Half-century civil conflict in Colombia ends in historic peace agreement

The signing ceremony at the Ceasefire Peace Dialogue between the Santos government and the FARC. June, 2016. (Photo Credit: Gobierno de Chile)

Colombia has declared an end to the longest running civil conflict in the Western Hemisphere. In a historic agreement the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – more commonly known as the FARC – signed a peace agreement with the federal government to end the more than 50 years of civil war that killed nearly 225,000 people in the South American nation. Andalusia Knoll has more

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At a ceremony in Havana, Cuba, Rodolfo Benítez officially announced that the FARC and the Colombian government had inked a final peace deal. Benítez served as one of the Cuban mediators of the four peace talks.

The announcement Wednesday evening was immediately met with joy in the streets of Bogota, Colombia.

The peace accord comes after the nearly two-decade long, U.S.-backed counter-insurgency strategy known as Plan Colombia that decimated the FARC’s numbers and power.  This, combined with the rise of former guerrillas to power in various Latin American countries and the willingness of Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos to negotiate with the guerrilla commanders, paved the path for the negotiations.

As part of the agreement the FARC will turn over their weapons in exchange for access to the political system.

Iván Márquez, the chief negotiator for the FARC, said that the peace agreement is just a beginning.

“Today, we give the Colombian people potential for transformation that we have been building during the past half century of rebellion, so that they – along with the strength of the union – can begin to build a future society,” says Márquez. “Our collective dream is a sacred sanctuary of democracy, social justice, sovereignty, and relationships of brotherhood and respect for the whole world.”

Negotiations centered on six key issues: agrarian reform, political participation, disarmament, drugs, victims and implementation.

Humberto de la Calle, the chief negotiator for the Colombian Government, emphasized the role that everyday Colombians will have to play in making peace a reality.

“I am not asking you to trust blindly in peace. This is not a step of blind faith,” de la Calle says.“Of course the agreement is not perfect. But with honesty and frankness, and the public support we have seen, I’m convinced it is the best possible agreement.”

The accord includes the rights of women as well as indigenous and Afro Colombian communities.

“This is the most important day of my life,” says Pilar Rueda, a human rights advocate who served as an adviser on gender rights during the peace talks. “You can see the effects of the armed conflict – not just within the obvious impact of a crisis of human rights in which Colombia has existed decades – but also in how many sectors took advantage of this crisis. With the focus on the armed conflict, some were able to get rich, while others were forced to live in complete poverty. The truth is that this peace is clearly an opportunity to make radical changes in our country.”

But the deal is not said and done. The accord must now go before Colombians in a referendum set for October. A smaller guerrilla group, the ELN, has yet to reach an agreement with the government and security analysts fear that other criminal groups will fill drug trafficking void that the FARC leaves behind.

This reporting was made possible by the IWMF Adelante fellowship. 

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