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A rocky peace in Colombia

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Image: Jayzza Gallego Garzon


Colombian presidential candidate and chief peace negotiator of the government during the peace process. Humberto de la Calle, recently claimed that "the way we are going is towards war with our eyes closed." The candidate's claims come in response to the new recent crisis in the peace pro-cess surrounding Jesus Santrich, a leading member of the former re-bel movement, the FARC.

Santrich has been recently arrested on allegations of trafficking drugs to the US. According to the peace agreement, any criminal activity related to the conflict that occurred prior to the signing of the treaty is subjected to a special tribunal, however if such an action occurs at a later date, then the individual is subjected to the ordinary justice system. If the crime is drug-trafficking, related, this has traditionally meant extradition. To engage in such a practice for the case of Santrich however is problematic. The FARC has claimed he is innocent, arguing that the case is a plot to sabotage the negotiated peace. Santrich himself has been on hunger strike since 9 of April.

To add further complications, the Wall Street Journal has alleged that the US and the Colombian government were investigating another FARC member, Ivan Marquez, for similar accusations. Marquez responded by quitting his congressional seat, arguing that he could not serve in the Senate while being labeled a drug trafficker, and transferring to one of the camps meant for demobilised guerrillas.

The Santrich affair is not the only obstacle in Colombia's rocky road to peace. Negotiations with the last remaining major guerrilla group, the ELN, have faced the difficulty of finding another host country after the Ecuadorian government terminated this role due to fighting on its border regions.

Furthermore, the demobilisation of the rebels left a power vacuum in rural areas that has been filled by right-wing paramilitary groups, the ELN and FARC's dissenters. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 6 600 have had to flee in early 2018.

The government has also been accused of not doing enough to secure the peace in general. Human rights groups have condemned the government for supposedly not properly investigating the increasing number of assassinations of human rights leaders throughout the country. Others have accused the government of not implementing the treaty by failing to approve all necessary laws; Congress voted against the implementation of representative seats for the victims and finally the fact that many of the camps the demobilised rebels had to concentrate in were not even set up.

The inability of the government to fully implement the deal can also be traced to the hostility towards it by major politicians including the largest opposition. Uribe's handpicked successor and opinion-poll favourite for the presidential elections this June, Ivan Duque, has also made modifying the treaty a major theme in his presidential campaign.

Ultimately, with only 45 per cent of the FARC's members remaining in the re-insertion camps, powerful politicians' open hostility to the peace accords, the fall in trust by both the FARC and the government of each other's commitment to the deal, and actual resumed fighting between the remaining armed groups, de la Calle's claims a likely confirmation of a frightful omen.

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