April 24, 2018

Can the Colombia-FARC peace deal hold?

Historic accord between government and leftist movement at risk of fraying amid rancor.

"This is the definitive one," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said during a November 2016 ceremony where he signed a revised peace accord with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Santos' confidence, though, may have been misplaced as mutual recrimination now threatens to derail the deal.

The FARC-Colombia agreement brought an end to a 52-year civil war that killed least 220,000 people - 80 percent of them civilians - and forced nearly six million people from their homes.

FARC, which formed in the 1960s as a left wing rebel group, demobilised thousands of fighters and surrendered their weapons to UN monitors under the terms of the deal. In return, the majority of FARC members were granted amnesty for crimes committed during the war. Five senate seats and five representative seats were also reserved for FARC’s successor party, the Common Alternative Revolutionary Force, as the movement geared up for mainstream politics.

But the Congress-approved deal remains highly divisive among wider Colombian society. Supporters of the accord say that, while imperfect, it is the best chance for Colombia to build a unified and peaceful society following decades of violence. But opponents say FARC has not paid high enough a price for its violent past and that its victims have not received justice.

The implementation of the deal has also been criticised. Former FARC members who left their armed posts to go into one of the 26 UN-monitored zones aimed at helping them transition into civilian life say that the government has failed to provide the areas with basic infrastructure, leaving them on the rural margins. In late 2017 the United Nations estimated that about 55 percent of those who entered the zones had left.

The recent high-profile arrest on drugs trafficking charges of Jesus Santrich, a former FARC member and Congress member-elect who was intimately involved in the peace process, has also fuelled FARC's ire. While Colombia's attorney general says the arrest shows that the peace deal does not automatically grant impunity for drug smuggling, FARC loyalists say the government is working hand-in-hand with the US to target the movement. Murders and kidnappings by a FARC splinter group in the Colombia-Ecuador border region have prompted revulsion in both countries and undermined continuing efforts to forge a peace deal with the National Liberation Army (ELN), another leftist armed group.

With FARC failing to add to its ten guaranteed congressional seats in recent legislative elections and the centre-right Democratic Centre party in the ascendancy, the peace deal is at a critical point. The Stream will ask whether it can survive and, if so, how.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Alessandro Rampietti @rampietti
Reporter, Al Jazeera English 

Paloma Valencia @PalomaValenciaL
Colombian Senator, Democratic Center Party 

Christian Visnes @chrivis
Country Director in Colombia, Norwegian Refugee Council

Andres Fernandez
Consultant and former advisor to General Director, Colombian Reintegration Agency (ACR)

Read more:

Colombian election brings divided Congress to power - New York Times
Last days: inside a FARC camp that's preparing guerrilla soldiers for civilian life - Vice

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