that the previous attempts lack?

  3. Michaela Campbell

    This well-written article has given me much more insight (as it comes from a genuine perspective), on how violence can control a whole country. The paragraph that mentioned a ‘corrupted’ government that helped allow the guerrillas, and other dangerous groups to continually keep the Colombian people from a shot at true peace also got me to think about how those in a position of power often use violence to their advantage. Up until the recent signing of the Peace agreement, the violence tactic has worked. That is why I am hopeful, and elated to hear about the recent signing of the Peace agreement. Based on the overview and background that is given about Colombia in this reading, it is clear that this nation not only needs peace, it deserves it. Like the author, I too hope that a signing of paper will instill a sense of social change within the country, so that new opportunities may grow for the future generations to come.

  4. Very interesting and informative Ana, thank you for writing this article. I am happy I got to learn more about the conflict (and what is now hopefully a resolution to it) in Colombia from a person with your perspective. It is hard to point out a specific cause and implement a resolution to such complex issues. We cannot even make out the lesser of two evils (the government vs the opposition groups) when looking at their track records. I do, however want to ask you what you think is different about the current peace agreement between the government and FARC that the previous attempts lack?

  5. McKenna Holman

    This was an enlightening read to say the least. It was interesting to read about, especially since I was not really aware of how bad things have been for so many years in Colombia. However, after reading this article I am happy that a Peace agreement has been signed for a country that so desperately needs it. I wasn’t aware that there was a homegrown terrorist group right in Colombia and how devastating they have been to the country. I truly hope that Colombia can be restored to a country that doesn’t bring headlines of violence and hate.

  6. Sofia Pineda

    Colombia signing the Peace agreement has been something that has been discussed for so many decades in Latin America and it truly seems unreal to have had that happen this year. This is such a monumental step into creating a better Colombia but most importantly, a better Latin America. This act could be the spark Latin America so desperately needs to help conversations between opposing groups not only start but end in a positive manner. And while I do applaud this agreement and can envision all the positive aspects of it, there are always two sides to a coin. How will the nation be negatively affected, if any, by this? How will Colombia’s relationship with Venezuela change? And as you stated, narcotraffic is one of the FARC’s biggest businesses, how will stopping the selling and buying of drugs affect the influx of money in Colombia and consequently its economy?

  7. Thank you for writing and sharing this! I had never heard of this conflict within Colombia until reading this article. I like that you wrote a bit about how you had studied and taken into account the opinions of those who might “vote no to the ‘plebiscite’, I would be interested to hear more about their views. As you mentioned a signed peace agreement is only the first step in a long process of eliminating a political system of violence and oppression as well as possible feelings of resentment from those who not in support of the new Peace Agreement. After reading I too hope more work towards Peace in the form of restructuring occurs. I hope to hear more in the near/close future.

    • This article provided a comprehensive and thoughtful analysis of the significance of the peace agreement in Columbia. Though I have traveled to Columbia before, I wasn’t aware of the violence with which it has grappled for so long. The argument for the peace agreement is strong. However, the article leaves me with further questions. One paragraph ends with the question, “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?” In that same paragraph, there are a whole host of nondescript motives assigned to the “tons” of people who claim they would vote no to the peace agreement proposal. While some of the lack of support may be due to personal interest and resentment, I hold out hope that a large number of Columbians opposed to the peace agreement truly do have the best interest of Columbia in mind. This leads me to wonder- what are the alternate options? Are there other proposals for a violence-free Columbia? If so, what are they?

  8. Dylan Brovick

    We discussed this in class the other day about how in America a lot of people seem to only focus on the issues inside of the country and forget other issues are going on in many different countries. I enjoyed this article because it opened my eyes to what is happening in Colombia. I knew that there was a lot of drug trafficking and crime going on in the country. Half of a century is a long time for a country to be in some type of war over land distribution and other issues. Colombia is a good example of what can happen if the wrong leaders get in charge or if the bad people begin to get more power. I agree with what Ana said in the last paragraph about how it will take more than a piece of paper for Colombia society to turn it around, I believe it will take a large effort from its government and trust from the people that things are going in the right direction.

  9. This article provides a comprehensive and thoughtful analysis of the significance of the peace agreement in Columbia. Though I have traveled to Columbia before, I wasn’t aware of the violence with which it has grappled with for so long. The argument for the peace agreement is strong. However, the article leaves me with further questions. One paragraph ends with the question, “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?” In that same paragraph, there are a whole host of potential adverse motives assigned to the “tons” of people who have claimed they would vote no to this proposal. While some of the lack of support may be due to personal interest and resentment, I hold out hope that a large number of Columbians opposed to the peace agreement truly do have the best interest of Columbia in mind. This leads me to wonder- what are the alternate options? Are there other proposals for a violence-free Columbia? If so, what are they?

  10. This article provided a comprehensive and thoughtful analysis of the significance of the peace agreement in Columbia. Though I have traveled to Columbia before, I wasn’t aware of the violence with which it has grappled for so long. The argument for the peace agreement is strong. However, the article leaves me with further questions. One paragraph ends with the question, “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?” In that same paragraph, there are a whole host of nondescript motives assigned to the “tons” of people who claim they would vote no to the peace agreement proposal. While some of the lack of support may be due to personal interest and resentment, I hold out hope that a large number of Columbians opposed to the peace agreement truly do have the best interest of Columbia in mind. This leads me to wonder- what are the alternate options? Are there other proposals for a violence-free Columbia? If so, what are they?

  11. Thomas Landgren

    “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.” I really liked these sentences that you used to end your piece on peace in Colombia. I feel like this is a saying that can be applied to so many other countries that are looking for a new transformation that will benefit the entire country in this ever modernizing world. The paper alone does not change everything over night the citizens in the community must work together to reach that end goal of peace.Thank you so much for sharing, I have not heard anything about this in the mainstream media and yet this is a huge part of history in Columbia. I personally feel like this story is huge and should be talked about a lot more than it is. In this world of constant fear and terror a country that has been struggling for so long to find peace is finally making progress yet no one outside of the country talks about it. I hope the citizens of Colombia are really voting with the best interest for their and their children’s future. I hope to hear more about this! Great article!

  12. Megan Gonrowski

    I believe a lot of what you said in the last paragraph is relevant and empowering. Colombia is a country that is on the brink of change and it is important that its people step into a new identity. As the country moves towards peace many stereotypes, pertaining to the illegal drug industry, need to be overcome and forgotten. If Colombia truly seeks peace and positive global recognition it is solely up to its people to clear the name of a drug and war ridden past. By recognizing many famous and beloved Colombian people you have already shown that Colombia is a country with so much more to offer. Sadly, many people will look at the bad, but once Colombia has put the conflict behind them, the world will be able to see a new identity for Colombia and it’s people. Being a drug dealer or criminal is not the story of many Colombians and it is finally their time to shine. Wonderful article and best of luck to Colombia!

  13. Megan Gonrowski

    I believe a lot of the information in the last paragraph is relevant and important. If Colombia wishes to move towards peace it is important for it to disassociate itself with the stereotypes of the past. Sadly, many people will focus on the illegal drug activity and war, but that is a part of Colombia’s past. The Colombia of today needs to remember its past and use it to push them into a future of change. I agree that if the people of Colombia wish to be recognized globally as successful and peaceful people it is up to them to facilitate that change. You have already shown that many great talents and people have come from Colombia and now it is time for the common citizen to stand up for peace and for cultural change. Wonderful article and best of luck to Colombia!

  14. Isabella Williams

    I loved this multifaceted article for several reasons.
    First, seeing a country find a way to come together and work out a solution (even if it’s just the base for one) after so many years of strife is amazing, and something that we see far too rarely.
    Second, it was a refreshing take on a country’s inner turmoil. So often when we read articles about the US, or other countries, we see their issues stemming from some interference of another country or region, and too little is focused on their own discrepancies and resolutions. With Colombia taking responsibility for its faults and pitfalls and using that awareness to fix it from the inside is refreshing and invigorating. It gives hope that other countries can follow suit. It may be a long road, but at least it’s the first step towards paving it.
    Third, the article was beautifully written in general. Great piece Ana!

  15. I appreciate the latter part of your article, the conviction in your voice revealed not only how personal this issue is to you but also how relevant the future of Colombia is to the rest of the world. It seems to be easy to forget how much the many faces of Colombia–Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Shakira, etc,–influence our human experience when a nation is contained to a few words of descriptions in relations to drugs and drugs. I decided to read further into the Peace Accord and though it seems to be a physical standing point, it is important that this agreement stands as a transitioning stage for a better Colombia. I wonder how much responsibility will the people of Colombia take upon to make sure peace prevails?

  16. Andrew Bailey

    Ana, thank you very much for writing this article and bringing awareness to the struggle the Colombian people have been going through for the past 52 years. This is simply not something that most media in the United States covers because we are caught up in our own political system and focused on domestic issues. It will be interesting to see how the Colombian government chooses to govern its people moving forward after this peace agreement-as you pointed out the current government is rather oppressive. I particularly enjoyed your call to action in the final paragraph. I certainly believe after reading your essay that Columbia is on the verge of something great to shift their societal tone and impact the world on a global stage.

  17. This article really caught my attention because I knew Colombia had some degree of conflict but not to the extent to where a civil war has lasted 52 years. What I thought was an important aspect of the peace agreement were the six main goals that are suppose to help settle the conflict. I too am hoping for the peace agreement to be successful because the people of Colombia deserve to live a happy and fulfilled lives, without having to be in constant fear because of the toxic environment created by the civil war. The support of countries like the United States and China should give Colombian government guidance to really implement the peace agreement. Colombia has come a long way to get to this point where there is a peace agreement now all there is left to do is follow through and the country itself could blossom as a whole. A new Colombia is in the making.

  18. Diana Mena

    Being a Latina, I have a connection with what is going on with Colombia, I can only imagine your emotions throughout this whole process. As you said Ana Maria, Colombia needs this. This war needs to end and peace ends to be the norm in this country. Having this awful war go on for decades has made the country unsafe for people and having this new treaty is an amazing step forward. With that said I think we also have to be aware of the situation and all of the possibilities. Signing this paper isn’t going to do the change, actions and conversations is what is going to make the movement successful. It is unfortunte that we have to think about these things but in order to have a lasting impact it needs to be done. This article was very well written and a good topic !

  19. Nicholas Gangi

    This is a beautifully written article, it tells the struggle to find peace within a country that is torn. It is not just the fact that war happens but it is the internal struggle that you speak of how if it is not the paramilitary it is the Drugpins or the guerillas. It is a true horror that we both want to end. The fact that you faced the problem in the last paragraph and a cry to stop the blame game and for the residents to start it is really moving.

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