June­–July 2015        

Colombia

The crisis in the “peace process”

Seán Edwards

When the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) got under way in Havana two years ago it gave rise to great hope that, after sixty years of armed conflict, a peace settlement with social justice was in sight.
     Indeed bringing the Colombian government to the table was a notable achievement, brought about by the pressure of the popular social movement for peace and the military campaign of the FARC. Also, many business interests, apart from those who profit directly from the conflict, have an interest in a peaceful environment—not peace with justice, of course.
     The discussions between the parties have been very successful, reaching a provisional agreement on many important issues. This gave the impression that the “peace process” was going well. One demand of the peace movement, however, was never met: a bilateral ceasefire. Even though the FARC several times announced a unilateral ceasefire, the army continued its operations against the FARC. Since the talks began, the FARC has lost more than a hundred combatants—fifty in the last month, twenty-six in one bombing raid. It was finally obliged, on 22 May, to suspend its unilateral ceasefire.
     Neither has there been a ceasefire in the repression directed against the rural population and the popular movement. Over a hundred community leaders and activists in the Patriotic March and the Patriotic Union have been murdered, either by the state forces or by the paramilitaries. Peasants continue to be driven off their land to facilitate big landowners, transnational agribusiness, and mining companies—which was the primary reason for the conflict in the first place.
     In the election campaign, President Santos was able to pose as the peace candidate, as opposed to the ultra-right, who opposed the talks; and many, even on the left, accepted him as such. Once elected he moved further to the right, not being under the same pressure as before, either politically or militarily.
     In fact he was never won over to the need to reach a peaceful settlement and used the talks to gain time, in order to weaken both the political and the military opposition. Like the Israelis, he carried on the talks as if there were no war, and the war as if there were no talks.
     It has now become clear that Santos is an unwilling participant in the “peace process.” There have been many attempts to bring a peaceful settlement to the conflict; all have failed, not at the conference table but from the obduracy of the oligarchy and the interference of the United States. This time it cannot succeed without the pressure of a massive social movement.
     There has not been, up to now, a movement of international solidarity with the demands of the Colombian people for peace with justice. To build such a movement is an urgent necessity.

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